Note to self: It's the economy, stupid.
But finally, I made a decision -- I ended up renewing with the same company I had before: Sprint. Now a lot of things about Sprint annoy me -- especially the fact that one MUST sign up for a 2-year plan. But on balance, I find Sprint the best deal. Here's why:
I want high-speed data possibilities -- on my phone, on a laptop card, or on both. That immediately eliminates the GSM carriers T-Mobile and Cingular -- which are lagging on introducing so called "3G" high-speed data services. So, the choices are down to the two companies with EV-DO data rates: Sprint and Verizon.
(If none of these acronyms make any sense to you, just get T-Mobile. They are really cheap and make you sign only a 1-year contract. Plus, they rated quite high in Consumer Reports latest national survey.)
Sprint vs. Verizon was a tough choice. I was leaning heavily towards Verizon because, some day, they will have a very slim smart phone called the Motorola Q. But no one seems to know when someday will be. The phone has been delayed for months, and we keep hearing about more delays. Then I ask myself: If the Q ever arrives, how trouble-free can I expect a device that has had so many development glitches to be?
On the Sprint side, I'm waiting anxiously for the Palm Treo 700p. It's bulkier than the mythical Q, but it runs the Palm operating system, which I like far better than Microsoft Windows on the Q. The Treo is also delayed, but I have more faith in a company (Palm) that has been making this same basic phone for years than a company that is pretty new to the business (Motorola).
Plus, Sprint's running a great deal right now. In a blast from the cellular past -- nights (i.e. unlimited calling) start at 7PM, as they should. At Verizon, it's still 9PM. And dollar for dollar, Sprint is cheaper, anyway: for $59.99, I get 900 minutes with Verizon vs. 1000 with Sprint (plus the additional 2400 minutes because nights start at 7PM instead of 9PM). Yes, I know, Verizon has "In," giving me free calls to Verizon customers. But I can do the same thing with Sprint customers for just $5 extra per month.
So that's my choice, and I'm sticking with it -- at least for the duration of a 2-year contract.