iPhone

Poll: Does AT&T Wireless deserve its horrible reputation?

AT&T continues to come under fire for its network performance as well as the botched iPhone 4 pre-order process. Still, does it deserve its awful reputation? Take our poll.

AT&T continues to come under fire for the performance of its wireless network, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area, where most of the tech press is located and where AT&T's network performance is arguably the worst, mostly due to an abundance of iPhone users.

However, the company also came under fresh attacks recently for its part in botching the iPhone 4 pre-order process.

ZDNet's Larry Dignan has a new post that actually has the temerity to defend AT&T. Read Larry's contrarian point of view on this issue and then take our poll and jump into the discussion below.

Also read:

Take the poll

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

77 comments
sadsack123
sadsack123

In October I bought a Sony Xperia X10a, based on AT&Ts ad that it had "advanced" Android operating system. The reality was that almost all other Android phones were using at least 2.1. The salesperson at Best Buy assured me that SE was offering an upgrade to 2.1. They did, starting at the end of Oct 2010. The upgrade has been available in Europe, Africa, South America, and Canada. AT&T has blocked the upgrade in the U, they just stopped selling the phone in their stores.. So with AT&T don't worry about cutting edge technology, you won't even get third world technology After more than 10 years with Cingular/AT&T, this will be my last contract, A&T is ranked at the bottom of customer satisfaction surveys for a reason.

dbrezina
dbrezina

Yes. It doesn't work on Washington Island, Wisconsin, despite the island being shown on the coverage map. By comparison, Verizon does not show the island in its coverage, but Verizon works there.

dlokdlok
dlokdlok

Years of (consistent) customer experience and company ethics/practice. Bad in many functional areas, equally terrible in DSL and phone services. AT&T experience is so bad that willing to pay more to avoid AT&T by using its competitor?s services, which is slightly better. Unfortunately, there is not enough competition. Have been long-time AT&T customer, but sadly to say that today?s AT&T actually is the old day Pacific Bell ? very aggressive and greedy in getting every penny out of their customer and very efficient to avoid customer services and support (except sales). On the other hand, AT&T spends money like drunk solider trying to get new customers. The old AT&T is dead. ?.I guesses, that?s why.

jfreedle2
jfreedle2

The iPhone is still the worse phone ever made, right along side of the Google Android phones.

naplesjoe
naplesjoe

ATT just out and out lies about it's coverage. Proof is performance. During the switch to Verizon for our company, after two phones were replaced our people demanded we switch them all. At a contract buyout of over $100 per phone, it was worth it. Verizon's ads state coverage of 3G, ATT's just coverage? And they lie about that. Lastly, their customer service is even porrer than their coverage.

MissSensuale
MissSensuale

I have never said anything like this on line...but in plain English, their service SUCKS! If it were not for my iPhone I would have dumped them years ago! Previously, I was with Cingular and my extraordinary. Now I can't hold a call, can't get on the internet, and in one moment I'm on 3G and the next "no service", all in the comfort of my living room.

john3347
john3347

If AT&T and Sprint were the only wireless companies left in existance, I would have to become a Sprint customer. That statement says nothing nice of Sprint, though.

martin.thomsen
martin.thomsen

It's gotten mildly better Kansas City, but my experience has been even on three and four bars of coverage, I'm in the middle of a call and it just disconnects. My personal VZ phone generally holds a call much better with only one to two bars of signal strength.

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

Maybe it's not AT&T's fault but a problem with iPhones. [After all, Steve Jobs couldn't present his iPhone 4 presentation because of all the iPhones.]

kstaylor
kstaylor

Yes they deserve the bad rep Their customer service is so bad that they are beyond a bad reputation.

AllyRose
AllyRose

I have a friend who has worked for AT&T for nine years, where she could receive their services at a deep discount. But does she use AT&T? Nope, she's a Verizon customer. That should speak volumes when their own employees would rather pay for a competitor's service because AT&T's is so bad!

al.phillips
al.phillips

View this another way. Lets say we know that in 2 months, 10% of all cars are going to be replaced with a Hummer H1. To accomidate this, the roads need to be upgraded. The state send you a tax bill, wnating you to cover the cost of those who "must" have the biggest and best. Do you pay the bill up front for "them", complain when traffic sucks due to increased traffic, or complain that your new truck doesnt fit on the existing roads? AT&T never promised that you could stream the World Cup on your phone, Apple did. Why should my bill go up because of your need to one-up your co-workers?? Compensating for something?

