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The Verizon iPhone: Should You Get One?

by Suzanne Kantra on January 11, 2011

After years of speculation, Verizon announced the availability of the iPhone 4 for its 3G network in early February. Verizon customers will get first crack at it with pre-orders on February 3 and everyone else starting February 10. Pricing will be $199.99 for the 16GB version and $299.99 for 32GB (with 2-year contracts, of course).

The Verizon and AT&T iPhone 4 are virtually identical, except for the fact that the Verizon phone supports personal hotspot, meaning you can use the phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 5 devices. Though the flipside is that Verizon's CDMA network can't support data and voice at the same time. So, if you're using it as a hotspot, phone calls are not going to happen. Hotspot capable Android phones on other networks support both voice and data,

And if you move from AT&T to Verizon, your iPhone isn't going to work in many places overseas.

When you factor it all in, it's not a clear-cut decision on whether you should leave AT&T or trade-in your Android phone for an Apple model.

If you do want to switch but your phone is still under contract, you can trade-in your old phone for a lot more money than you realize. Perhaps enough to cover much of the cost of a new iPhone. But before you switch, here's what you need to consider:

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 attest to the fact that my calls are dropped frequently. People often ask if I’m on an iPhone based on the amount of static they 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 still 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.

And these issues are HIGHLY location dependent. Where you are, AT&T service may be far better than Verizon, or vice versa. If you're not sure, ask your friends before committing to a new carrier.

Conclusion: Good (possibly)

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.

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

3. Verizon iPhone is not 4G

Verizon has a 4G LTE network, which is rolled out in 38 cities, but the iPhone won’t use it. Instead Verizon chose to roll it out on its ubiquitous 3G network.

That isn't such as big deal versus the AT&T iPhone 4, which is also on 3G. But consider that almost every new Android smartphone is rolling out on 4G (or the pseudo-4G networks on T-Mobile and AT&T), and a 3G iPhone becomes a lot less compelling.

As AT&T loves to remind us, a limitation of Verizon's 3G 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. And if you use it as a mobile hotspot, your voice features go out of commission. Not cool.

Oh, and did I mention that most of the new Android phones on other networks can handle hotspots and voice at the same time?

Conclusion: Bad

4. Unlimited data plans are going away

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. Verizon has indicated in the past that they plan to end unlimited data plans. And Verizon spokespeople refused to answer questions in today's press conference about what data plans would be available with the iPhone—very suspicious.

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) Google Nexus S (T-Mobile).

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

5. 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. New tech products—yes, even those from Apple—have issues. Sometimes these issues are pretty annoying and can take a while to get fixed (like the proximity sensor problem).

My advice is to wait for 2-3 months before buying to ensure that any deal-killer issues are resolved. At that point, we'll only be a few months away from a new iPhone launch in June, which should provide a number of upgrades to the current version.

Conclusion: Murky

6. There's a lot of competition out there now

There are already a number of great Android phones on the market which are excellent alternatives to the iPhone. And I just came from CES where I saw many more. Almost all the new high-end Android phones provide mobile hotspots, front and rear cameras, 4G access and powerful processors with lots of storage. And they'll run $100 less than the 32GB iPhone 4. Some of my favorites are:

HTC ThunderBolt (Verizon) and HTC Inspire (AT&T)
Motorola Atrix 4G (AT&T)
Samsung Infuse 4G (AT&T) and 4G LTE (Verizon)

Conclusion: Murky


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Discussion loading


From ThatsHowIdoIt on January 11, 2011 :: 4:59 pm

after reading the article, I am wondering if the Iphone is better suited as a Verizon “display item” and not something someone should actually buy and use as their cell phone. Just Sounds like there are to many critical points that are bad to make it a smart purchase. besides if Verizon customers like the Iphone so much, im sure AT&T would welcome them with open arms. Its all about quality and functionality in the phone and the signal right?



From Biff shankwell on January 16, 2011 :: 11:25 am

You can receive calls while using the hotspot. I have a droid x. You shouldn’t say things without actually knowing if they’re true. A lot of people seem to be doing this when talking about verizon’s network. They should research first.



From Josh Kirschner on January 16, 2011 :: 12:22 pm

@Bill It’s a technical limitation of Verizon’s CDMA network that you cannot use both voice and data at the same time. So using the phone as a wireless hotspot where other devices are using your phone’s CDMA connection to access the Internet will not work at the same time you are using your phone for voice calls.

That is different than using your phone to connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot (e.g., in Starbucks or at home) for data while also using your phones for voice calls. That is possible because the phone is not using the CDMA network for data.

Verizon’s new LTE network will not have these limitations.


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