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Survey says: Choosing a carrier is more important

We asked CNET readers whether they first consider the carrier or handset when buying a new cell phone. Your answers surprised us.

Last week I asked you whether you consider the carrier or the cell phone first when you're buying a new handset. In my experience, I expected most respondents to say that the carrier was top of mind, but I was surprised by just how many people fell into that camp.

Of the 4,443 respondents (at the time of this writing), 65 percent said that reliable service and affordable plans were the most important factors to consider then buying a phone. I was expecting that margin to be more in the 50 percent range, so I was intrigued.

Of the remaining respondents, 24 percent said the consider the phone first and would switch carriers if their current contract was up. Only 11 percent said they consider the phone first and would jump to a new carrier even if they had to pay an early termination fee.

The poll also initiated a fair number of reader comments like these.

"Carrier. Why pay for service if you don't get it?"
- Kendokill

"I buy my favorite phones unlocked and never worry about carriers."
- Finnwitflava

"This is a tough one, and it seems that the phone makers just can't agree along side the providers. Why can't they just all work together so they could please the consumer on which phones they want to buy."
- Mgiovan932

"Carrier. There are enough phones out on each carrier that it shouldn't be too hard to find one you like."
- Lavern

"I picked carrier, but you should have included the option 'Any carrier except AT&T'."
- MrWaffles

"Picking a cell phone carrier is a lot like voting for President. No matter how much you educate yourself on the choices, issues, and trade-offs, you end up picking the one that offends you the least."
- Mediocrates--2008

"I compare buying a cell phone to buying a laptop. I think its unethical that you should be forced to pick a certain carrier for the phone that you want."
- Kingrah1

"I usually carrier and strictly based on price, and then I pick out a phone. If the carrier doesn't have a phone I want, I may consider switching, but will probably wait it out."
- Sillygoosen