Should you buy the Verizon iPhone?

Last week, after much anticipation, Verizon announced that they will offer the iPhone 4 on February 10th.  Now the question is:  should you buy it?

Here is a summary of some things you should think about when deciding whether or not to buy one:

For people who don’t already have an iPhone

For those that don’t have an iPhone, here are the set of questions you should ask yourself:

1. Do you have a contract obligation to Verizon or another wireless carrier?

  • If you have time remaining on a contract with Verizon,  you will have to pay the full (unsubsidized) price for the iPhone, this is $649.99 for the 16GB model and $749.99 for the 32GB model.
  • If you have time remaining on a contract with another carrier, you’ll need to pay their termination penalty (it will vary depending on the carrier and when you signed your contract but could be as high as $325).
  • If you don’t have a contract obligation, you’ll be able to purchase the phone for either $199.99 for the 16GB model, and $299.99 for the 32GB model, with a new 2 year agreement.

2. Do you want a smartphone?

  • There are lots of great things about a smartphone but not everyone might want one.  The major downsides are the increased costs, both upfront and monthly (estimate about $80-$100/month for a smartphone).  Also some people find the notion of being connected all the time and everywhere to be a burden rather than a blessing.  If you can afford a smartphone and think the benefits outweigh the costs, then proceed.

3. Is the iPhone the best smartphone option for you?

  • In general, I feel that the iPhone is the best overall smartphone available. Android phones are catching up and have some of their own benefits, but for most people, I think the iPhone is still a better option.
  • Do you send a lot of e-mails from your phone? If your number one objective with a smartphone is to send (not just read) e-mails, a Blackberry or other smartphone with a keyboard might be best for you.  The soft keyboard on the iPhone can be fast or even faster for some people but most agree that if doing a lot of typing, a physical keyboard is probably best.

For iPhone Owners suffering on At&t

1. Do you hate your At&t coverage for your iPhone?

  • This largely depends on where you live. If you live in New York or San Francisco, your answer is probably yes.  If you live elsewhere and are happy with At&t’s network, there is probably no reason to switch.

2. Are you under contract with At&t?

  • If you’re still under contract, you’ll have to pay a termination penalty.  If you bought the iPhone 4 for At&t, it will be $325 minus $10 for each month you’ve been under contract, pretty significant. At&t is projected to earn a huge sum from these termination fees, as much as $400 million or more.
  • Lifehacker has a comprehensive post on how to minimize/eliminate or counterbalance any termination penalty.
  • If you hate your service badly enough, it may be worth paying the termination penalty….

For everyone

1. Will the iPhone be better on Verizon than on At&t?

  • I can unequivocally say that At&t’s network, at the very least in New York and San Francisco is ATROCIOUS and I feel very strongly that the iPhone on Verizon will be a much better experience.   A very underreported fact: Aside from Verzion’s generally better network coverage, the fact that voice and data are routed separately means that Verzion can (and does) prioritize voice/phone call traffic and therefore even if a massive influx of iPhone users slows down their data network, your phone should still work as a phone….
  • Three minor downsides to a Verizon iPhone vs. At&t’s – if these are important to you:
    • You won’t be able to use voice and data at the same time   i.e. make a phone call and look at the web/maps, etc. at the same time – see above for why this is also a positive.
    • You won’t be able to use your iPhone in most countries outside the US while traveling.  While this seems like a big deal, the roaming charges for doing this on At&t make it a prohibitive practice for anyone paying their own way.
    • At&t’s 3G data network is theoretically faster than Verizon’s. However this is in laboratory conditions.  In real life, data speed relies on actual network coverage and congestion, both of which are not At&t’s strong suits.
  • Hardware – the hardware is mostly the same. However, I would guess that the antenna “problem” has been fixed and hopefully the proximity sensor problem has been fixed as well.
  • One positive difference (for now) for Verizon is that they will offer an option to use the phone as a Wifi hotspot, or to share the 3G data connection with multiple devices – e.g. multiple laptops, iPad, etc.  Verizon has yet to announce pricing on this, but note that both At&t and Verizon usually charge extra to “tether” your phone altogether, i.e. to use your phone’s data connection for your laptop or other devices.
  • Price – Verizon has yet to announce pricing for the monthly service on the iPhone. It seems unlikely that their plans will differ significantly from their other smartphone plans, but these tend to be a bit more expensive than At&t’s plans and there is a good chance this will be the case with the iPhone pricing as well. At&t might reduce their prices to compete even further. You should also think about any corporate or family discounts that you have.

2. Is it better to wait for the next version of the iPhone?

  • This is a tough question to answer.  There is generally a new iPhone released every year around June/July and there is no reason to think there won’t be one released this year.  It’s unclear what the features of the new phone might have but Apple usually doesn’t disappoint. There is no consensus on what features a new iPhone will have, but here are some that people have guessed:
    • 4G capabilities  – this would mean that the phone could run on Verizon (maybe and At&t’s) newest/fastest 4G network.
    • Global roaming – as mentioned above, the current Verizon iPhone will be limited mostly to the US.
    • Faster processor/more memory – the performance of the phone could become as powerful as some laptop computers.
    • Compatibility on Verizon & At&t
    • Launch on other networks like Sprint and T-Mobile.
  • A big “however” though, is that it’s not out of the question that the new iPhone will come out first on At&t in June/July and it could be months later before a Verizon version comes out.

Bottom line recommendations:

  • If you’ve been waiting to buy an iPhone until Verizon offered it, go ahead and buy it, I think you’ll be very happy!
  • If you’re on At&t and have been praying for the day you could switch, I would ask yourself if you can do 6 more months in At&t’s maximum security prison.  No is a perfectly acceptable answer.  I’m trying to summon the courage to wait myself.  Every time I decide I’m going to wait, At&t drops another call…

Other Sources of Info

At&t vs. Verizon iPhone comparison from Engadget

Lifehacker on the differences b/t At&t and Verizon

Verizon’s FAQ about the iPhone

Consumer Reports Recommends Waiting

Crunchgear comments on Consumer Reports opinion

Techcrunch’s Bottom Line Recommendation

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One response to “Should you buy the Verizon iPhone?

  1. Pingback: 3 Reasons the Att network won’t get better when users move to Verizon | Ron Feldman's Blog

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