Points to Ponder Before Making the Leap to iPhone on Verizon
Verizon will begin offering iPhone 4 preorders in less than a week. If you're thinking about scooping one up, there are several factors you may want to consider beforehand. For example, grabbing a Verizon iPhone on Day 1 will prevent you from getting a subsidized upgrade for a long time, and remember that iPhone 5 is just around the corner. Pricing is also an issue -- a different network means different plans.
With the iPhone 4 launching on the Verizon network on Feb. 10 (pre-orders starting on Feb. 3 for special Verizon customers), now is a good time to go over some information on what you should and should not expect.
But first, let's make one thing very clear: It is the iPhone 4 on Verizon. It is NOT the Verizon iPhone.
And that is a good thing for the end users. There is no crapware pre-installed, there is no Verizon logo on the outside of the iPhone -- its look, feel and apps are the same as those of the iPhone 4 on AT&T.
The Little Differences
There are, however, a couple of UI differences between the iPhone 4 on Verizon and AT&T.
First, if you are used to the iPhone on AT&T, you may like being able to talk on the phone while checking for and sending emails or accessing the Web. That was something that was possible due to the type of network AT&T uses (GSM). Verizon's network is different (CDMA) and as such does not allow for simultaneous voice and data usage.
Second with the iPhone 4 on Verizon you can set up your iPhone 4 to work as a WiFi hotspot for up to five devices. This actually is not really a technical limitation on AT&T's part but a business decision by AT&T to not allow this feature (they may allow it in the future if enough people complain). This is a feature that has been the number one reason to jailbreak an iPhone -- so users could get an app called "MyWi," which currently turns your iPhone into a WiFi hotspot.
Getting the Signal
The biggest complaint about the iPhone on AT&T is clearly the issue of dropped calls or the inability to make calls to start with. This is an issue typically seen in large metro areas like New York City and San Francisco. For the most part, you do not hear about this issue with the iPhone on other carriers around the world. As such, it is expected that the iPhone 4 on Verizon should perform better than the iPhone 4 on AT&T. If you are someone who loves everything about your iPhone -- but you need to, you know, actually make a call -- then the iPhone 4 on Verizon is probably something very exciting to you.
With AT&T, you have been able to update to the latest iPhone each year at the reduced subsidized pricing. With Verizon, it is being reported that if you get the iPhone 4 in February 2011, when it is released, you would need to wait 20 months before you could upgrade again. (I contacted Verizon for verification on this detail and it is not yet something they are officially releasing info on). That would put you out to September 2012 before you could get your next iPhone. By then, the iPhone 6 will probably be about three months old.
Now or Later?
This brings up a dilemma: Do you get the iPhone 4 on Verizon now, knowing that Apple traditionally updates the iPhone in June -- just four months from now? Or can you hold out until June to see what new wonders the iPhone 5 has to offer?
If you are an early-adopter personality and you can manage to get by for the next four months and money is tight, then you are probably best to wait. If you are on Verizon already and need a new phone now, then there really is no better phone available than the iPhone 4.
Keep in mind, there are always services like Gazelle, where you could sell your iPhone 4 later on and put that money toward a new iPhone 5. Remember, the majority of your cost is not actually in the phone itself, but rather in the voice and data plan. Right now with Gazelle, you can get US$360 for your 32 GB iPhone 4, and even more than that if you sell it on Craigslist or eBay -- especially if you jailbreak it first.
If you do get the iPhone 4 now on Verizon and then want to upgrade in June, you would be looking at a likely un-subsidized price of $749 for the top-end iPhone and probably about $300 to $350 if you sell your 32 GB iPhone 4 on Craigslist or eBay.
Planning the Rate
While Verizon has not released all information on iPhone pricing, they have said the following: Data plans will be unlimited to start and will cost $30 a month. Verizon did say eventually the unlimited plan will go away for new sign-ups. But for now they want to steal as many AT&T customers as possible.
AT&T has responded unofficially by offering back the unlimited plans to those who threaten to leave AT&T for Verizon.
If you want the option of turning your iPhone into a mobile hotspot, that will set you back another $20 a month and you will be limited to 2 GB of data via the hotspot setup. You will be able to pre-order your iPhone on Verizon starting Feb. 3 at 3:00 AM ET.
Again, not all details have been released yet, but when they are you will be able to find the info here.
Make sure to carefully review the plans before you sign up. As mentioned above, the real cost with any smartphone is not with the smartphone -- but rather with the voice/data plan required for said smartphone.
Rob Walch is host of the Today in iOS podcast.