Sprint PCS Wireless: A review from a customer's perspective
by Charles Young - Updated 7/2008

 

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Whether you are thinking about signing up with Sprint PCS for cell phone service, or you are already a Sprint customer who wonders about what experiences other people have had with Sprint, there is hopefully some relevant and useful information for you here. As of July 2008, I am happy with my Sprint plan, some extra features, and the price that I am paying. I try not to expect a good experience when I talk to customer service, or when I receive my first or second bill after making any changes. That way I will not be too upset when things go bad, and I will be pleasantly surprised if things go well. Fortunately things have mostly been going well for the last several months, but I know that the next call to customer service or the next bill could be a bad experience.

I first started sharing my experiences with Sprint on these web pages in 2006. At that time I had many horror stories to share dating back to 1997, and Sprint continued to provide bad experiences for more horror stories for several months. However, I have had no real horror stories to report since July of 2007.


July, 2007: My most recent bad experience with Sprint: they started charging me $9.99 per month per vendor for some kind of premium third party services that I did not order. That is #13 on my list of Sprint troubles, but these pages are not all negative. I recall Sprint's better days, and recognize that there are still some good things about Sprint. Our family has had wireless phones from other companies, and we have had Sprint PCS phone service since they first offered service in Arkansas in 1997. I am still a Sprint customer even though I have paid the early termination fee on one phone, and have come close to transferring all lines to another company.

Sprint Review

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Plans / Price

Coverage

Value

Voice Quality

Dropped calls

Sprint mobile to mobile

Phones

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Plans / Price - Pro

Sprint is a good value for customers who keep their older competitive plans.

Plans / Price - Con

Sprint does not seem to be a very good choice for new customers because the cost has gone up without a corresponding increase in value. Up until late 2006 Sprint was the clear winner for a large group of people -- people who wanted to get the most for their money, lived in a Sprint network area, and could tolerate poor customer service. Sadly Sprint seems to have thrown away their main competitive advantage -- low rates.

In 2005 Sprint was the low-price leader. Their biggest advantage over the competition was price for overage minutes: $5 for 100 minutes. Then it changed to $5 for 50 minutes, as of September 2006 it was $5 for 30 minutes, and as of February 2007 it was $.45 per minute for basic low-tier customers. It seems that Sprint figured out that customers did not value the low cost of overage minutes, so they raised their price to match the other carriers. Sprint base rates have not changed much during recent years, but the other wireless companies have come down in price so that base rates are now nearly the same for all companies. Sprint will often change their plans, so check for yourself to see what their rates are today.

Coverage - Con

Unlike 800 Mhz networks like AT&T, the Sprint network only covers larger cities and major highways. Voice mail notification and other features do not work while roaming out of the Sprint network.

Coverage - Pro

Sprint has the largest nationwide PCS (1.9 Ghz) network which covers a large percentage of the population in the United States. To compensate for their geographically small network, Sprint offered unlimited roaming as an option for several years, and now includes unlimited roaming in all plans. If you use your phone mainly for voice calls, the limited Sprint network may not really matter since their roaming coverage is excellent and is included in newer plans.

Coverage - Update 2008

There is a trend of sharing between networks in a way that makes roaming almost invisible to the customers -- you may not even know that your are "roaming" or using another company's network.

Value

Competitive (cheap) plans used to offset the disadvantage of poor Sprint customer service and a limited Sprint network coverage area. By early 2007, Sprint's rates were almost identical to their competitors, but their customer service had not improved. If anything it seems to be getting even worse than before (if such a thing is possible). Perhaps Sprint thinks that customers will be deceived into believing that higher price = higher value. Or maybe Sprint has decided that subscriber growth is not so important, and that resellers (MVNOs) like Disney Mobile, Helio, Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Movida, Beyond Mobile, and others are the future of profitability.

Voice Quality - Pro

Sprint PCS has always had excellent quality when calling from a phone in a fixed quiet location. It sounds just as good as a wired phone. When calling from a noisy moving vehicle the quality is still fairly good. I have found that as long as I am inside the Sprint network, the phones just work except below ground level. I admire the efforts of the people who invested in and built the first national all digital network. It was a big undertaking, they did a good job, and they are still expanding and improving the network.

Dropped calls - Pro

When calling within Sprint network areas, calls are almost never dropped. If you happen to leave the Sprint network coverage area while on a call, the call will be dropped and you will have to call back after the phone has established a roaming connection. When out of the Sprint coverage area, you may experience dropped calls due to the network you are roaming on. Dropped calls are common on my AT&T / Cingular work phone -- especially during rush hour, so Sprint is much better in comparison.

 

Sprint mobile to mobile

Most plans include free calling to other Sprint PCS phones as long as both phones are in the Sprint network. Several other wireless providers have a similar policy.

Phones - Pro

Sprint offers a good selection of cell phones ranging from basic cheap phones to way above my price range that include Treo and Blackberry. My family and I have used several of the lower priced phones and were pleased with most of them. Generally they offer a lot of neat features for the money. Vision phones can access the internet. A few phones can double as an MP3 player. Some phones have Bluetooth, and some come with a USB cable -- useful for transferring pictures and contacts from / to your computer. With a USB cable you may also be able to use your mobile phone as a Modem (tethering) for accessing the internet on your computer.


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