Now that Verizon is getting the iPhone, is it worth switching from my AT&T iPhone?
This question was answered on January 14, 2011. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
The speculation of when Verizon would finally get the iPhone and what it would look like became a cottage industry in the past year or two One of the first jokes to hit Twitter shortly after the announcement was that “thousands of analysts would now be out of work”.
One of the most obvious questions for anyone interested in the iPhone is what the differences are between the AT&T version and the upcoming Verizon version.
From the basic functionality standpoint, it’s essentially the same phone; it will use the same apps, get them from Apple’s App Store, sync with iTunes and they are both 3G phones (more on the 4G versions later).
The primary differences are in the technology used inside to connect to the different networks (GSM for AT&T, CDMA for Verizon) and the networks themselves.
This means existing iPhone users cannot simply switch to the Verizon network with their old phone, they must buy a new Verizon specific CDMA iPhone when it’s released (pre-orders can be placed by existing Verizon customers on Feb 3rd, the rest of the world can buy starting Feb 10th Verizon or Apple stores).
The general consensus in the tech world is that Verizon has the most reliable network, but AT&T’s 3G network is faster (when it’s not overloaded).
Another major difference between the networks is that AT&T customers can use the voice and data services at the same time, while Verizon’s existing CDMA network does not allow both at the same time unless you are connected to wifi (this is not an iPhone issue, this is for all smartphones on the Verizon network).
One new feature that will only be available on the Verizon iPhone is a built-in hotspot ($20 for 2GB) that will allow up to 5 devices to connect (AT&T offers tethering via USB or Bluetooth to a single laptop or netbook)
This means that you can connect an iPad to the internet via the Verizon iPhone, but you can’t with the AT&T iPhone (without ‘jailbreaking’ it).
If you travel abroad, the iPhone from AT&T offers global roaming capabilities (hence the old slogan “More bars in more places”) but that’s almost irrelevant since the roaming charges are generally ridiculously high.
According to Apple execs during the Verizon press conference, the iPhone antennae ‘death-grip’ problem that causes signal loss in the AT&T version “should not be a problem” with the Verizon version, but the world wants to thoroughly test this claim when the phones hit the market
Those that have iPhones on the AT&T network must evaluate their existing contract (early termination fees), what their old phone might be worth on eBay or Craigslist (to help pay for the switch), whether they care about simultaneous voice & data and if they are having enough of an issue with dropped calls & slow data speeds to make the switch.
Another variable could be the data plans; AT&T stopped offering unlimited data plans for new customers a while back, but Verizon announced it would offer an unlimited data plan with their iPhone (but they have yet to announce a price for that level of service).
Lurking in the background of all of these decisions is the adoption of 4G for both networks
Verizon recently launched its 4G LTE service in 38 cities and plans to expand it to 175 cities by the end of 2011 (and MAYBE offer a 4G version of the iPhone in late 2011).
AT&T plans to launch its 4G LTE network in the second half of 2011 and upgrade cellular sites based on demand rather than entire cities (but no word on when a 4G iPhone might be available on their network).
Apple also plays a role in the decision as it generally launches new iPhone versions in the middle of the year and it’s anticipated that an iPhone 5 may be in the works.
As with all technology, waiting to see what shakes out is generally the safest way to go, but if you really want to get going, make sure you think through how the differences I’ve outlined impact you first.
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Posted by Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on January 14, 2011