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Verizon vs. AT&T vs. Sprint vs. T-Mobile: Who's best in your city?

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San Jose Mercury News/Newscom

(Read caption) Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint enter the ring. Who will emerge on top? Consumer Reports knows.

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It's a clash of the carriers! Gearheads love to compare the nitty gritty of different smart phones. But what about the networks? Without a strong carrier presence in your city, many of those smart phone features go to waste. So, if you're unhappy with your current network, moving to a new state, or drooling over a phone on a different network, here's a quick carrier cheat sheet.

Consumer Reports' Winter 2010 reader survey tracked carrier quality in 26 metro areas. Here's its city-by-city breakdown. Note: This report shouldn't make or break your buying decisions. (Here in Boston, plenty of Monitor editors are happy with last-place AT&T.) But the list might help focus your search for the phone that best fits your life.

Atlanta: Verizon is the only carrier with any positive ratings. T-Mobile came in second, followed by Sprint, then AT&T.

Boston: Beantown is definitely not "the Hub" of cellular networks. No carrier got a positive rating. Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, then Sprint.

Charlotte, N.C.: AT&T and Sprint both got below satisfactory "dropped calls" rating. Verizon, Sprint, then AT&T.

Chicago: Verizon again leads the pack. T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T follow.

Cleveland: Verizon, Sprint, then AT&T.

Columbus, Ohio: No carrier got a negative mark, but only Verizon did well. Verizon, Sprint, then AT&T.

Dallas-Fort Worth: Verizon gets the best possible grade for "dropped calls." Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, then Sprint.

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Denver: AT&T gets its worst rating in the nation, with black marks in "no service," "dropped calls," and "static." Verizon, T-Mobile, then AT&T.

Detroit: Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, then Sprint.

ALSO SEE: Verizon iPhone versus AT&T iPhone: The top three differences

Houston: A great city for Verizon customers, with sterling marks in the service and dropped-call categories. Verizon, T-Mobile, then AT&T.

Indianapolis: Verizon, AT&T, then Sprint.

Las Vegas: One of T-Mobile's best cities, but Verizon is still the safe bet. Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, then AT&T.

Los Angeles: AT&T and T-Mobile earn terrible grades for dead zones. Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, then AT&T.

Miami: Another strong city for Verizon, with top grades for areas served and few dropped calls. Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, then AT&T.

Minneapolis-St. Paul: Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, then AT&T.

New York: Infamous for bad AT&T reception, especially for iPhones. Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, then AT&T.

Philadelphia: Verizon, T-Mobile, then AT&T.

Phoenix: The Consumer Reports survey gave Verizon its highest rating here. Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, then AT&T.

San Antonio: A great city for every network, with no negative marks. Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, then Sprint.

San Diego: Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, then AT&T.

San Francisco: Another city know for poor AT&T service, particularly since the iPhone debuted. Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, then AT&T.

Seattle: Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, then AT&T.

St. Louis: No negative marks for any carrier, but Verizon got the only positive grades. Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, then Sprint.

Tampa, Fla: AT&T's best city. Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, then Sprint.

Washington, D.C.: Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, then AT&T.

There you go! Verizon topped the satisfaction charts for every city. AT&T came in last place for 19 of them. (Not good news for AT&T, since its flagship, the iPhone setting, sets sail for Verizon in February.)

Thinking of switching carriers? Here's a great phone for each carrier.


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