How much difference can the network make?
T-Mobile recently sent us an LG G3 to look over. We didn't need another G3 to look at — we've pretty much been over everything there is to know about the LG G3 more than once. But I was delighted to get it for a week or so anyway, because this sort of thing gives us an opportunity to compare the same phone on multiple networks.
I've got the AT&T G3 here that Mobile Nations bought. I use it as my "full-time work-phone", at least for a little while. I'll likely have to change that when the next round of new phones comes out, but for now it's always on my desk or in my pocket. That gave me an excellent chance to see what difference the network makes when you're using the same phone in the same places.
And it can make a huge difference.
Most things are the same
The G3 is an excellent Android smartphone
If you didn't see any carrier logos on the the G3, you would be hard pressed to find the differences between them. LG has done an excellent job of putting the same model out for just about everyone, and aside from a few minor software differences (and major carrier bloatware differences) the US versions all look and feel alike.
You have the same great design that fits the 5.5-inch screen in a relatively small frame, the same QHD display with it's uber-dense 534 pixels per inch layout, and the same surprisingly capable Snapdragon 801 and 3GB of RAM to power it all. The cameras are identical. All models have a removable 3,000mAh battery and an SD card slot for expansion. Everything you love about one model is present on the others, too.
It's not perfect, but the vast majority of us who are using a G3 think it's a very nice Android smartphone. There's a good reason for that — it is a very nice Android smartphone.
But of course, on the network side things can be very different.
T-Mobile's two killer features
The best thing about any Android phone that has the word "T-Mobile" silk-screened on the back cover is wifi calling. If you're not familiar with how it works on T-Mobile, I'll explain. With a correctly provisioned SIM card and a phone with the necessary software installed, you make calls over your wifi data connection instead of the normal voice connection. These calls don't count against any minutes if you're not on an unlimited plan, and it works anywhere in the world as long as you have a wifi connection. And the call quality is incredible.
Wifi calling is so good everyone is trying it now
In my basement office, behind the brick walls and dirt and lovely hedges that my wife insists I keep trimmed, cellular signals are bad across the board. But my wifi router is in the same room, so I have an excellent wifi signal down here. With my AT&T G3, that means my data is fast but any calls I make or receive sound pretty poor on both ends unless I move upstairs. On the T-Mobile G3, calls are crystal clear on my end. Calling my wife on her HTC One on T-Mobile while she's connected to wifi at work sounds just like using a landline or better. Even if you rarely talk on your smartphone, when you do it's nice to be able to understand what you're hearing and have what you're saying be understood. I use T-Mobile for one of my lines, but I'm that (arguably wrong) guy who only buys unlocked phones so I forgot how nice having wifi calling was. There's a reason Sprint and Apple are integrating wifi calling into their services, and once you get used to it you'll not want to get rid of it.
T-Mobile's other killer feature is simple. An unlimited data option. I can never give T-Mobile and Sprint enough credit for giving folks the means to use all the awesome features and apps that come with the smartphones they sell without micromanaging how much data we use. People on Verizon have found ways to finagle the system to try and keep it, because it's awfully damned important for a lot of us. I can make my limited plan on AT&T work, but with T-Mobile I can just do what I want and not have to care. I like not having to care.
with T-Mobile I can just do what I want and not have to care about data caps
This is even more important with the G3, because you're going to be watching HD (or higher) resolution video on the thing. Those bits and bytes add up quickly, and it's easy to burn through a 2GB data cap in just one evening with YouTube or Netflix. I use wifi when it's available (we all probably should) but with T-Mobile I can watch video, or stream music, or just goof off on the Internet without caring how much data I'm using no matter where I am.
I can understand why a base data plan would have a data cap, and I understand that for most people, a few GBs a month is sufficient. But I also think it's a shame that companies will sell you a device designed to burn through data and not offer a plan with an unlimited option. Call it a power-user plan or an advanced plan, or even a OMG Y U SO DATA HAWG plan. Just offer me one. I'm happy to pay a premium for it, and I know plenty of the rest of us would, too. Until AT&T can do that, for me the T-Mobile G3 is the better option.
Try everything at least once
The T-Mobile G3 works better for me than the AT&T version because I live and work and play in places with excellent T-Mobile coverage. I know that's not the case for everyone, but for me I have a stronger data signal with faster speeds, which turns into even better battery life because I'm searching for a signal less. You may have the same situation and get the same results. Or you may not. But you'll never know unless you try.
Don't be afraid to try new things
The oft-typed comments about T-Mobile only working in the city are bunk. I can get great speeds — sometimes LTE, other time HSPA, but always more than sufficient — while sitting along the side of a back-country road with the tourists, watching the elusive albino deer come out of the woods at dusk. The fact is that T-Mobile works in a lot of places, but it doesn't work in a lot of other places. The same can be said for every other carrier.
Ignore the typical Internet carrier fanboy who will tell you only their carrier is worth a shit because everyone else is lacking in network speed or coverage. You have to get the service yourself and try it. T-Mobile wants you to try it, and their T-Mobile Test Drive is also a great way to see what using an iPhone 5S is like — something plenty of us would never spend money to find out. What works for me may not work for you, but what you've never tried will never work.
I'm not your typical Internet T-Mobile fan. I like to use T-Mobile because their service works for me. If someone else's service worked better, I would use it. I have an AT&T line because I need to be able to use AT&T Android phones. Sometimes, I end up somewhere where 2G on AT&T is the only service available. If I were there often enough, I would use AT&T more. I'm not blindly loyal.
You shouldn't be blindly loyal, either. Don't be afraid to try new things, like T-Mobile's service for example. If you do try it, and it works for you, the LG G3 is a great way to use it.