Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Smartphone Wishful Thinking: Verizon iPhones, New Android Devices, Palm Prē Pricing

There's a lot of chatter going on around about the possibility of a version of Apple's iPhone coming out for Verizon Wireless--stoked by recent reports of the two companies discussing how to make such a thing happen.

I realize the appeal of such a thing: Verizon's coverage is better than AT&T's, especially (for now) if you happen to take Metro in out of D.C. But I think that the folks dreaming of an iPhone with VzW's red check-mark logo may be setting themselves up for some heartbreak.

First, this Verizon iPhone might not happen at all. We still don't know the details of the exclusive deal Apple signed with AT&T and what it might take for Apple to ship a phone outside the bounds of that agreement. Second, it might arrive with certain features or options disabled or restricted. Third, it could cost considerably more to use each month than it does under AT&T.

Fundamentally, the wireless-phone industry remains a weird market in which customers' wishes need not translate into hardware for sale, since the ultimate customer is still, in most cases, a wireless carrier and not individual callers. Consider another promising phone platform, Google's Android: There's still only one Android phone for sale in the United States, T-Mobile's G1. And the next model due, a Samsung model, will almost certainly be sold only by T-Mobile, according to a
PC Magazine analysis.

Then there's Palm's upcoming Prē smartphone, due sometime soon from Sprint, which looked terrific at the Consumer Electronics Show. But what if a recent report by a self-described Sprint insider is true and you'll have to pay for an expensive "Everything Data" plan (PDF), which bundles in some extra services that you may not need, to use this phone?

I don't enjoy sounding so pessimistic here, but the wireless-phone business has a habit of leaving too-hopeful customers feeling like Charlie Brown after yet another attempt to kick the football. You may be better off indulging in a little worst-case thinking before you indulge in too much smartphone daydreaming. So on that note: What are the things you're worried you'll have to put up with to use [your favorite device] on [your desired carrier]? Which of those could be a deal-breaker?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  April 28, 2009; 12:18 PM ET
Categories:  Gadgets , Telecom  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: PostPoints tip: Two (or more) Gmail addresses for the price of one
Next: Time Warner (Finally) Ready To Hit Undo Key On AOL Deal


There is nothing I'll "put up with" to use a particular wireless device on a carrier. Realizing back in '05 that annual contracts really weren't my cup of tea, I now sink $20 every month or two into a cheap Virgin Mobile phone.

I'd absolutely love to own and use a portable web device... but until they either offer pay-as-you-go minutes for voice or uncouple it altogether from requiring a phone line (data-only charges at maybe $30-35 a month), I cannot justify buying a multi-hundred-dollar phone and spending over five times what I do now for service.

Posted by: random-adam | April 28, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

If you want real wishful thinking, think about decoupling phones from carriers altogether, letting everyone buy the phone they want. Where is big government when you really need it? The current system works against innovation and competition. But you all know this.

Posted by: justician | April 28, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Cell phones are so weird....
It's like buying a car and being told you can only drive on certain roads, and you have to get gas only at specific stations, and there is air-conditioning built into the car, but it won't work because the seller doesn't want you to use it.....

Posted by: news5 | April 28, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Friends just back from London brought me copies of a free tabloid sort of like The Express. I was stunned by the number of ads for mobile phone service, all of which were "pay as you go" and much, much richer offerings than anything the phone companies give here. Case in point: 600 minutes of talk per month, plus unlimited texts and unlimited internet access for 30 pounds a month--about $45 at the current rate of exchange. Can anyone in the U.S. come close to matching that?

Posted by: jhpurdy | April 28, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Can someone please tell me why you can't get a cell phone with a decent camera? They're all over the place in Japan.

Oh yeah, the US cellular carrier price-fixing monopoly. Jerks.

