Verizon iPhone 4 - Strengths and Weaknesses part 2 of 2
Is it better than the regular/AT&T
The Verizon iPhone looks
very similar to regular iPhones, other than by showing the
Verizon service on the top of its screen.
Part of a series on the Apple iPhone - please
also visit the other articles listed on the right.
Many people will be delighted
to see a Verizon iPhone finally released. But many people
will also be disappointed at the features that are omitted from
the new Verizon iPhone.
Indeed, although the phone is
new to Verizon, it is a nine month old model with barely three
months left until it is expected to be replaced and superseded
by a greatly improved/enhanced model.
So should you rush to buy a
Verizon iPhone now, or is it better to wait until June and the
expected new iPhones that will be released then?
Not Included on the Verizon
Many people had been hoping
that a new iPhone released now would not just be a reworked
'old' iPhone 4, but a precursor to the new model iPhone 5
expected to come out in June for AT&T. Alas, that was not
In addition to the nice
'bonus' feature of allowing for rebroadcasting the 3G data
service as a Wi-Fi hotspot, there are some omissions on the
Verizon iPhone too.
No GSM - No International
A disappointment – and a
surprise – is that the Verizon phone appears to only work on
Verizon’s US network and on CDMA networks in the few other
countries in the world which also support this relatively
Whereas Verizon has in the
past brought out 'world phones' that have a combination of both
CDMA and also the GSM type service, allowing the phone to truly
work everywhere in the world, it seems it has not done so for
This is a serious omission
for anyone anticipating travel outside of the US, Canada,
Mexico, and a small selection of other mainly minor countries. If your
travels take you to Europe, Australia, or over 150 other
countries, your Verizon iPhone will not work (whereas your AT&T
iPhone would work perfectly).
Note that at the time of
writing, Verizon's own website seems to have an error on it.
It seems someone simply cut and pasted data about the iPhone
from Apple's site (even including AT&T iPhone images!) and so
Verizon's site currently claims their iPhone does have GSM
This is almost certainly an
error, because if Verizon's website specifications are to be believed,
although their phone does have GSM, it does not have CDMA!
At the release event they were clearer at explaining their phone
does not have GSM service, and their FCC filing also omits any
mention of GSM capability.
The lack of GSM capabilities
and international roaming of course won't matter if you never
travel out of North America, but if you do, then you need to
consider AT&T, or buying/borrowing/renting a second phone for
when you travel internationally.
No 4G or other enhancements
If you regularly see your
glass as half empty rather than half full, you might seize on
the fact that the Verizon iPhone 4 is generally the same as the
AT&T iPhone 4 as a disappointment.
For example, it does not
support Verizon's growing 4G network (much faster data speeds
It also has nothing 'new'
compared to the now nine month old iPhone 4 being sold by AT&T.
It is generally expected that Apple will release a new model
iPhone in about June (the same as they do every year) so if you
buy an iPhone 4 now from either carrier, you risk it becoming
technologically superseded in June.
Will Verizon get future
iPhones at the same time as AT&T
There is also a slight worry
as to if the new iPhone 5 (or whatever it is called when it is
released) will be available at the same time for Verizon as for
AT&T, or if there might be a delay of some months until the new
technology is then married into Verizon's unique CDMA service.
Some industry commentators
feel certain that Verizon will get new models at the same time
as AT&T. Others are less certain. We'll not know
the real answer to this question until June.
It is worth noting that
although Verizon is a major carrier in the US, from Apple's
perspective, Verizon's one-off CDMA requirements are much less
important to them than the generic 'one size fits all' GSM
alternative that they sell everywhere else in the world.
Which leads to :
What about Sprint?
Sprint also uses CDMA, and
so in theory the Verizon CDMA iPhone could also become a Sprint
Apple has confirmed that
their agreement with Verizon is non-exclusive, which causes one
to speculate that it is entirely foreseeable that Sprint too may
get an iPhone product in the next few months.
