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A Verizon iPhone? The Good, the Bad and the Murky

by Josh Kirschner on October 08, 2010

Once again, the Verizon iPhone rumor mill is churning following a recent WSJ story that the iPhone will be coming to Verizon in early 2011. If I were to venture a guess one way or the other whether the current rumors are true, I would undoubtedly be proven wrong. So I won't bother to try.

But when the iPhone does come to Verizon, and it will someday, it won't be a clear-cut decision on whether you should leave AT&T or trade-in your Android phone for an Apple model.

So if you're holding onto an old phone in the hope of getting a Verizon iPhone in six months, consider these issues first.

1. You may get fewer dropped calls vs. AT&T

The iPhone 4 has become notorious for dropped calls. Here in New York, I can often tell whether someone is calling me from an iPhone based on the amount of static I hear and whether the call gets dropped midway through.

The assumption many make is that this is all AT&T's fault. But the truth is we don't know. I've read reports from users overseas having the same dropped call issues—and they're not on AT&T.

Many of these dropped calls are likely due to the iPhone 4's well-established "proximity sensor" issue. That is, the phone doesn't properly register when it is next to your ear, so the screen turns on and your head pushes the end call button. The latest iOS 4.1 release was supposed to fix those issues—it didn't.

Will this problem go away on Verizon? We just don't know. The proximity sensor is either a hardware or software issue that Apple has been unable to resolve. But I'm willing to go out on a limb and say it will probably be better.

Of course, you could also just get one of the many great Android phones on Verizon today and not wait around for the iPhone to come.

Conclusion: Good (probably)

2. Can't use it overseas

The Verizon network uses a technology called CDMA that is only used in many fewer countries than the GSM technology employed by AT&T. You will find CDMA networks primarily in East Asia and a sampling of other countries, most of which are unlikely to be on your next business trip or vacation agenda.

From what we're hearing, the Verizon iPhone will only have a CDMA radio. So if you frequently travel overseas, you'll be out of luck with your Verizon iPhone.

Conclusion: Bad (probably)

3. Verizon is rolling out a 4G network (LTE)

Verizon's 4G LTE network promises to be much faster than current 3G networks. Of course, AT&T is promising to roll one out, too.

Who will have coverage in your city? Will the Verizon iPhone be capable of 4G? Time will tell.

Conclusion: Murky

4. No talking and using the web at the same time

As AT&T loves to remind us, a limitation of Verizon's network is that you can't talk on the phone and browse the web at the same time. Say, if you're on a call with a friend and want to look up an address for a restaurant, you're out of luck

In practice, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've needed to do this (though my wife says she does it all the time). And Verizon's new 4G network will provide this ability (though we don't know if the Verizon iPhone will be 4G).

Conclusion: Bad (but not as bad as AT&T would lead us to believe)

5. Unlimited data plans are going away

Verizon has announced it will be eliminating unlimited data plans over the next 4-6 months. And iPhones, like any smartphone, consume a lot of data as you browse the web, stream videos and music and generally do all the things that make iPhones so great.

AT&T eliminated its unlimited data plans earlier this year, but allowed existing customers to remain grandfathered in. If you're part of this group and you're a big data junkie, moving to Verizon may not make sense.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile and Sprint are still offering unlimited plans and have a great selection of Android phones—HTC EVO (Sprint), Samsung Epic 4G (Sprint), Samsung Vibrant (T-Mobile).

Conclusion: Bad (but it's bad for new subscribers on AT&T, too)

6. There could be new flaws with the Verizon iPhone

I always advise people to avoid rushing out and getting a brand new product just as it's rolling out into stores. No one ever listens to me. But the fact is that new tech products—all new products—have issues. Sometimes these issues are pretty annoying and can take a while to get fixed (like the proximity sensor problem).

So my advice (which you will likely ignore) is to wait for 2-3 months after the Verizon iPhone is launched (if it's launched) before buying to ensure that any deal-killer issues are resolved.

Conclusion: Murky

7. Verizon may load it with crapware

Verizon has lately been showing a propensity to risk screwing up a great phone in order to make a quick buck. The recently launched Samsung Fascinate replaced Google Nav—a great, free navigation app—with Verizon's sub-par Verizon Navigator, which requires a $9.99 month service fee. And many Verizon phones come with generous amounts of bloatware—applications that you neither need or want, but are there because someone is paying Verizon to put them there.