EPIKService
EPIKService

The iPhone is the least of their problems. The customer communication channels are designed almost exclusively to add services. Initiating a complaint is time consuming if not impossible mission. When in the service section do a search on 'file a complaint'. Lily Tomlin on SNL had right many years ago. They don't care! They don't have to! The are the phone company!

llsdigitek1350
llsdigitek1350

I can only speak of their cell phone service in our area, SW Florida, and it was better than most. Never used their wireless data services.

mlembach
mlembach

I live in a suburb southwest of Baltimore, MD. With AT&T I have to stand in the intersection of the streets outside my house to get reception (most of the area can't get reception inside a house). North of Baltimore most people don't have any issues. However, for full coverage in the Baltimore Washington area - Verizon is the best provider.

spencec
spencec

Do a poll on each of the carriers and you will find unhappy people. I had issues with Sprint billing for years. My Verizon service rep rarely returns calls and the billing department starts harassing people BEFORE the bill comes. TMOBILE should not even exist. ATT does the same as anyone else out there. Get a bad rep.. blame the entire company... get a bad phone from the MANUFACTURER blame the service provider... This is how people are. Working in IT for many years, I have found that 99% of the people are happy and it is the 1% "pain in the rears" that mess with your reputation. I am happy with my personal Sprint service and my business Verizon service... at least 99% of the time.

rshaw7429
rshaw7429

That's a yes for Indianapolis. I am lucky to complete a call without having to call the person back 4-5 times! iPhone or not, I am JUMPING to Verizon when my contract is up next month. I'll keep my non-3G iPad for my Apple fix. The Apple and AT&T agreement has promoted Droid better than Motorla, Verizon, or HTC ever could on their own!!

mjstelly
mjstelly

I live in Tulsa which is decidedly less densely populated than the east coast AND I routinely get dropped calls on a daily basis. I'd drop ATT in a heartbeat if my iPhone worked on any other network (w/o jailbreaking it).

agilebrainz
agilebrainz

If ATT could not provide sufficient data service for the first wave of iPhone users, and in some areas is still playing 'catch-up' with the technology, this next wave of new iphone users is nothing that existing customers, already dissatisfied, can look forward to. A little attention to infrastructure instead of sales might serve them better.

rondadams
rondadams

Yes, yes, yes, they deserve the bad reputation they've gotten, and I'm really surprised that Apple hasn't forced them to upgrade their systems. Both AT&T and Apple have profitted massively from the iPhone, yet they haven't re-invested very much of those profits to make the network more reliable or available for their customers. So, they absolutely deserve their horrible reputation.

james.tango
james.tango

In Tampa, Florida calls are always dropping or you get no bars.

RealNonZealot
RealNonZealot

Here in suburban Philadelphia (30-50 miles west), we've found AT&T to be better than Verizon. As we switched users to iPhones, those that complained about Verizon dead spots near their houses and work locations suddenly found that they had great, clear signals to AT&T. We haven't had any significance of dropped calls (no more than we had with Verizon) and the data speeds are fine with 3G everywhere we go. I'm sure that there are places where the opposite is true, but we've seen fantastic service from AT&T here, better than Verizon. In cases of friends and contacts in the area that have complained about their service with iPhones, I've found either that they have way-old iPhone firmware (they never bother to update) and once they update things improve, or they work deep inside fortress-like buildings that the GSM signal is not as good at penetrating (CDMA is better at penetrating buildings because of the higher frequency). For those latter people, Verizon is better, unless they want to install a signal booster for their building. Having said that, we've had to install signal boosters for some of our buildings for Verizon, while AT&T has been great at those same locations. I guess it's all down to specific areas and local experiences, but I don't see AT&T as particular horrible. On the other hand, I've never had to deal with them in San Fran. :-) In addition, as a large organization we've seen better customer service out of AT&T than from Verizon.

sparkscomputerservices
sparkscomputerservices

As a computer technician, driving back and forth across Portland, Oregon each week, I experience dropped calls regularly and would switch to Verizon in a heartbeat if it was available to me.

