PALM DESERT, Cali. -

 When it comes to cell phone service, are you getting what you're paying for?
     Providers continually make claims of having the best coverage, superior call quality and the fastest download speeds.
     But, up until recently, the data to support those claims has been kept from consumers, which is why Seattle based RootMetrics set out to change that.
     The independent company has been mapping coverage across the nation for the last several years.
     This year, it was the Coachella Valley's turn.
     RootMetrics CEO Bill Moore explains how they did it. "We buy the off the shelf hand sets just like everybody else does right in the carrier stores. We don't alter those in any way and we go out and do activities just like what a consumer would do and that is we make and place calls and try and hold on to them. We upload and download data, we do email tests, we do web and app usage type tests and then we text. And what we do is we do that both indoor, outdoor, and via the car. In particular in the Indio area we actually did over, almost nearly 18,000 tests, drove a little over 700 miles and also did 31 indoor locations."
     So who came out on top?
     Verizon, which Bill says is not surprising.
     "So there is new technology called LTE, and Verizon has been the first to roll that out in the country. They're in more markets than anyone else and in particular, that comes into play in Indio where they're the only player with LTE. Other carriers are starting to roll that out so AT&T has pretty strong coverage outside of the Indio area. Sprint is starting to deploy LTE and T-Mobile has actually deployed as faster technology of their 3G, that's kind of second best to LTE. So they, in the data side, come in second to Verizon in terms of data speeds."
     That LTE technology is what lets Verizon provide the fastest download speeds and the quickest app performance. As far as text and calls go, scores stayed close across all networks.
     Aside from technology, performance of a network depends on various factors including the device you're on, the buildings or topography around you, and now more than ever, the number of users in a specific area.
     "What's really starting to happen is it's less about coverage and a lot more about congestion," Bill says. "So the issues are where there's a large population, maybe an intersection of two freeways during commute hour and we see those ebbs and flows throughout the day."
     If you want to test a specific area for yourself or see how your own neighborhood fares, you can download the same app the RootMetrics testers use. Your data is then incorporated into their test results and detailed coverage map.
     RootMetrics plans on re-testing every six months to keep up with new technology.
     So with this data now widely available, the question becomes what do you want out of your phone, and what do you want to pay for it?

     You can download the RootMetrics App called "Coverage Map" on either the Apple iOS platform or the Google Android platform. To see the test results from their study or to nail down coverage quality to your own block, you can visit their website at http://www.rootmetrics.com/compare-carriers/indio/