Will the iPhone under Verizon suffer the same fate? Or does Steve Jobs hold enough market clout to force Verizon to keep the iPhone experience as pure as on AT&T?

Conclusion: Murky

8. It may never arrive

Yes, it's possible that Apple and Verizon will not be able to come to business terms. Or, if they do, it may not be rolled out until June, when Apple typically rolls out its new products. Or it could be June 2012.

So if your current phone is really a clunker and you want to stay with Verizon, consider going with an Android phone, like the Droid X, Samsung Fascinate or Droid Incredible.

Conclusion: Murky


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Discussion loading


From Brotha Tech on October 08, 2010 :: 1:49 pm

Good article.  I am a VZW fanboy ITCHING to get my hands on an iPhone.  One of the MAIN reasons why is the app awesomsauce that comes with Apple.  Sure Android has way more apps than I will ever use, but devs are STILL hitting the iOS FIRST, Then EVENTUALLY bringing their apps to other platforms.

I think I can hold on to my BB (even though I’ve outgrown its tweleve apps, lol) until early 2011.  If Verizon doesn’t announce a CDMA iPhone, then I won’t know WHAT to do!



From LGSFV on October 08, 2010 :: 3:14 pm

I love my AT&T bundle, unlimited data (grandfathered in) and ROLLOVER MINUTES. I love my iPhone on AT&T. case closed!



From Khürt Williams on October 11, 2010 :: 10:25 am

“But the truth is we don’t know”
You should put that statement in bold or ... provide some statistical evidence for the next sentence.  My brother-in-law swears by Verizon but yet can’t make a cell phone call from his living room. We live in the same neighbourhood.

“No one ever listens to me.”
That’s because you are a tech geek(like me). Time and time again tech geeks prove to know very little about consumers and what they actually will buy.  Think back to how many tech blogs put down the iPhone because of a lack of keyboard and other things only important to geeks.  They’re doing the same thing as iPad sales skyrocket.

It’s not about the tech. It’s about what the tech allows one to do.

People buy Android phones not because they are “open” but because they are cheap and work well enough and run apps.

My wife did not want an iPhone.  She was happy with her Motorola flip phone.  I got her an iPhone anyway.  Now she understands the power of apps she could not imagine going back.  If I had bought her an Android based phone the outcome would have been the same.



From Khürt Williams on October 11, 2010 :: 10:27 am

That should have been:

You should put that statement in bold or ... provide some statistical evidence for YOUR next sentence.



From Josh Kirschner on October 13, 2010 :: 12:59 pm

Hi Khurt, thanks for your thoughts.

I wish we could get conclusive data on iPhone dropped calls rates from various carriers (and versus other models on AT&T). A quick Google search for “iphone dropped calls vodaphone orange o2” will reveal many stories very similar to what we hear people complaining about with AT&T here in the states.

There seems to be an automatic assumption in the media that iPhones will be better on Verizon.  And while we didn’t bold it, we’re one of the few places I’ve seen that have questioned this assumption.



From Khürt Williams on October 13, 2010 :: 1:27 pm

I predict that Verizon will have as many problems with their network and the iPhone as AT&T does.

The fact that seems to get lost in all of this is that the cellular network was originally designed for making calls outdoors in an area with few obstructions.

Buildings/homes etc present much interference for the weak (compared to radio and TV) electromagnetic signals used by cell phones and cell towers.  Combine that with over-subscription of a cellular network, the fact that some people don’t want a cell tower in their neighborhood (but expect a perfect signal) and we start to see where this all goes bad.

Since some consumers are worried about how cell phone radiation affects brain cell, I expect we won’t see a great deal of progress in improving the strength of cellular signals.

As I engineer I wish there was a way to explain the situation to consumers in an easy to understand way.  But the marketing folks at AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobil etc are busy loudly telling customers they can have it all.

Simple saying, ABC cellular provider is bad where I live does nothing for someone living in a different area.  I simply buy whatever phone I want on whatever network works best in my area.  For me, that means an iPhone on AT&T and very few dropped calls. I had more dropped calls on Verizon – in my area.  Your mileage may vary.


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