Sunday, January 30, 2011

10 Reasons Why The Verizon iPhone Doesn't Matter

From my office to the tech press, the big buzz is that come February 10th, there is going to be a huge migration of AT&T users to the Verizon iPhone. I don't see this happening - in fact, I don't think many people are even going to purchase a Verizon iPhone this winter, if they are at all informed on the topic.

Full disclosure - I am an AT&T customer since 1996, and currently use an iPhone 3G. I did not see the value of upgrading to the 3GS, and then found myself so far into the iPhone 4 cycle after waiting out the antenna issues that I am going to wait for the iPhone 5. Overall, I find that AT&T's service on Long Island and in most places I go has been satisfactory. If anything, I have seen more dropped calls on my iPhone than I did on my former HTC 8525, leading me to believe the iPhone may even be part of the problem.  The 8525 also supported tethering, but don't get me started.  I also have an iPad which I purchased as a toy and now cannot be without.  I am a big fan of the iPod Touch which I think is one of the most unappreciated devices of the last decade, and have been considering a MacBook Air as my next laptop.

Here are some of the reasons I don't think the Verizon iPhone will make a lot of sense for most users:

1. Changing Providers from AT&T Will Be Expensive

Most AT&T iPhone users are already under agreement and face a $365 penalty fee just to get out of their contract from AT&T. Add to that the fact that you need to buy a whole new phone since your existing AT&T iPhone will not work on Verizon's network, and you are looking at a pretty expensive proposition - $500 or more for most users who leave AT&T and purchase the 16Gb Verizon iPhone 4. Cost is the number one reason the "big switch" is not going to be very popular, at least at launch.

2. The iPhone 5 is Coming

There is already buzz about the possible hardware and features of the iPhone 5. Apple has trained us to expect a new level of magical device every summer, and the iPhone 4 is yesterday's news. Without any significant technological differentiation from AT&T's model (and possibly a few more limitations), there is not a lot to drive people to buy this phone. The iPhone has a mystique that is based on having the newest, the coolest and to use a ridiculous word to describe a block of plastic, metal and circuits which is completely overused in regards to the iPhone, the "sexiest" phone around. The Verizon iPhone isn't sexy - it's a retread of what everyone has had since last summer.

3. It's on the Wrong Network

The Verizon iPhone is built to operate on Verizon's 3G CDMA network. As I fast forward through commercials on my DVR, I notice that sandwiched between Verizon iPhone spots, Verizon is also pushing their 4G LTE network, with it's blazing data speeds. Guess what? You can't access it on the Verizon iPhone 4.  Another limitation to CDMA is mostly an American standard - AT&T's GSM network is much more widely implemented globally, meaning the Verizon iPhone is not going to work for most travellers. The chances are that Verizon wants to be conservative and avoid AT&T's missteps in overwhelming their network, so they went with the already built-out 3G network, but how many months is it going to take before iPhone users start feeling like second-class citizens while other Verizon clients are running circles around them on their non-Apple phones?  Would having a dual-radio for both networks have been impossible or cost-prohibitive?

4. The Android Factor

This one falls more on Apple's shoulders - by putting off the launch of the iPhone on alternate carriers, Android has made significant in-roads. From free apps for just about anything and a huge array of phone models and features, to tethering and turn-by-turn navigation, the Android app ecosystem and technology has been evolving at a quicker pace than Apple's monolithic development policies. Android beats the iPhone on variety, flexibility, innovation and price, and is finally reaching parity on user experience. I can pick from 50 different Android handsets - Apple can't seem to even manufacture the iPhone it a color other than black. Hopefully the competition drives Apple to really push the envelope with iPhone 5.

5. Apple's Walled Garden

For me, this is a huge issue, but I know the general population could seem to care less - kind of like information privacy. Apple's system of locking users into iTunes, the App Store, and their design whims doesn't seem like a viable strategy against the competition's multi-platform open ecosystem. At some point, people are going to realize that Apple's content is DRM'ed and their app purchases aren't transportable and that Apple is increasing their stranglehold over their lives and data on a daily basis - right? Don't bet on it - the sheeple need their Angry Birds.

