UPDATE: Brought the 5S they sent with me to work to test wifi calling (this will be an important feature in my case). Once I found the WiFi Calls option under Phone in the Settings menu, it worked as advertised! Before you can activate it though, you have to enter in an E911 address for emergency services since they won't be tracking you via cell towers in that case.
I hadn't mentioned it here yet but T-Mobile vastly improved their coverage of upstate NY some time recently. I figurd this was a great time to start seriously considering switching away from AT&T. Luckily, TMo has a program setup for exactly this kind of thing. It's their Test Drive. And they'll send you a phone to use on their network for a full week, for free. So I got my iPhone 5S in the mail last night for my free 7 day Test Drive...
Pretty easily forwarded my AT&T number calls, swapped the TMo SIM into my Z3 Compact, updated APN settings, and was on my way with my own phone for the Test Drive. Service at home was decent. Only had one or sometimes 2 bars in the house - but this isn't really that different from my usual AT&T service. Speed test was a bit slower than AT&T but still acceptable.
Today is more of a real test. According to their map, once I get outside of Montour/Watkins area and head towards work, I'd pretty much lose service and have to deal with it. I expected this for the Test Drive. Surely I wouldn't bother actually switching carriers if both work and home were not covered. Elmira/Horseheads area appears to be covered well (according to their coverage map anyway) but I'll verify this tonight when I head that way to get a haircut.
I was kind of hoping that their map may just not be updated yet for the Corning area and I'd have regular service. Nope.
Once I got a few miles down 414 away from home, I lost LTE completely and it switched over to Roaming. Wasn't quite sure what to expect in this area, but it turns out that it was connected to AT&T's HSPA+ network - which is not awful around here.
It stayed in Roaming until somewhere on 86 in Corning or heading up the hill to work - where it changed back to TMo's network but only Edge (2G) coverage. This is fine if you want to make calls and such... but don't count on anything other than maybe some emails or something for data.
And really, I'd say their map is fairly accurate - if you consider where I lost LTE and the colors on the map. It likely dropped a little earlier than when I spotted it on my phone, but it's still pretty close.
Really though, 414 should be covered before I make the switch as well. I need it at home and work for sure, but if I'm going to take advantage of their Music Freedom arrangement (streaming music doesn't count against your data), it cannot be Roaming. Has to be using the TMo network for that. And pretty much the only thing I listen to in the car is streaming music from Google Play Music - I subscribe to their All Access service for $10/mo.
As I said, tonight I venture more towards Elmira/Horseheads area and check out by the mall. According to the map, all of this should be covered, so I have fairly high expectations. All I'm really doing though is leaving Waze running for maps/navigation so that I can watch my signal along the way. I'll try to remember to do a speed test when I get out there to maybe compare later.
So far so good...