In 2014, the wireless carriers really shook things up. While we can probably blame T-Mobile for that, they aren't the only ones shaking stuff up, and we're loving it. So we are grading the carriers on how they've done in 2014. We're kicking things off with Verizon and will also grade AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile as well. We're breaking things down into a few categories. There's Network/Coverage, customer additions, device availability, and prices.
Verizon is still number one, there's no disputing that. However, according to Root Metrics reports, in some cities Verizon has either lost their number one spot, or came close to losing it. Which is a bit surprising. And shows that Verizon does need to do some more work on their network, which I'm sure they are always working on their network and coverage. This year Verizon launched XLTE, which basically is just giving us more bandwidth for LTE. With Verizon having the most customers, this was really needed. In some places, speeds were increased by almost double, and in some areas you are able to get anywhere from 70 to 100mbps on a speedtest. Which is pretty good, especially during peak times.
Verizon's coverage is also still number one, and that's why their prices are higher then everyone else's. If you travel a lot, you probably have Verizon, because they have much fewer dead spots then the other three. However, I have noticed throughout the year that some area's coverage have diminished, which needs to be fixed as well.
We don't have Q4 numbers just yet, as that quarter ends on December 31st. But this section is going to be down to the numbers provided in their quarterly reports, which you can find here.
In the first quarter, Verizon saw 549,000 net retail add-ons with a churn rate of 1.07%. For those unaware, the churn rate is the amount of people leaving Verizon for another carrier. In the second quarter, Verizon saw 1.4 million net retail add-ons with a churn rate of 0.94%, while in the third quarter they got 1.5 million net add-ons and a churn rate of 1%. Which isn't bad at all, and typically the first quarter is lower because everyone bought new phones in Q3 or Q4, also there's not a whole lot of new phones announced in Q1. But otherwise, Verizon had a great year adding more and more customers.
Verizon has a ton of devices available on their network, from the HTC One M8, to the Samsung Galaxy S5, to the LG G3, and a ton of others in between. As far as exclusives go, there's the LG Lucid 3, LG G Vista (sort of, since AT&T does have the LG G Vista as well), as well as the Sony Xperia Z3v and the Motorola Droid Turbo. So Verizon does have a pretty big selection of smartphones available for Android. They also have the iPhone 5S, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus. On the Windows Phone side there's the HTC One M8 for Windows and the Nokia Lumia Icon just to name a few.
The carrier also added a slew of tablets this year. Including the iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 3, Nokia Lumia 2520, Google Nexus 7 2013, Samsung Galaxy Tab S, Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2, just to name a few.
For a while, Verizon has been the most expensive carrier, and that was just the price you paid for having great coverage. It reminds me of the saying "you get what you pay for". This year, T-Mobile has been really competitive between working on their network and lowering prices, Sprint has also jumped in now in the second half of the year. Forcing Verizon and AT&T to compete as well. So let's take a look and see what the pricing is for a single-line smartphone with 4GB of data. On Verizon Edge, a 4GB plan will cost you $95, plus the fee for Verizon Edge which varies by device (for example the LG G3 is $24.99 per month onto that $95 plan). With a standard contract, it'll be $110.
So while it's still pretty expensive, that's lower then it had been on Verizon, say a year ago. About a year ago, that $110 price would have gotten you 2GB of data, and now it's 4GB. So Verizon still has a way to go to compete with their competitors, but they do still have the best network which is what keeps them with over 100 million customers.
Network/Coverage – A-
Customer Additions – A
Device Availability – B+
Plan Prices – C
Final Grade – B
So what can Verizon do to improve their grade? Well they can give us more devices to choose from, particularly on the Windows Phone side, as well as some more low-end and mid-range devices. Like the Moto G and Moto E. While they did grab the Moto G last year, it was only on prepaid and they didn't pick up this year's Moto G yet. As far as their grade for their plan prices, I think that's pretty much self explanatory. I'd love to see Verizon competing more closely with AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. And if they offered the same plans at the same prices as their competitors, I think they'd add a whole lot more customers, just because their network is so great, compared to the other three.