6. Telephone/Data Multi-tasking

One of the most publicized "advantages" of the AT&T iPhone over Verizon's is that due to limitations of Verizon's network, you cannot access the data network or browse the web while you are on the phone. At first, I scoffed at this, thinking it was a pretty narrow limitation and wouldn't be a big factor for most users. That said, in the couple of weeks since I considered this, I have noticed how often I am bringing up a map, Googling something, or doing a search of my Exchange server for an e-mail while I am on the phone. I think this may be one of those things you don't miss until its gone - another possible source of frustration for any who spend a few hundred dollars to go from AT&T to Verizon.

7. The Agreement Trap

Cell phone agreements are a bane of our existence to begin with. The current iPhone situation brings this into sharp relief. First off, most existing AT&T customers are under agreement and face the costly termination fees already discussed if they want to move to Verizon. Many of these customers are also "grandfathered" in to AT&T's unlimited data plan, which is no longer available to new customers. You move, you lose that. At the same time, Verizon is trying to create urgency by offering their unlimited data plan "for a limited time only". Why would that be? A few months from now, is Verizon going to raise the price to use the aging 3G network that their own commercials are knocking in comparison to LTE? Doesn't seem very likely. FInally, if you do go through with the purchase of the Verizon iPhone 4, you have the priviledge of a 2 year committment, which is going to just annoy you that much more when the iPhone 5 comes out this summer, and the iPhone 6 the following summer...

8. Can the Verizon Network Handle It?

Verizon seems sure they are ready for the flood of iPhone users and traffic - so much so, they are even offering a tethering option to turn your phone into a mobile hotspot. With a mature 3G network and almost universally-acclaimed coverage, it seems like they are prepared. Keep in mind, however, that this is the phone that really got the masses to start pumping bits over the networks - video, app downloads, music purchases, etc. Add to that the microscope that the iPhone brings to bear on the network - I still believe that it was AT&T's coverage issues in the California Bay Area in particular (where much of the tech press publishes from) which has led to the widespread notion that AT&T's network sucks. There is also the aforementioned possibility that the iPhone itself has call dropping and reception issues. The strength of a network is just as much about perception as it is signal levels - we'll see if Verizon is up to the task of maintaining both at a high level.

9. The Reality Distortion Field and Jobs' Influence

Even with all of the logic I have assembled against the Verizon iPhone 4 being a big hit, there is one person who can bend space-time and create uncontrollable technolust for any gadget using only a demo and a turtleneck. Unfortunately, he just went on medical leave and did not participate in the Verizon launch.

10. Too Little, Too Late

Bottom line - the Verizon iPhone 4 is dated technology on an aging network with a restrictive contract and too many competing options or near-future alternatives to set the world on fire.  In the end, any competition is good, and having the iPhone on multiple carriers should help to keep data and service rates competitive and expand the base of users for the iPhone - I just think it's going to take a little longer for the Verizon iPhone to catch on - like maybe when it's the Verizon iPhone 4G, and it's on the LTE network, and enough AT&T users reach the natural end of their contracts to move freely.

Now that we have dissected the Verizon iPhone and cut through all the hype, let's move on to something important - anyone have any iPad 2 rumors?


  1. Did you see that Verizon is paying people for their AT&T IPhone as a trade-in? They'll even give you something for your 3G.

  2. I hadn't heard about that - just looked it up:

    Here are the trade-in prices Verizon is offering, followed by the latest price at for the same phone in excellent condition:

    iPhone 2G - 16GB: $60; $80 at Gazelle
    iPhone 3G - 16GB: $105; $120
    iPhone 3Gs 32GB: $160; $180
    iPhone 4- 16GB: $280; $360
    iPhone 4 - 32GB: $360; $420

    Sounds like someone with an iPhone 4 can sell it on Gazelle and just about cover the AT&T $365 early termination fee. Prices from

  3. My AT&T iPhone 3GS is completely unreliable on LI, in Brooklyn, and Manhattan (better in the rural midwest, no joke). And it's more expensive than my previous already pretty expensive Verizon contract. My contract runs out in September. So I'm thinking, I wait for the Verizon iPhone 5 on their new network and then make the switch. Yes?