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The truth about Verizon Wireless and Sprint’s cellphone ads

As the war between these two major cellphone carriers carry on, you’ve probably noticed these two prominent ads doing the rounds lately.

One is with Jamie Foxx and a coverage map and the other is with Paul Marcarelli, hanging out in a barber shop talking about haircuts and cellphones.

But are these ads spinning a yarn of truth? Or are they the twisted, skewed and contorted versions of facts that advertising is typically known for.

Consumer Reports sought to find out and tried to separate fact from fiction from the latest commercials from Verizon and Sprint.

In an article titled “Can You Believe Cell-Phone Carrier TV Ads?,” Consumer Reports’ Mike Gikas tried to “find out what’s true – and what’s not – about Verizon’s and Sprint’s claims about performance and value.”

Verizon’s Jamie Foxx dance

First up, Verizon’s commercial featuring Jamie Foxx standing beside a red-covered U.S. map saying that “Verizon has more than three times the 4G LTE coverage as Sprint.”

A second actor claiming to be “Jamie Foxx from Sprint” then joins him on screen, accompanied by a map sprinkled with yellow dots. “Pretty much the same coverage, if you squint,” the second Jamie Foxx exclaims but is of course quickly rebuked by the “real” Jamie Foxx.

“Sprint is last nationally in 4G LTE coverage,” the real Foxx says, proceeds to gloat about how Verizon has so much better coverage and caps it off with a victory dance.

What’s real? Are Jamie Foxx’s claims true? Consumer Reports say they are, but a bit misleading. Although Verizon does cover a bigger geographic area than Sprint, it doesn’t take into account where the more populated areas are. Based on OpenSignal data, Verizon customers have 4G LTE service about 86 percent of the time while Sprint is at 70 percent. The difference is not as big as the Verizon ad claims.

Sprint’s barbershop ad

Next up is former Verizon-commercial-actor now Sprint-guy Paul Marcarelli talking with his buddies in a barbershop. His claim is that “All networks are great now…We’re talking within a 1 percent difference in reliability. And Sprint saves you 50 percent on most current national carrier rates.” He then drops his bombshell question to one of his barbershop chaps, “If you got 1 percent more hair cut today, would you really pay twice as much?”

What’s real? The thing is, this claim for Sprint is somewhat true, but again misleading. A 2015 Nielsen study backs the first claim of a 1 percent difference in voice/data reliability between carriers. The second claim, the “pay twice as much” claim is not exactly true. While Sprint does offer a half-off discount. it’s only applicable if you’re switching from Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile and this promotion ends in January 2018. In reality, you’re paying similar rates with Sprint compared to what you’re paying with Verizon or AT&T. Nice try, though.

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