Mike Karp
Mike Karp

Well, let's look at the alternatives: Sprint couldn't get a tower close enough to hit my house (despite 2 years of promises that it was "in the works"), Verizon's front office was (and continues to be) so bad they couldn't get the billing straight after 2 years (I am a FiOS and VoIP customer). AT&T reaches my home, and, like all the major carriers, is available in all the places I go for business travel, including abroad. And customer service has been excellent, including making it easy for me to switch back & forth between domestic and foreign carriers -- a real deal-maker. Frankly, I've had more trouble with my iPhone than with the carrier... except for those dead spots along the Mass Pike, of course).

dl8453
dl8453

I think people are being totally unfair and unrealistic. How is this any different than this year's "gotta have it toy" where parents mob, trample and stampede each other to death in an attempt to get a toy when the store opens its doors? Like it or not, there is a dollar factor at play here. Sure AT&T could load up more servers to handle the increase load but at what cost? AT&T has to weigh the cost of managing a server for what a few days worth of pre order sales? Servers aren't cheap nor is the labor involved in getting a server on-line. My most is No, they don't deserver its horrible reputation. Personally, I'd reather see them continuing to improve its network so that when my iPhone 4 does come in, it'll work great as my 3Gs does (for the naysayers, my area is covered very well).

fybcdave
fybcdave

No, Having carried three carriers simultaneously throughout the US, consistently, AT&T was equal or better in service to the other two! I now have an HTC Tilt phone and my wife has an iPhone... her service quality is inferior when I have great service... which leads me to suggest it is NOT the system but the phone! When my colleagues are yelling at AT&T because their iPhone has just dropped a call, I can have three bars of signal and make an uninterrupted five minute call. So perhaps the question is not the quality of service, but the quality of the iPhone to function on a network.

nharvey440
nharvey440

YES!! Their coverage sucks and they don't care.

dryflies
dryflies

In addition to IMO the worst rates, coverage is just now starting to be matched by its competitors with lower rates. In addition, The draconian policies are bad as well. for example. my daughter got a smart phone before there was a "required" data plan. (just because it was "cool") when she let the battery go too long once, and put her sim into an older phone and then returned it to the smartphone, ATT automatically turned on a $30/month data plan. I had to go to the supervisor to get it reversed and then was told if she did it again the data plan would stick. BAD ATT, BAD!!

brandon.barrick
brandon.barrick

Dropped calls, spotty coverage, bad customer service and expensive txt plans.

hairyone45
hairyone45

Yes they do. I am switching to Verizon next time.

doug.svatos
doug.svatos

Don't all of these companies over charge and under perform... they all have their niches where they are stronger and weaker than there competition.

Toxic Penguin
Toxic Penguin

My work phone is Sprint, used to have Verizon neither worked well, if at all, from my house, at the beach and in certain stores. My wife now has an iphone and she has coverage in all those places that I don't. David

RFATech
RFATech

No. I've had decent coverage in all my travels here on the east coast as well as in the South and in SoCal. I can't comment on the midwest or any other parts of the country. The data service has left more to be desired at times, particularly when they launched the 3GS and during a major outage we had here in the northeast. Overall I've been pleased with it and have always had email access at critical times. The support from their Enterprise Business team is what keeps me on board though. I have yet to speak with a rep who wasn't knowledgeable, helpful, and extremely friendly or have a call that wasn't resolved at the first tier. As long as I continue to receive that quality of service, AT&T will continue to receive the lion's share of our business.

karen.mattox
karen.mattox

Since we get zero coverage on four iPhones inside our house after repeated reports, we asked about getting the AT&T signal booster. Customer service says yes, no cost after rebates. The AT&T store where we have to go pick it up refuses to give it to us, even when they can see the information posted on their own customer service system. After a year and a half of dropped and missed calls, voicemails and texts received two hours after they were sent and having to go outside to make calls, they won't let us out of the contract they have not honored without US paying fees. Yes, AT&T deserves every bit of their negative publicity.

SKDTech
SKDTech

I have been on AT&T since my contract with a previous carrier ran out four years ago. I often have connection issues in areas where I should have none, have had a phone which even beyond dropping calls and getting poor reception would forget it had a sim installed in the middle of a call. And their recent ETF hike and change in data plans I see no reason to continue with their madness. Actually about to switch carriers again.

BrightLibra@Gmail.com
BrightLibra@Gmail.com

Oversell and there are no extra seats on the plane! How about that "Wispernet" that our friends and Amazon.com bundle with their

ganyssa
ganyssa

I've had AT&T for my wireless carrier for about 4 years. I switched after a particularly bad 'customer service' experience with another carrier, two months before my contract was up. I don't drop calls, and I've always gotten good customer service. I didn't have an issue on my pre-order (yet, anyway).

