My Transition from an iPhone to Android: Part 4-Back to AT&T

In Part 1 of my series on transitioning from an iPhone to Android, I gave the background on why I made the transition, as well as my general purchase experience on switching to the Samsung Galaxy Note II (the Android phone I ended up switching to). In Part 2, I gave an in-depth review of the Galaxy Note II’s hardware, comparing it to both my iPhone 4, the iPhone 5, as well as other popular Android smartphones (the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One). In Part 3, I touched on the heart of switching to an Android phone, the Android OS (Operating System) itself.

In this final segment of the series (Part 4), I want to explain what led me to switch wireless carriers from Verizon back to AT&T.

A little background first. I started off with AT&T as my wireless carrier when I purchased my first iPhone, the iPhone 3G. The iPhone was both my first phone and my first smartphone, and since AT&T was the exclusive wireless carrier for the iPhone at the time, obviously I knew which wireless carrier I was going with when purchasing an iPhone. Since I was living in Hot Springs, Arkansas, at the time (which didn’t have 3G at the time, but EDGE was still decent), and had landline phone and DSL through AT&T, it also made sense to have my wireless service through AT&T as well. I was happy as an AT&T customer. I had unlimited data, rollover minutes on my Nation plan, unlimited mobile-to-mobile calling to all my friends and family (most of them had AT&T), as well as the perks of being an iPhone customer such as Visual Voicemail and hitting a 3G area when I traveled to Little Rock. All in all, I was satisfied with AT&T as my wireless carrier.

That is, until I moved to North Georgia…

Things were vastly different in North Georgia. AT&T happened to launch 3G in Hot Springs just prior to my moving to North Georgia, which was still on EDGE. Since I had endured EDGE in Hot Springs for a little while, I didn’t think it could be too bad in North Georgia, especially when I traveled to larger towns, I’d at least have 3G then.

I was wrong.

Upon moving to North Georgia, AT&T’s EDGE network was SLOW. PAINFULLY SLOW. I was lucky to get 4k down around town, “bursting” to 30k down in a “good” area (for reference, dialup is 56k down, so we’re talking much slower than dialup speeds here). Additionally, text messages (especially MMS) had difficult times going through, many of my calls would go straight to voicemail without ringing my phone, as well as checking my voicemail was out of the question as well. If I went in a building with a metal roof, forget it. My iPhone would drop to “No Coverage”.

This I painfully endured with my iPhone while I waited for another option. Then, Verizon (the only decent carrier in North Georgia, although I still had coverage issues with Verizon at my house), got the iPhone.

The moment Verizon got the iPhone, I paid my ETF and civilly left AT&T for Verizon. On Verizon, coverage was improved in North Georgia. Verizon had solid 3G coverage across most of North Georgia (with the exception of my house, where I’d sometimes go down to 1X), so while my 3G speeds were slower than the speeds I endured on AT&T’s 3G network when traveling to metro areas, at the time, I had more consistent average speeds on 3G on Verizon’s network since I had 3G across most of the network.

Then something out of the ordinary happened. I moved back home to Hot Springs.

Back in Hot Springs, I was now in a position where I could easily pick AT&T or Verizon as my carrier of choice. AT&T has been offering 4G HSPA+ here even before I relocated back, as well as Verizon rolled out 4G LTE here shortly after my return home. I was now in a better position to choose which wireless carrier I wanted to use.

On the surface, it seemed as though I should just stick with Verizon as my carrier for a simple reason. Verizon’s 4G is LTE in Hot Springs, AT&T’s is HSPA+.

However, there are a few reasons I decided to switch back to AT&T as my wireless carrier instead of continuing on with Verizon.

First of all, while Verizon has 4G LTE here (and even in Little Rock as well), in other areas across the state, there’s still much of Arkansas operating on Verizon’s 3G EV-DO network. The issue with this is when transitioning from 4G down to 3G, not only will my network speeds dramatically drop (since EV-DO is much slower than LTE), I’ll also lose perks such as simultaneous voice/data when on 3G. Simultaneous voice/data is something I suffered through not having while I was on Verizon (although while living in North Georgia, I still wouldn’t have had it on AT&T’s EDGE network), and simultaneous voice/data is a network feature I really need to better enhance my productivity (many times during a business call I’m asked to pull up an email or check the web for something). While this is possible to do on Verizon’s 4G LTE network (with the exception of the iPhone 5 on Verizon), anytime I would venture off of Verizon’s 4G LTE network, I’d be back on slower 3G speeds, combined with not being able to use data while talking on the phone. On AT&T’s network, no matter if I’m on 4G LTE, 4G HSPA+, or 3G HSPA, I’m able to easily talk on the phone while surfing the web. Comparing the network footprint to Verizon’s, there’s just more areas I have the ability to do this.

