Only if you are emotionally attached!
Cell phones are pretty cheap here. And most of the times, carriers give phones away for free(!) with a new connection. Yes, you have to sign a contract and not switch carriers for 2 years, but that’s a pretty standard practice these days anyway. The free phones aren’t that bad if all you’re planning to do is make calls. They might not be that good for browsing the internet though. But hey, it’s free! And then, there’s always the iPhone and the Android phones if you’re a sheep or a geek (respectively).
Now, there are two big players in the GSM market in the USA – AT&T and T-Mobile. Both networks are good if you’re just planning to make calls. AT&T tends to suck sometimes. There are two big players in the CDMA market as well – Verizon and Sprint. Verizon is supposedly the best of all for both – voice and data (internet).
Which carrier should you go with?
Depends on where you are. Usually, calls made within the network (i.e. T-Mobile to T-Mobile) are free 24×7. So, people tend to go with the carrier their friends have signed up with (so you know, you can talk all day long). Almost everyone I knew in Gainesville signed up with T-Mobile. Calling any phone in the USA is free between 9pm – 7am (weekdays) and all day (on weekends) anyway. So, doesn’t really matter.
Read this if you’re planning to bring your old handset:
GSM: As far as compatibility goes, your GSM phone should work in the US for making calls as long as it supports the GSM radio frequencies mentioned below. If you have a fancy phone that also supports 3G (for internet), then internet/data access may or may not work, depending on your American carrier. AT&T uses different frequencies for 3G/UMTS (again, internet only) while T-Mobile uses the standard frequencies for 3G/UMTS. Both carriers support the same four GSM radio frequencies – 850/900/1800/1900 MHz. What this basically means is that you’ll be able to make calls on any network here, but you might not be able to browse the internet on AT&T.
CDMA: I don’t know if anyone has managed to get their CDMA phones to work here (not saying it won’t!).