Kuppyus
Kuppyus

They are not smart enough to understand that customers and customer loyalty are a key element to success. They will die again since they do not learn their lessons. Poor, poor management and extremely poor decision making.

dhuscha
dhuscha

Yes, my father has had AT&T for 5 years now and he has had nothing but service issues, dropped calls, sudden no signal, and voice quality, and he doesnt even have a smartphone. I have had verizon for the same amount of time, and I have never had a dropped call. Or any issues with there customer service.

Kuppyus
Kuppyus

And they acknowledge the lousy service by offering a MicroCell to anyone that wants to pay more just to receive service they are already paying for. A marketing genius developed this idea. They give it away to some and sell it to others - so they know there is a problem but do not offer to help everyone. What a bunch of idiots

ghirte
ghirte

My AT&T works just fine in Green Bay Wisconsin and elsewhere when I travel. I do experience the occasioinal dropped call. No cell phone is 100% coverage, just ask my friends who have Verizon and US Cellular and Cellcom and they'll tell you they have sporadic problems too. This article is useless and just a forum for baiting whiny users...

WebTek2
WebTek2

Well, I have had AT&T service for almost two years now on the iPhone. Back before that, I had Verizon. I have had NO PROBLEMS with signal strength with AT&T but when I had Verizon I was constantly getting calls dropped. Is AT&T or Verizon perfect? I answer that by stating "he who is without sin, cast the first stone." Verizon has better Customer Service than AT&T I will give them that, but they lack some in the signal strength in North Carolina, specifically the Fayetteville NC area between there and Charlotte, NC. It's a preference thing after that IMHO.

agilebrainz
agilebrainz

Ditto! They promised this area TWO new towers last winter, but there has been no better coverage to date. Sometimes even plain old voice service is not available. Data is unreliable if you can find a signal at all.

abear4562
abear4562

ATT doesn't have a bad rep here in Kansas City. Verizon does, as well as Sprint. The ATT problems seem to be pretty exclusive to the East Coast.

Kuppyus
Kuppyus

They deserve to go out of business - AGAIN - for their lack of concern over customer satisfaction.

jott0204
jott0204

I've had AT$T for a few years now. I will admit, things went a little south after the "Jesus Phone" (iPhone) launched, but their customer service and tech support have always been good to me. I have Verizon for a work phone and I will be honest, the coverage isn't any better. As a matter of fact, I have a great signal on my AT$T phone, but not on my Verizon while I sit in my office typing. And if you guys think that there is a carrier out there that doesn't have flaws, you are sorely mistaken. Remember, "Constantly choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil." - Jerry Garcia --James

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

The phone that we got with my work plan? That's another matter.

DT2
DT2

One would think that 40+ year-old technology would work much better than it does. I guess we'll just have to pray that someday they'll get it right.

jott0204
jott0204

Amen! Very Well Said! --James

stpmt11
stpmt11

I live and work in Albuquerque New Mexico. I have found that every other week or so I get a day where I can't seem to make a phone call. Either the person I call can't hear me, even though I can hear them, or I just can't place the call in the first place. I have full bars the whole time. I had thought that it was because of just bad support here in NM, but when I visited the East coast, I experienced the same. Verizon has probably the best coverage in NM, with T-mobile and Sprint in the mix. I can barely even place calls in Santa Fe on AT&T. Unfortunately my friends have been experiencing customer service issues with Verizon, so I'm not looking forward to switching. I'm not on the advent of the 4g networks. Are any other carriers besides Sprint talking about this yet?

erimaster
erimaster

A friend who lives a mile from me uses his Apple Iphone for an Ipod. He needs to walk outside to use it as a phone in a regular suburb, not at all rural.

Fireboss
Fireboss

I've AT&T here in West Texas since it was SW bell back in 95. I have had issues of course but the tech support and customer service have always been good. We used to have Cellular one that eventually turned into Verizon. Coverage is great along I20 but don't go out in the sticks. Sprint? I have a client whose Sprint signal collapses driving in front of the Sprint sales office. Off I20 Sprint isn't interested. The idiot phone caused hiccups but mostly for those trying to use it like a broadband connection when it was first introduced. Lately my Windows phone has been connected when my son's iPhone won't (mostly as they upgrade towers for 4G they say). It really matters I guess where you are and what you do but as someone said there is no such thing as a perfect cell service yet. I'll stick with ATT until I have issues

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