Starting Friday, Apple is taking pre-orders for its new iPhone 4S, which features faster processors, a better camera, iOS 5, and a new voice-activated assistant called Siri. Best of all, the new iPhone will be available for the first time on the U.S.'s three largest wireless networks, including Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and Sprint.
The original iPhone was only available to AT&T customers. But with so many options for an iPhone carrier, which one is the best?
The short answer is that there is no clear winner among carriers; each one has its own benefits. For instance, some networks offer better network speed, while others have cheaper price options. Choose the right carrier by following this guide.
Speed: Of all the three networks, AT&T is the only carrier with GSM. Therefore, AT&T has a faster 3G network and supports simultaneous talking and Web browsing. Hands-down, AT&T's network will achieve the closest speed to the max download speed of 14.4 mbps, a speed comparable to 4G phones.
Simultaneous Talk and Web: Since it's the only carrier of the three with GSM, AT&T is the clear winner by default; Verizon and Sprint's CDMA networks simply don't support this parallel functionality. So if you want to read the International Business Times while talking with your friends, AT&T is the only way to go.
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Data: For a cheap $10 a month, Sprint's unlimited data plan is the company's way of distancing itself from the other two carriers. Sprint is the clear winner in this category, since AT&T and Verizon simply don't offer unlimited data plans anymore. However, if you managed to grab an unlimited data plan from AT&T before they killed it, you're still grandfathered in.
Network: While the iPhone 4S will feature two alternating antennae to provide a greater network connection, each carrier has its own reputations for reliability. AT&T is notorious for dead zones and dropped calls, which is partly why the company wants to acquire T-Mobile, but even so, AT&T and Sprint score a 94 percent reliability rating by PCWorld. However, Verizon, which scored a 92 percent in that same reliability test, has the largest 3G network of all three carriers. While AT&T has activated more towers in the last few months, you're more likely to achieve a connection in the countryside with Verizon than any of the other two carriers.
Winner: Verizon Wireless
Price: iPhones ain't cheap. The phones themselves cost $199 for 16 GB, $299 for 32 GB, and $399 for 64 GB, but on top of that, you still have to consider the price of the network. Both Verizon and AT&T have voice plans starting at $59.99 for 450 minutes and $89.99 for unlimited minutes. Sprint's voice plans are a little more expensive at $69.99 for 450 minutes and $99.99 for unlimited minutes, but Sprint makes up for this in its data plan. For 5 GB of data, AT&T and Verizon Wireless charge $55 and $50 per month, respectively. Sprint, meanwhile, charges just $10 a month for unlimited data. Even though Sprint adds on an extra $29.99 for a mobile hotspot, and it's still a cheaper option overall.
Conclusion: None of these carriers are perfect, but they can really enhance the overall iPhone experience in a different way. AT&T is the best option for speed, and simultaneous talking and surfing. Pick Sprint for cheap, unlimited data. Verizon Wireless is the best bet for reliable 3G access. Regardless of the carrier you choose however, at the end of the day, an iPhone's an iPhone, which is pretty good to begin with.
Do you plan on buying an iPhone 4S? If so, which network will you choose? Let us know in your comments below.