The Worst Cell Phone on Earth

Excited about 4G? You won’t be after using the Samsung Craft from MetroPCS.

By Farhad Manjoo

The Samsung Craft.The Samsung CraftIf you’ve gone shopping for a cell phone lately, you’ve probably encountered a salesman who couldn’t contain his excitement about "4G." That’s the name given to several technologies that are supposed to allow for much faster and more reliable wireless Internet connections. If you believe cell companies’ ads, 4G is going to change your life—you’ll be able to videoconference from the beach, show up your colleagues in front of your boss, and finally get along with your kids.

I’m sure there’s some truth to this. As the nation’s largest carriers roll out 4G coverage over the next few years, and as cell phone companies come out with better 4G phones, we probably will get pretty great service. Right now, though, be wary of claims of 4G heaven. Often, it’s nothing more than a marketing gimmick. To see what I mean, look no further than MetroPCS.

Last September, the carrier best known for its low-cost, no-contract wireless service surprised many in the phone business with its plan to begin supplying 4G coverage across its network. MetroPCS’ 4G is based on a technology called LTE, which is the same system that the nation’s largest carriers—AT&T and Verizon—plan to roll out over the next few years. So how is MetroPCS able to offer LTE right now? And not only that: How can MetroPCS offer 4G for so little money? Depending on the features you’re looking for, you can get a MetroPCS 4G plan for $40, $50, or $60 a month, taxes included, and without signing a contract. In other words, MetroPCS’ most expensive 4G plan is cheaper than most other carriers’ least expensive 3G plans. That sounded too good to be true. And, boy, was it ever.

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