By The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — AT&T Inc. is the nation's worst cell-phone service provider, according to Consumer Reports.
The magazine, known for independent testing of consumer products, said AT&T came in last behind top scorer U.S. Cellular. Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile also scored higher than the exclusive service provider of Apple Inc.'s popular iPhone.
It was the only carrier rated by the magazine to have its overall satisfaction level fall this year.
AT&T struggled in all 10 categories used to determine the rankings, the magazine said. Consumer Reports readers gave AT&T an overall score of 60, far behind the 69 they gave to second-to-last T-Mobile.
AT&T's data and voice services and its customer service — including staff knowledge and the ability to resolve issues — were all deemed lacking.
The report, based on 58,000 responses, reached the same conclusion in 2009 when the provider, which was found to offer the most expensive plans with or without data, was given a rating of 66.
Consumer Reports is also declining to recommend the iPhone to readers, citing lingering concerns about the smart phone's reception problems and Apple's decision in September to cancel its giveaway of free cases to address a signal-strength issue.
Most of the AT&T customers surveyed owned an iPhone, and as a group were far less pleased with their service options than other smart phone users.
"We take this seriously, and we continually look for new ways to improve the customer experience," AT&T said in a statement. "The fact is wireless customers have choices and a record number of them chose AT&T in the third quarter, significantly more than our competitors."
Verizon, the leader in most of the annual Consumer Reports ratings since 2003, was deposed by U.S. Cellular, which operates mostly in the South and Midwest, and is facing pressure from Sprint.