So Verizon finally announced the iPhone for its network. The best part of this is that people will stop asking me “when will the iPhone be on Verizon?” So what is the Verizon iPhone, and what does it mean?
What is it?
Simply put, it is an iPhone 4 that uses a CDMA radio to operate on Verizon’s network instead of the GSM radio used for AT&T. There are some changes to the antenna to accommodate the new radio that have some slight cosmetic changes to the sides of the phone. The SIM slot is also missing as CDMA devices do not use a SIM card.
Other than that, there is little different from the iPhone 4 shipping on AT&T. The one new feature on the Verizon iPhone is mobile hotspot functionality. This will let you use your iPhone as a Wifi hotspot allowing you to provide an internet with other wifi devices. This is something Android phones have been doing for a while and can be very convenient. Verizon mentioned that “additional charges will apply” so expect to pay more to share the data but this is true for Android phones too. iOS 4.3 (which was just released into beta) will provide the mobile hotspot feature for GSM phones too, but AT&T has not stated whether they will allow this or not.
What does using a different network mean?
Using Verizon’s CDMA network instead of GSM does have some implications for the use of the phone.
The good news is that Verizon’s network is much more reliable than AT&T’s so you may actually be able to make phone calls with the iPhone that do not constantly drop. You will also be more likely to get a data connection to load web pages and feed data to apps. It doesn’t matter how cool your phone is if you cannot get a signal.
On the down side, with CDMA you cannot use data and voice at the same time. While you are making a call you will not be able to access the web using 3G (although you can over Wifi, if available). Also, AT&T is correct in saying its network is faster than other 3G networks. It is a lot faster than Verizon. Expect slower page loads and data downloads over Verizon’s network. Also expect to see AT&T ads showing pages loading more slowly with Verizon’s iPhone. Lastly, don’t expect to be able to use the Verizon iPhone if you travel outside the US. Most of the world uses GSM and a CDMA iPhone won’t be able to connect to those networks. (I was little disappointed that the Verizon iPhone wasn’t a “world phone” with both CDMA and GSM radios).
There are going to be a couple of interesting things to watch for as Verizon iPhones enter the market. First will be to see if Verizon’s network can handle the onslaught of these data slurping devices. Verizon says they have beefed up the network and can handle the load, but only time will tell. Second, when lots of customers switch off of AT&T and move to Verizon, will the reduced load make AT&T’s network better? I’m thinking it will.
Verizon will be offering 16GB and 32GB devices for $199 and $299 respectively which is the same as AT&T. Verizon has not mentioned anything about plan pricing however which is a little worrysome. We won’t know about pricing until February 3 when existing Verizon customers can pre-order the device. The rest of us have to wait until February 10 to order one.
The Big Question
The big question now is, should I get it? There are lots of articles floating around about this (TechCrunch’s take is pretty good
) so I’ll just tell you what I’m going to do. I am not
switching for these reasons:
- AT&T’s service is not terrible in the area I live. If I were in one of the many areas that are famous for poor AT&T service I’d be more likely to consider switching. Slower reliable service is better than fast non-reliable service.
- I have 6 months left on my AT&T contract so I’d have to pay an early termination fee to switch carriers.
- Apple will most likely release iPhone 5 (or whatever they’re going to call it) in June or July just as they have done every year since 2007. If you switch now, you’re new phone will be old in less than 6 months and you’re locked into a 2 year contract with it. Getting an iPhone 5 would then cost full retail which will be in the $600-$700 range.
I am going to wait for iPhone 5 and will likely stay with AT&T. The iPhone 5 will have cool new features (I don’t know what, but I presume there will be new things) and I can live with my 3GS for another 6 months. As for staying with AT&T, my current coverage isn’t bad. I think that iPhone 5 will support HSPA+ on AT&T which will be much faster than CDMA and available a year before an LTE iPhone. I also think that many people will leave AT&T for Verizon because of AT&T’s poor coverage and these switchers will take pressure off of the AT&T network which will make it better for those of us who stay.
If iPhone 5 does not support HSPA+ the playing field will be equal and will consider the iPhone 5 on Big Red’s network instead. Since there will be competition (yay capitalism!), I expect each carrier to fight for my business so I’ll choose the best deal.
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