So, you’re ready to buy the iPhone 5. You’ve waited for months, you have the contract eligibility to upgrade. Hell, you can even switch if you want to. But which carrier is best for you?
Having Apple’s latest and greatest iPhone is worthless if you get yourself locked into a two-year contract with a carrier that doesn’t even provide you with high-quality cellular service at your house or work. Luckily, there’s an essential app and other tools you can use to check who provides the best service for your iPhone.
CarrierCompare is a an iOS app that aims to moderate the debate of which carrier is best by allowing you to see what the best iPhone carrier is at any given location.
Here’s how it works. Downloading CarrierCompare, you install it and run the app, which starts a speed test on your current iPhone. It then compares that data to crowdsourced information from other iPhones in the area, then gives you an average speed for all the networks in your area: Sprint, Verizon and AT&T.
Running a CarrierCompare test at places you visit a lot will tell who provides the best service for you. The only problem with CarrierCompare’s iOS app is that Apple limits the app’s ability to compare signal across multiple carriers, so what you see is just a comparison to the average tests in that area. If you have an Android phone handy, you can run the app without any restrictions and get a true reading.
If you want even more data than just what’s on CarrierCompare – like say you want to check out who has the best service in San Francisco because you’ll be spending your winter there – then you’ll want to check out OpenSignals as well.
OpenSignal is a web app that is simple to use. Just go to OpenSignalMaps.com, tap in your ZIP code (or postcode), or use the pull-down lists to choose a country and city, and you’ll be shown a heat map depicting coverage in the area. The various carriers are shown in a list, and you can toggle them on or off, see the actual cell towers’ locations, and view stats like network speed and reliability.
Magically, the tables and details change as you pan around the map with your finger, and you’re not just limited to the US and Europe. Swipe the map down towards Africa and the updates continue. If you use an Android device, there’s an app download for you. On iOS, though, the web page works so well in Safari that it’s hard to see why a native app would be needed.
Testing signal strength at a number of locations should give you a better idea of which carrier to go with. A lot of iPhone users believe there’s a clear-cut winner in the service battle between AT&T and Verizon right now, but CarrierCompare and OpenSignals let you see who’s winning the battle where you live so that you can be happiest with your iPhone 5.