MetroPCS is the other CDMA
provider of note in the US. It too might end up getting an
Telecom (in China) is a huge possible customer for CDMA iPhones
A Limitation of the Verizon
Unfortunately, with the CDMA
type service, you can’t simultaneously be on a voice phone call
and also using the data service.
This is no big deal if you
are holding the phone to your ear and talking – how could you be
simultaneously checking your email, looking for a restaurant, or
whatever? But if you’re using a wired earpiece or a
Bluetooth headset, it definitely would be possible to do two
things at once (maybe in the car where the phone is using its
GPS feature to map you to your destination) and so this is a
small but real limitation.
Similarly, if you're sharing
the data service through the personal hotspot feature, this
would presumably pause during the duration of the phone call
Battery Life - Slightly
The CDMA type of wireless
service is typically harder on battery usage than GSM, and so
perhaps it is not surprising that Verizon hasn’t yet released any
battery life data for how many hours of voice calling the phone
will support. Regular iPhones have a claimed 14 hour
capability for voice calls and up to 300 hours on standby, we
would expect lower numbers for the Verizon iPhone.
The battery life for Wi-fi
usage or 3G service would probably be the same for either phone.
You might think that 14
hours of calling and/or 300 hours of standby are more than
enough to get you through a single day, but if you start using
the phone for Wi-Fi or 3G data, then the battery life reduces
down to as little as 6 hours, and when you have a GPS/mapping
program running, the battery life seems to become even shorter
still. A day of mixed use can end up nearly exhausting
your battery, even in a best case scenario.
Quality of Service Issues -
AT&T's Undeserved Albatross?
The unexpected explosion of data usage
that AT&T experienced when it first started selling iPhones has
been a legendary problem associated with iPhones and AT&T’s
service for some years.
But, like most legends, the
reality is somewhat different, and it continues to be my
perception, backed by some (but not all) user surveys and tests
of real world phone call quality/reliability/speed, that AT&T
unfairly suffers from an undeservedly bad reputation, with the
reality being that most of the time their service is as good or
better than that offered by the other wireless companies in the
Some of AT&T's past problems
are also the result of unavoidable growing pains as it struggled
to keep up with the rapidly escalating demands placed on its
network by the ever increasing number of iPhones (and other
smart phones) being sold. Neither AT&T nor Apple expected
iPhones (and their users) to become such great consumers of data services
as they showed themselves to be, and for an
extended time, AT&T struggled to build up/out its network to
keep up and get ahead of the demands being placed on it.
But the period of explosive
growth is now largely over, and it seems that AT&T service is
generally good, most of the time, in most places, and certainly
comparable to the always slightly less than fully perfect
service offered by other wireless companies.
Verizon, on the other hand,
has generally had a much better reputation in terms of
unofficial perceptions of network quality and reliability.
Perhaps this is partially due to its network never being as
stressed by the release of a runaway best selling phone the way
that AT&T’s network has been in the past.
Will iPhones impact the same -
or worse - on Verizon's network?
One has to wonder what the
impact on Verizon's 3G network will be if it sells a significant
number of iPhones. And whereas, several years ago, the 3G
network was AT&T's key strategic product to invest in and build
out, Verizon has now switched focus to its new 4G network.
If iPhone sales start to
overload Verizon's 3G network the same way they did AT&T's
network almost three years ago, how willing will Verizon be to
invest further in a now obsolete technology?
To put it bluntly, the
iPhone 4 is already obsolete in terms of where Verizon's future
network dollars are going.
All wireless data services are
Furthermore, it seems some people have unrealistic expectations about
the type of internet speed available on a cell phone.
As our computers get more
powerful at home and work, and as our home/work internet
connections grow in speed, our expectations have also grown.
But any phone is not nearly as powerful as any computer (so it
can’t display pages once they have been downloaded as quickly),
and we'll always be disappointed if we compare phones to
computers, even if the data access speeds
are the same.
In addition, all phones
share data connectivity with all other phones using the same
cell tower. Even the very theoretically best internet
service on a phone will be slower than at home/work, and
sometimes, there just will be too many other users all sharing
the one cell tower, making for a slow experience for everyone.
