2018 Wireless Survey

Contract plans continue slow and steady decline; Android eclipses iOS among early adopters

PEACHTREE CORNERS, Ga., July 31, 2018 — Non-contract wireless carriers are continuing to foster high levels of satisfaction and loyalty among consumers, much more so than their Big Four counterparts, according to a new large-scale consumer study by Market Force Information® (Market Force). The study found that Consumer Cellular ranks as America’s favorite carrier overall, and many other non-contract wireless providers also outperformed the major full-service carriers.

The study of more than 8,800 consumers also reveals what sets the leading carriers apart, as well as trends in wireless usage, plans and contacts, in-store experiences and customer satisfaction.

Consumer Cellular, Cricket and Straight Talk Nab Top Spots

When looking at all wireless providers combined, Consumer Cellular ranks as a clear leader on Market Force’s Composite Loyalty Index (CLI) with a score of 71%. Cricket and Straight Talk tied for second place with 56% apiece, and Boost Mobile and T-Mobile tied for third. Meanwhile, Verizon came in a distant seventh, while AT&T and Sprint landed on the bottom of the rankings

Graph 1: Ranking of All Major Wireless Carriers

“With its targeting of niche markets such as the over-50 demographic, as well as an intense focus on service to support this customer base, Consumer Cellular has cultivated a highly satisfied and loyal following,” said Brad Christian, chief customer officer for Market Force. “In fact, we’re seeing an overall shift in the market with non-contract carriers earning strong scores from consumers, along with a meaningful number of users switching to pre-paid and pay-as-you-go providers.”

T-Mobile No. 1 out of Big Four Out of the full-service carriers studied, T-Mobile ranked first again this year on Market Force’s CLI with a score of 46%, a three percentage point gain over 2017. Verizon held steady in second place with a 38% score, a slight improvement over 2017, while AT&T ranked third and Sprint ranked fourth.

Graph 2: Ranking of Favorite Full-Service Wireless Carriers

Cricket and Boost Mobile See Sizable Gains Among Non-Contract Brands

Despite losing some footing over 2017, Consumer Cellular maintained a strong first-place ranking among non-contract carriers for the third consecutive year. Meanwhile, Cricket and Boost Mobile both gained a notable five percentage points – enough to advance Cricket from third to second place, and Boost Mobile from fifth to third place.

Graph 3: Ranking of Favorite Non-Contract Wireless Carriers

Consumer Cellular Dominates

When Stacked Against Others Market Force also looked at how all carriers — both non-contract and full-service providers —compare when it comes to attributes that matter most to consumers, and Consumer Cellular led in nearly every category, including value, call strength, plan flexibility, dropped call frequency and data speeds. Verizon narrowly beat out Consumer Cellular for network coverage, as did T-Mobile for access to new products. Straight Talk also performed well in many areas, such as having an easy-to-understand bill and call strength. Interestingly, the Big Four providers tended to trail in most categories, aside from those related to new technology and products.

Graph 4: Wireless Providers Ranked by Attributes

More Users Ditching Contractual Plans in Favor of Pre-Paid

Market Force found wireless users are continuing to shift away from contract plans with term limits in favor of pre-paid and pay-as-you-go options. In the past two years, contract plans saw a 12% drop among consumers – from 62% in 2016 to 50% in 2018. In the same period, the use of pre-paid service grew by 7% and pay-as-you-go by 5%.

Graph 5: Shift in Wireless Provider Plans

Market Force also found that 14% of users are considering switching from their current provider in the next year, mainly for a better value, but also for improved network coverage and more flexible plans. Sprint customers are most likely to switch, and Consumer Cellular and U.S. Cellular users are least likely.

Cricket’s In-Store Experience Outrivals Others

As wireless technology becomes more advanced, in-store service takes on a greater importance among consumers who prefer to have their questions answered and phone features demonstrated in person. Cricket is the clear leader across the board, ranking first in nearly every in-store service category, from clearly explaining products and providing information, to taking time with customers and proficiently setting up features. T-Mobile led in friendliness, and ranked among the top three in several other categories. 

Graph 6: In-Store Service Rankings for Carriers with Brick-and-Mortar Stores

Android Overtakes iOS Among Early Adopters

Overall, consumers are using the Android operating system (OS) more than Apple’s iOS on their primary wireless phones – 53% compared to 41%. The breakdown is also similar among consumers who consider themselves early adopters, with 51% reporting they use the Android OS vs. 47% using iOS. That’s a different story from 2017 when more self-described early adopters said they primarily use iOS.

Graph 7: Operating System Used on Primary Wireless Phone

Date: Tuesday, July 31, 2018

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