Second of all, trying to fallback to Verizon’s 3G network would be more painful now as Verizon continues to strengthen its 4G LTE network, at the expense of its 3G network. I, along with many of my other friends who have been using Verizon’s 3G network lately, notice the quality of the network is diminishing, not increasing. Verizon’s claim to being the “most reliable 3G network” just doesn’t ring true to us anymore. I’ve noticed even around metro Hot Springs that my iPhone will lose its 3G signal and drop down to 1X, which is even more painfully slow than AT&T’s EDGE network. Updating my PRL and performing resets on my iPhone didn’t help either. It’s simply obvious. Verizon is letting its 3G network go as it boosts it 4G LTE network. It’s a real shame, that the 3G network I once depended on is no longer as reliable, but it’s simply true. I’m simply going to get better overall coverage on AT&T’s network, as long as I don’t fallback to EDGE again anywhere.

Third, AT&T’s 4G network, even being HSPA+ only, isn’t too far off in terms of speeds than Verizon’s 4G LTE network (at least here). Speed tests shows about 9M down in my area, with Verizon’s 4G LTE network about 10-12M down. That, coupled with the fact that AT&T plans to both boost capacity on the towers in my area this year, as well as rollout 4G LTE here by the end of the year, means by the time I get to enjoy 4G LTE, it’ll be much faster than Verizon’s 4G LTE network here, as well as with smoother fallback to AT&T’s HSPA+ and HSPA networks when not on LTE.

Fourth, I like being back on using AT&T’s GSM network over Verizon’s CDMA network. AT&T’s GSM network is a more broadly compatible network when traveling overseas (so I don’t have to worry about ensuring my phone is “global ready” as I did on Verizon since my iPhone 4 on Verizon was CDMA only and not “global ready”). I also feel that AT&T’s GSM network is more advanced than Verizon’s CDMA network. Im simply glad to be back on GSM and know that every device I own is truly “global ready”.

Fifth, I’m happy to be back with AT&T as a wireless customer. I actually like AT&T as a wireless carrier, and I was perfectly happy with them and would have stayed with them even in North Georgia, if my coverage up there would have only been better. Now that I’m in a position to be back on AT&T, I’m glad I’m back. I have AT&T landline and DSL service (getting UVERSE at the end of the year as soon as AT&T rolls it out), as well as I’ve known people at our AT&T retail store here for a longtime, so I get to have longtime friends who know me assist me when I have questions or answers. My family and most of my friends use AT&T as well, so it’s great to be wireless-compatible again with my friends and family.

Additionally, AT&T’s pricing plans are far more flexible and fair than Verizon’s. With Verizon, everyone is forced into using the new “Share Everything” plans, regardless if they are the proper fit or not. Also, Verizon makes customers convert to the new “Share Everything” plans when upgrading their phones (unless customers wish to pay full retail price for the phone) regardless if they want to or not. While the “Share Everything” plans are a nice fit for families with multiple smartphones or data devices (tablets, mobile hotspots, etc.), families that may simply have a single smartphone and more non-smartphones on their lines, or who may not need unlimited minutes, are forced into paying the additional cost, whether they need it or not.

With AT&T, things are different. While AT&T does offer a “Mobile Share” plan similar in pricing than Verizon’s for customers with multiple smartphones or data devices (and right now, I am on AT&T’s “Mobile Share” plan with 4GB of data, whereas on Verizon, I only had 2GB of data), it’s nice to know I can transition to one of AT&T’s Nation plans, or convert my plan to an AT&T FamilyTalk plan, in the even I don’t need unlimited minutes (and still have perks such as rollover minutes, mobile-to-mobile calling, etc.), or I need to affordably add a couple of non-smartphone lines to my account (such as moving my parents’ phones over to AT&T). On Verizon, we’d be paying $60/month just to have both of their non-smartphones on Verizon’s “Share Everything” plan. While the price is the same on AT&T’s “Mobile Share” plan, I could easily opt to convert my plan to an AT&T FamilyTalk plan, forego the unlimited minutes (if I didn’t need them), and add both lines onto the plan for $20/month total, a third of what I’d be paying on Verizon.

This is a huge advantage I see with AT&T’s plans and pricing. It’s simply more flexible and more fair than Verizon. AT&T doesn’t have a “one plan fits all” approach. If I need unlimited minutes and texting and have multiple data devices, AT&T’s “Mobile Share” plan is right for me. However, if it seems I no longer need unlimited minutes, or I need to add more non-smartphones to my account, then a Nation or FamilyTalk plan is going to fit me better. I have more choices and flexibility with AT&T, and it’s great. I hope AT&T will continue to offer this choice and flexibility and not force all of their customers onto a single plan like Verizon has. By doing so, it gives AT&T a huge competitive edge over Verizon: choice.

So this wraps up my transition from using an iPhone to becoming an Android user. You have now read my background on why I made the transition, how my general purchasing experience went, how the Android phone I chose (the Samsung Galaxy Note II) stacks up against my iPhone, as well as the iPhone 5 and other popular Android phones (such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One). You’ve read my comparisons to using the Android OS vs iOS, as well as why I switched carriers from Verizon back to AT&T. If you’d like to share any thoughts, ask me any questions, or discuss my transition experience with me, feel free to. I’d love to hear from you and your thoughts on the matter.

We’ve reached the end of the road for this series, and the beginning of my journey as an Android user. Thanks again for reading!