I’ve been getting questions about whether jumping into an iPhone is a good idea now that Verizon has a version — and outside of the geek-speak (AT&T’s network is GMS, Verizon’s is CDMA; AT&T is AT&T, Verizon is … not), there are just a few differences that even non-nerd consumers might care about.
From one of my favorite ‘We Buy It First So You’ll Feel Better When You Do’ sites:
“Apple … slightly shifted the mute switch and volume buttons … if you already own an iPhone 4 and are switching, your case might not fit the new design (in fact, it’s likely that it won’t). Apple has issued a “universal” case for both models” [but make sure any case you buy doesn’t obscure these controls] –‘Verizon iPhone Review’ (Engadget.com)
AT&T commercials often point out that surfing the web and talking at the same time (presumably with an earpiece) is a great advantage they have over other (non-GSM) networks — how often this might be an issue for you falls in the ‘YMMV’ (your mileage may vary — you might not even care) area:
… you can’t do 3G data and voice at the same time … you’re still able to send text messages (and receive them) while on the phone. … When using data on 3G, calls take precedent, but if you’re in Verizon’s 2G territory and using data, your call will go to voicemail. Another thing to consider is how Verizon’s network handles multiple calls. You can add up to two people to a call, but after that, everyone gets shot to voicemail, unlike the AT&T phone, where the numbers go way beyond that.
That said, if data performance is an issue for you, be aware that Verizon’s network behavior has been measured as slower — but steadier — than AT&T’s:
“… data rates on the Verizon iPhone 4 we tested were dramatically slower than those on its AT&T counterpart… we didn’t see the Verizon device peak much beyond 1.4 Mbps on downloads … and it barely hit 0.5 Mbps on upstream. … the AT&T device regularly pulled down above 3 Mbps, and 1 Mbps or more going up. … Verizon speeds were more consistent, but the irrefutable fact is that AT&T’s network is much, much faster, at least in our neck of the woods.
… in our day-to-day, there wasn’t a noticeable sensation of the device being slower… We see our AT&T device stop and start quite a bit on major data pulls, whereas the Verizon phone seemed to latch onto a stream and not stop until the bits were uniformly situated on our phone. That said, there’s no denying that YouTube videos and streaming content is going to appear more quickly on your AT&T handset.”
If you’re willing to spend an extra $20/month to make your iPhone into a walk-around hotspot, there is a new ‘app for that’. When I had that ability for a while on a Blackberry, I found that I used it only occasionally — since I already surround myself with (much faster) WiFi like a warm geeky blanket. Engadget does point out, though, that if you are surfing on a laptop (connected through your iPhone), your laptop will have to wait for data while you are on a phone call — again, voice and data do not happen at the same time with Verizon.
So how does the money stack up between the two carriers?
“… $29.99 a month for unlimited data, with an optional additional $20 a month charge for 2GB of tethering data. You’ll also need a Nationwide voice plan, of course — the cheapest with unlimited texting is the $59 plan that offers 450 minutes a month, so you’re looking at a minimum of $90 a month (or $1,080 yearly) to keep your Verizon iPhone 4 happy and completely functional. (If you drop the texting it’s $70 a month, or $840.)
Compared to AT&T, that’s actually a good deal, since AT&T caps its data plans. AT&T offers 2GB of data for $25 a month and the same optional additional $20 surcharge for tethering, and the cheapest combination of voice and unlimited texting plans also offers 450 minutes for $59 a month, so in the end you’re spending the same $90 a month or $1,080 yearly for less data, and the same $70 a month or $840 yearly if you drop the texting plan.”
Ouch. My Sanyo Juno (on BoostMobile, which operates on the Sprint wireless network) is costing me $50/month for unlimited voice/text/data — and for every six months of on-time payments, the bill goes down another $5 (until you hit $35). Blackberry unlimited voice/text/data plans are also available with Boost at $10 more a month.
Yes, having a shiny iPhone is not the same as toting a Blackberry — but really, when comparing the numbers, the ‘neat-o factor’ of the iPhone just doesn’t make me willing to swallow the bill for AT&T or Verizon’s crack-habit data plans.
Plus, I’m a very text-entrenched user when wireless — I don’t just want a physical keyboard, I *NEED* a physical keyboard.
BUT, if you find that the fantastic browser experience of the iPhone (or Android) is worth the extra cash, it’s a good year to step up — evolution has allowed plenty of fine-tuning since the 1.0 versions of these devices. And though I never recommend that anyone is first in line for a new model (bugs happen; fixes arrive in the ‘second coming’…), there will be a lot of very happy Verizon users out there now, drinking the Apple iOS ‘kool-aid’.
And I don’t blame them one bit.