Melissa and I began considering a switch to AT&T Wireless (then Cingular) from Verizon Wireless in late 2005, and then actually went through with the switch in early 2006. At the time, Cingular—as compared to Verizon—had a much better selection of phones, cheaper data plans, and rollover minutes. We knew that it would be a step down in coverage and reliability, but Cingular seemed to be making fast improvements and we had decent signal around Northern Virginia where we tested.

How would I characterize the AT&T network after four years on it? One word: stagnant. There was some slow, steady improvement for the first year or so and then it all just . . . stopped. There has been little-to-no improvement in coverage or reliability since then and, in fact, there even seems to be some quiet degradation over the last six months or so. I’m increasingly finding my data connection to be a bit slow and laggy, even when I have a strong signal indicated, and several people I know (including Melissa) report a recent increase in dropped calls too. Not cool.

If your network is top-notch, you can get away with just maintaining the status quo. If your network, however, is lagging the competition you need to improve it (and if you’re bogged down with millions of iPhones and, soon, iPads you need to improve it fast). AT&T has apparently failed in this respect, so we are seriously considering a return to Verizon (which has remedied their previously-poor selection of phones and lowered data prices since 2005).

Those new Palm phones look really, really cool. With a waive of the activation fee and a discount of the phones, Verizon might even convince us to eat our early termination fee ;-). We’re still under contract until November.