I’ve never had any real,
serious, or extended problems using AT&T’s service around
the US, but I’ve not traveled widely enough to be able
to make any meaningful evaluation.
From my perspective, I have
been totally happy with AT&T’s service. But if you are in
a truly bad area for AT&T service, with dropped calls and
non-existent 3G data, maybe the Verizon alternative might be
But, beware, if you’re in a country area, it might
be that Verizon has no better 3G data service than does AT&T
(and might not even have any at all – both companies offer
fairly good connectivity in the cities, but much poorer as you
get progressively more rural).
Don't expect a switch to
Verizon will transform your phone data experience. Yes, it
might improve it perceptibly if you' are having problems with
AT&T at present,
but it also might not make any difference at all.
Initial testing of sample
Verizon iPhones at their launch event in New York, doing website
page loads side by side with AT&T iPhones showed no relevant or
meaningful difference in network speeds.
What About 4G Data
Both Verizon and AT&T are
developing new networks with even faster data speeds than their
current networks - what they are terming 4G (fourth generation)
Verizon already has 4G
service in 38 areas and 60 airports (as of 11 Jan 2011), and is growing its national
footprint as quickly as it can. Here is their
website coverage map.
AT&T does not yet have any
4G operational, but expects to release it during this year.
Here is their
But who really cares about
4G, because at present neither iPhone supports 4G - and never
will. Some people think the new iPhone 5, when it comes
out in probably June, might add 4G service, but that is not an
issue that is relevant to your interest in an iPhone 4 at
present - indeed, if anything, it is a reason to delay buying
either an AT&T or a Verizon iPhone and waiting to see what
happens in June.
Unlocking iPhones and Using
Them On Different Networks
It is possible to unlock
most models and software versions of GSM (ie AT&T) iPhones, and
then to use them with different SIMs and on different networks.
unlock iPhones ourselves.
But CDMA phones don't use
the same concept of a replaceable account card/user identifier
(which is essentially what a SIM is) so the unlocking concept
doesn't apply to Verizon phones.
And because of the
underlying incompatibility between CDMA/Verizon and GSM/everyone
else, an unlocked Verizon iPhone, even if such a thing were
possible, would still not work with other carriers, and
similarly, an unlocked regular iPhone will never work with
The Verizon iPhone 4 is very
similar to the current AT&T iPhone 4. It costs the same to
purchase on a new contract, and will probably have similar but
not exactly identical voice and data plans for you to choose
On the positive side, the
Verizon iPhone will appeal if you are in an area where AT&T has
poor coverage and Verizon has good coverage. The Verizon
version of the iPhone also has a wonderful new feature not yet
available on the AT&T iPhones - the ability to share your 3G
data connection by creating a Wi-Fi network to connect other
devices to (this feature may well be added to existing AT&T
iPhones in the next few months).
On the negative side, the
Verizon iPhone will probably have slightly poorer battery life,
does not allow you to simultaneously talk and use the data
services, and is not compatible with phone service in most other
countries, including all countries in Europe.
With a new iPhone 5 (or
whatever it will be called) expected to be released for AT&T in
June, it might pay to wait until then to see how the new iPhone
5 from AT&T (and possibly a similar new iPhone 5 from Verizon)
compares to the present iPhone 4.
Overall, there is nothing
compellingly better about Verizon's iPhone compared to AT&T's,
and in several respects, the Verizon product is appreciably
This is the second part of
a two part article about Verizon's new iPhone. Please
click to go to the first part
introducing Verizon's iPhone, what it can do, and how it is
better than an AT&T iPhone.
It is also, together, part 6 of a series on the Apple iPhone - please
About the iPhone in General
2. Using the iPhone
3. iPhone limitations and
should you buy one
The iPhone 3G - what's new and what's different
to the iPhone
Verizon's iPhone 4
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11 Jan 2011, last update
28 Nov 2012
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.