While Verizon Wireless (*Est. $40 per month and up for basic phones; $100 and up for smartphones) ranks highest overall nationally, reviewers say U.S. Cellular (*Est. $40 per month and up) is a particularly strong carrier in the 26 states it serves, mostly in the Midwest. It boasts the best call quality in the North Central region for the 13th straight survey period at J.D. Power and Associates. U.S. Cellular rivals Verizon Wireless for nationwide coverage and call quality (which makes sense, as this carrier contracts with the Verizon network), with better cell phone plans and the best customer support in the business, according to PCMag.com. A third major customer survey agrees, awarding U.S. Cellular first place overall and the highest possible ratings for customer service, problem-free calls and value.
U.S. Cellular offers a wide variety of plans, all of which include free roaming on the Verizon network. At $40 per month for 450 talk minutes, U.S. Cellular's prices are on par with other carriers'. However, U.S. Cellular sets itself apart as the only carrier to offer free incoming calls, texts and picture and video messages; users pay only for outgoing services. Customers can sign up for the Rewards program, earning loyalty points that lead to additional benefits.
One drawback to U.S. Cellular's service is that it doesn't offer as many, or as wide, a range of phones as other carriers, and reviewers at PCMag.com and TopTenReviews rank it in last place for its selection. However, U.S. Cellular does have the latest Android and Windows smartphones. Like Verizon Wireless, U.S. Cellular operates on a CDMA network, so its phones won't work in other countries.
Reviewers call U.S. Cellular's customer service "the best in the business." Users agree, giving it a Readers' Choice award at PCMag.com and the highest possible rating in a large customer survey. U.S. Cellular is our Best Reviewed regional carrier for its consistency of great performance and for its highly rated customer service, a rarity in the cell phone service world.