Verizon, the largest US wireless carrier, has announced today that the company will partner with Apple to make iPhones available on the Verizon network Feb. 10. (Certain Verizon customers will be able to pre-order on Feb. 3). How excited or indifferent should you be about all the buzz?
AT&T is the lowest-scoring cell phone carrier in the US, according to a satisfaction survey of 58,000 ConsumerReports.org readers in December 2010. Of all the carriers rated, AT&T was the only one to drop significantly in overall satisfaction. On the flip side, Consumer Reports ranked Verizon’s network as the most reliable major carrier.
Enter the anticipated Apple-Verizon announcement. iPhone popularity will increase when consumers can choose from multiple networks and their different pricing options instead of having to accept what AT&T offers. Word is that Verizon plans to keep its $30/month unlimited data plan, which AT&T eliminated in June 2010 (WSJ). Execs may evaluate pricing plans and make changes toward a tiered pricing model after launch.
While a phone’s coverage varies by region, Verizon has strived to learn as much as possible from AT&T’s mistakes. When AT&T’s network problems from skyrocketing smartphone data use turned into a PR nightmare, Verizon strengthened and tested its network to prepare for a storm of increased data use. AT&T admitted that it underestimated data capacity requirements to keep up with smartphones; Verizon plans to do no such thing (CNET). In turn, AT&T PR honcho Larry Solomon told Business Insider that Verizon’s iPhone CDMA network is slower than AT&T’s GSM network (Business Insider). And because most foreign countries use GSM technology, many users hope the future Verizon iPhone will be a hybrid CDMA/GSM so they can take their phones abroad. Note that Verizon customers who buy the new CDMA iPhone will find the carrier’s custom 3G Mobile Hotspot application for Wi-Fi tethering preinstalled, but they will not be able to access simultaneous voice and data connections like on AT&T’s network (Apple Insider).
Apple’s iPhone has maintained its status as the world’s most popular smartphone despite AT&T’s exclusive hold on it since its June 2007 launch. Apple shares are up nearly 300% since that launch (CNN). As Android developments have brought increasingly fierce competition, Apple needs to quicken the growth of its iPhone sales in order to stay on top.
Should AT&T iPhone users switch to Verizon? Many current iPhone users, especially those that upgraded to iPhone 4 last year and those on family plans, will want to stay with AT&T because of the timing with their 2–year contracts. Others may want to wait for more developments to pan out before deciding what carrier is best for their iPhone (or for their next generation iPhone 5, a 4G device which rumors say Apple will release in summer 2011).
If you’re on the fence and want a free comparison of an AT&T iPhone plan against a Verizon one, try out BillShrink’s cell phone comparison tool that shows the cost of switching from AT&T to Verizon (included the fees incurred when breaking a 2-year contract).
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