Yes, yes, yes. For that matter, reception can vary between individual phones of the same exact model. Don’t pay attention to bar readings… they’re useless. My phone can make and hold a perfectly fine phone call jumping between 0-1 bars. Other phones are much more generous with their antenna readings.
Plus, with Verizon and Sprint, there’s tri-mode phones and dual-mode phones. If you’re in a fringe area with some analog coverage, a tri-mode phone will be able to jump to that analog spectrum and make a call if you’re in a pinch. Sure, it won’t sound great, your battery will die super-fast, and text messaging/caller id/etc. won’t work, but for an emergency, tri-mode is a great thing to have. The V710 is a trimode phone. I don’t know about Sprint phones.
More money also doesn’t mean better reception. On the Verizon side of things, when I worked there our entry-level Nokia (the second cheapest phone we offered) was what we deemed the “reception king”. My girlfriend had one and could always make calls when I couldn’t. Nowadays, the high-end Motorolas are the “reception kings” of Verizon. The Nokia was a bar phone, and the Moto was a flip. I don’t think bar/flip has nearly as much to do with reception as antenna build and placement, as well as power output. If you have an extendable antenna, extend it. It may seem silly, but it will help.
Again, I can’t speak for Sprint, but LG’s phones for Verizon are well known for their amazing user-friendliness, build quality, and features for the price. They are not well known for their reception. I believe it was the 4650 that had so many returns due to the phone not working where customers were used to having their phones work.