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AT&T pulls ahead in J.D. Power buying experience survey

AT&T manages to grab the top spot, but J.D. Power says the wireless purchase experience is getting better overall.

Overall, the wireless purchase experience is getting better. But as with most rankings, there's one company that wins and many more that lose. This time around, AT&T is the winner.

In J.D. Power's 2014 study on wireless purchase experiences, AT&T scored the top ranking, earning a score of 806 out of a possible 1,000. That was just above the industrywide average of 798 points. Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon followed, in that order, with 797 points, 796 points, and 792 points, respectively.

The J.D. Power study is based on survey responses from more than 8,500 customers in the US. The survey was conducted between July and December 2013, and includes consumer reaction to everything from purchasing products, in-store service, and promotions.

Although the wireless carriers were generally in-line with each other, the rankings are a notable break from last year. In the same study last year, Sprint took top billing, earning a score of 778. Verizon was in second place with 764 points, matching the industrywide average. AT&T could only muster 762 points.

In total, the industry is doing a better job of appealing to consumers, said J.D. Power. While Verizon might have come in last this time around, its score jumped considerably year-over-year. The same can be said for all other companies in the mix.

In addition to analyzing major carriers, J.D. Power looked at the wireless purchase experience for non-contract providers. Boost Mobile took the top spot this year, earning a score of 798. MetroPCS and Virgin Mobile came in next with 788 and 786 points, respectively. The average non-contract purchase experience was rated at 780 points.

One other interesting tidbit: consumers spend an average of 55 minutes in a major carrier store to complete a transaction. In non-contract stores, that jumps to 56 minutes.