Posted by: thermowax | April 28, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

I don't think Verizon could ever accept the iPhone as it exists now. Verizon has a real problem with letting consumers use features that are built into the phone if it conflicts with one of their "services" they offer for a fee. Would Verizon be able to accept the Apple App Store? Or would they say "Well we have the VZ App Store for 5.99 a month"? I stuck with Verizon this last round of phone shopping because I believed their service to be better than AT&T. The Samsung Omnia I have is a capable iPhone wannabe with a GPS receiver currently crippled by Verizon. When I purchased the phone I was promised they would be unlocking the GPS in the "near future". That was in December and I am still GPS-less. Verizon points to their paid VZ Navigator service as an "alternative", yet it doesn't offer the location based search tools like Windows Live or Google Maps. If Verizon doesn't start letting their phones breathe and utilize the tools the manufacturers build into them, I think it might be time to see how good AT&T's service is.

Posted by: BurtReynolds | April 28, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

when my current contract is up with Verizon is up (in another 8 months or so) i'll be switching to ATT so i can get an iPhone. The phone is good enough to overcome any drawbacks with the service.

Posted by: bakerbenjamin | April 28, 2009 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Rob for being so honest in a report about "reports". There is no doubt a love for tech in this country and maybe that is only rivaled by the love of gossip. As USA Today started it this week, Business Week followed, the web is all up in arms, but there is nothing at all to suggest anything that has happened in print this week will ever happen in the real world. It would be far more fun to hear honest news reported, but since that is too hard for many "journalists", we get to hear rumors and speculation... Thankfully you brought up some relevant points about the coverage this week and hopefully we can all go back to our jobs as consumers and...consume, I guess.

Verizon and Apple, doubt it...MM

Posted by: mikemike000 | April 29, 2009 2:20 AM | Report abuse

I've gone from a corporate-paid AT&T plan and a phone with still and video capability and many other fancy touches to... Sprint's Boost Mobile @ $50 per month and a phone that only has one feature: military-level ruggedness.

My Flip Video cam is WAY better than any cell phone camera, and my Boost phone will function as a GPS for a slight extra fee if I ever get so senile that I can't read maps.

In fact, looking at my (lack of) cell phone usage over the past four months, chances are I'll drop to Boost's dime-a-minute plan. That should cut my mobile phone bill to $20 per month or less.

Now, about that iPhone: what does it do that I can't wait to do on a laptop or desktop PC at a nice, comfy desk? And is it really worth paying a premium for in a time when the "pay as you go" providers are busily cut-throating each other on price, and you can take your existing phone number with you when you change providers?

Maybe for you, but not for me. :)

Posted by: roblimo | April 29, 2009 6:05 AM | Report abuse

T-Mobile is the best option if you want the most flexibility in a phone and plan. I bought an unlocked Nokia smartphone with every feature I wanted and then bought a $40/mon unlimited data plan. I popped the T-Mobile SIM card in my unlocked phone and it worked without a hitch. They also have a month to month data plan, no contract.

I had an existing prepaid calling account with them -- really prepaid, no monthly charges. When I got the unlocked phone, the only problem I encountered was they refused to merge the two accounts, so now I have two devices -- one for calls, one for mobile computing.

Although initially I wasn't happy, it's worked out surprisingly well. I can tether the smartphone to my laptop, or check email, and talk on my cell at the same time.

Posted by: newsie1234 | April 29, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

BurtReynolds had the best insight so far. Verizon is king, nay, emperor-for-life, of crippling their phones' features. As if the (unmodded) iPhone didn't have enough issues with a lack of a clipboard, voice dialing (which I had for FIVE YEARS before my iPhone), and audio output over Bluetooth. I still don't (quite) regret my switch, but any further crippling would make the G1 the clear winner.

Posted by: MaxH | April 29, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

justician and thermowax -- just buy an unlocked GSM phone from the numerous vendors. They'll work with AT&T.

The only problem is you don't get that subsidy. But I don't think discounts are a result of price fixing.

Posted by: ah___ | April 29, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

I'm a longtime Visorphone/Treo/Centro user (~8 years), but have no need for all this fancy "everything" Sprint service (e.g., I send/receive at most 10 text messages/month).

I'll just wait to get a Palm Pre until they offer more reasonable terms of service. Or if there are no such reasonable terms by the time my contract expires in November, I can look elsewhere. I understand that AT&T has a nice phone which reminds some people of the Pre ;-)

Posted by: jaepstein63 | April 30, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company