I've been very satisfied with T-mobile. Before them I had Sprint and I couldn't get coverage by my house as it was too remote for them I guess. One good thing I really like about T-mobile is I can get coverage almost always inside metal buildings. That is iffy with most carriers I believe from what I've heard. My hubby has ATT and I get bars alot of times when he doesn't. However I am not as sure now that he got a new Iphone5. I don't think he is having as much trouble now so his older phone may not have had as much power. Don't know that much about the phones themselves as far as how much better one is from another.
anadyr You may want to check out AT&T's new aio cellular. They brought it out late last year to go up against T-Mobile. No contract and unlimited talk and data. aio uses ATT's cellular system, so coverage is excellent. They have some good phone/service combos. Lady Foxglove has aio service, and we've been very pleased. She's a magazine editor, so she went with a Nokia Lumia Windows phone for the editing capabilities of Windows office. I know Metro uses T-Mobile's system, and in our neck of the woods, T-Mobile's coverage is listed by T-Mobile as "satisfactory"--not much of a recommendation.
For now, I'm sticking with my Jurassic 3G flip phone. One phone smarter than me in the family is enough.
I think coverage may all be a crapshoot. We seem to live in a neighborhood that's a cellular black hole. At any time you can hear people outside or walking around the neighborhood using their cell phones. But in our location, we don't have to brave the elements with AT&T. (And Atlanta and the region are bracing for another round of elements.)
But we might be talking "SNOW DAY!"
It's amazing what ~1.5 - 2.0 inches of snow can do down here. But mostly it was the fact that Atlanta schools, businesses, and government offices all sent people home at the exact same time (3:30), clogging the roads. By that time, roads has already started icing, and the traffic jams made people sit while accumulations just got worse.
Here in Athens, area schools let out at 12 noon. UGA shut down at 3:30, and businesses and gov. offices let out throughout the afternoon without incident. (Knock on wood.)
I've been a Verizon customer for about 15 years now, for me the coverage is the best with not even dropping calls in the N.C. Mountains where no other service can say that to having 4G coverage deep in the Del Monte Forest while at Pebble Beach last week. My Android RazrMax is great and has worked well for me in Europe, Caribbean and South America while using the global plan.
Well put bejacob, the phone is only as smart as the operator!!! LOL Thus after 18 months with my Smartphone I'm still trying to figure it all out.
I've been with Sprint now for a while and really have not found many areas when I didn't have service and others did with other carriers when in populated areas. I did find that Verizon had better coverage in the rocky mountains and areas around the US that are more off the beaten path. I think it boils down to the phone and technology. Sprint and Verizon are still CDMA where T Mobile, ATT, Metro PCS and others are GSM. There are great phones and some really not great phones with all carriers. CDMA seems to have better range where GSM seems to have better signal locking when you are in range. If you travel internationally it might be worth looking at TMobile as they are a global carrier with cheap rates while abroad or at least getting an unlocked phone from which ever GSM provider. Research the phones between the brands, the phone's antenna really can make a HUGE difference in performance and they are not nearly created equal even within the same brand.
Also if you find you have little/no service at home you can get a femtocell from most of the major carriers in the US and get better coverage at/around your house. I have one at my house and it covers around 8000sq ft. Not sure if Metro PCS would offer one but could be something to consider.