Today Verizon began allowing its existing customers to pre-order the iPhone 4 which will be available for sale on February 10. Also today, the Verizon iPhone received two very positive reviews from Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal and David Pogue of The New York Times. Neither reviewer, though, was able to do a realistic comparison of the call quality of the iPhone on the Verizon network versus the AT&T network since the Verizon network has not yet launched the iPhone. Some predict (many AT&T customers, in fact) that Verizon’s call quality will be severely diminished by the herd of new iPhone customers swamping their network after February 10.
Only time will tell if this is true, but in the meantime, if you need or want to get an iPhone this month and can’t wait till June (as I suggest in my earlier post Waiting Is the Hardest Part), how do you decide whether you should be with Verizon or AT&T? This is a very important decision as signing a two year contract can cause a severe case of buyer’s remorse.
The first consideration, of course is reception. If you live and/or work close to one provider’s tower, but can only get minimal reception from the other provider, well that probably should be the deciding factor. But if you get decent reception from both providers then you look to other factors.
As the competition heats up between Verizon and AT&T, each is sweetening the plans they are offering to iPhone users. Each company seems to be changing their offers frequently so you will need to decide how much voice, data and text usage you need and compare the plans offered at that time. (Note: “data” in the tech world refers to connecting to the Internet through your cell phone signal, not through Wi-Fi). Chances are the costs will be fairly close, though that could change at any time. Do your research on their websites Verizon and AT&T to see if the costs are significantly different for the usage you want.
As of this writing, Verizon is offering unlimited data to new iPhone customers, though they say that is only for a limited time (but they’re not saying how limited that time is). AT&T is not currently offering the option of unlimited data so if you know you’re going to be using the Internet a lot away from Wi-Fi, Verizon has the better plan for you.
One advantage AT&T has over Verizon is that AT&T has coverage in about 160 countries while Verizon is much more limited, about 40 countries. You probably have a good idea whether your life involves foreign travel and if it does, or if you think it might within the next two years, you should go with AT&T. AT&T uses GSM, which is what most foreign countries use, while Verizon uses CDMA which is not widely used outside the US.
Another advantage AT&T had is that its phones can use data and voice at the same time while Verizon’s cannot. This means that when a Verizon phone receives a call, it cannot connect to the Internet unless the phone is connected on Wi-Fi. To me, this is a very important feature. How many times have I been on a cell phone call when someone asks, “Did you get my email?” Quite a few. And chances are that I will have to refer back to that email, either because I didn’t have a chance to read it earlier or because I need information that is in the email.
Or let’s say my dear husband calls wanting to take me to see the latest movie. On Verizon I would have to call him back after I check my movie app Flixster for the showtimes at the local theaters. On AT&T I would be able to check Flixster while I talk to him. I can just imagine this conversation if I were on Verizon:
“Hi, want to see a movie tonight?” he asks.
“Sure, which one?” I reply.
“The King’s Speech. I hear it’s the frontrunner for Best Picture.”
“I’d love to see that too,” I reply. “Let me check the movie times and call you right back.”
I check my Verizon iPhone and call him back with the showtimes.
“Sorry, I can’t make any of those times. How about seeing The Fighter instead?”
“Oh, yeah, I’d like to see that too. Let me check those times and call you back.”
You can see how that might become more than a little frustrating.
Also both AT&T and Verizon will be offering their iPhones with a Wi-Fi hot spot. That means that the iPhone can transform its data signal into a Wi-Fi signal for up to five other devices to use. This involves an extra monthly charge, but is a very appealing feature for many people.
This is another instance where Verizon’s inability to provide voice and data at the same time could prove to be a problem. Picture a family car trip where the front passenger’s iPhone is acting as a hotspot, providing a Wi-Fi signal, keeping passengers in the back happy and contented. A call comes in from a business colleague, severing the Wi-Fi connection for the backseat passengers who are no longer happy and contented. Ouch.
If you are going to get an iPhone soon, take all these considerations into account and weigh them carefully. There may be no ideal solution for you, but at least you will make your decision knowing what all the pros and cons are for each provider.