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Posted at 1:45 PM ET, 02/10/2011

A first look at the Verizon iPhone - and what that can't tell you

By Rob Pegoraro

Meet the new iPhone--somewhat the same as the old iPhone.

Powered off, the Verizon Wireless version of Apple's iPhone 4 that's now in stores differs only at the margins from the AT&T model that's been available since last summer: The Verizon model has one extra black line on its outside edge, a bigger ring/vibrate switch and no SIM card slot.

verizon_iphone_plus_att_iphone.jpg

The software on the Verizon iPhone (identified as "Model A1349" on the back) also offers few differences from what's on the AT&T iPhone ("Model A1332"). At its introduction last month, Verizon touted a WiFi sharing feature that's more capable than the single-computer tethering option AT&T provides--but AT&T is supposed to get the same feature within days.

Bigger variations surface in Verizon and AT&T's pricing. While both charge new and renewing customers the same for the phone itself--$199 for a model with 16 gigabytes of storage and $299 for a 32-GB model, with two-year contracts required--their service plans don't match up.

Where AT&T sells voice, messaging and data separately, Verizon includes unlimited texting in voice plans that start at $59.99 and only offers one, unlimited data option for $29.99. You can spend considerably less on AT&T for more restricted service--$54.99 a month buys you 450 minutes of anytime calling at $39.99, 200 megabytes of data at $15, and no texts included--while Verizon's minimum monthly cost is $89.98. Then again, adding a more realistic 2 GB "DataPro" option and a $10 bundle of 1,000 messages to an AT&T iPhone plan brings its cost to $74.99; upgrading to unlimited texting pushes it to $84.99.

Verizon, meanwhile, offers only one, unlimited data plan for $29.99 (though it reserves the right to brake the access of customers it considers overusers). Its 450-minute calling plan costs $39.99; you can pay per individual messages, as at AT&T, pay $5 for 250 messages or $10 for 500, or $20 for 5,000 (except Apple's site lists that $20 option as unlimited messaging). Or you can pay $59.99 for 450 anytime minutes plus unlimited messaging, the recommended entry-level plan on Verizon's site. Your monthly bill will run at least $69.98, with unlimited texting bumping the total to $89.98.

(Comparable combinations of unlimited smartphone data and texting, plus 450 minutes of anytime calling, costs $79.99 from Sprint and T-Mobile.)

AT&T and Verizon charge $20 extra for tethering and WiFi hotspot capability, respectively. But because AT&T's option doesn't add to the 2 GB cap of the required DataPro plan, it can quickly inflate your bill with overage fees of $10 for every extra gigabyte.

The biggest difference is outside the phones themselves--the network they're on, to steal a phrase from some Verizon ads. People have been yearning for a Verizon iPhone mainly because AT&T has had so much trouble keeping its own iPhone users connected--they've had calls drop or been unable to get online at all, even while their iPhones show four or five bars of a 3G signal.

AT&T counters that its GSM standard allows you to talk and surf the Web at the same time, while Verizon's CDMA technology doesn't permit that. You can also use an AT&T iPhone in many more countries overseas, albeit at steep roaming rates that can't be avoided without non-trivial hacking.

Verizon has a much better reputation for network capacity and performance. Will that reputation survive the iPhone's arrival? It had better, but we won't know for sure until weeks or months from now.

Remember, the inadequacies of AT&T's 3G capacity didn't hit me until after I'd written my review of the iPhone 3G.

What I will be able to tell you from the Verizon iPhone loaned by Apple's PR department are things like its battery life compared to an AT&T iPhone's, the relative speeds of Verizon and AT&T's 3G services, the performance of the Verizon WiFi-sharing feature, and--not least--how well it works as a phone.

And, of course, anything else you would like to know that I can research in the coming days. So: What can I tell you about this thing next?

10:07 p.m. Fixed an error in the description of Verizon's price plans.

By Rob Pegoraro  | February 10, 2011; 1:45 PM ET
Categories:  Apple, Mobile  
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Comments

Compare deadzones please. My Att iPhone doesn't work to well and sometimes not at all when inside buildings. I'd like to know how the Verizon service compares.

Posted by: Kidrichmond | February 10, 2011 2:36 PM | Report abuse

I know I want one...but what are my chances of just walking into a Verizon store on Saturday and being able to walk out with one?

Posted by: NoVA23 | February 10, 2011 2:51 PM | Report abuse

So: What can I tell you about this thing next?
----

How about an experiment? Go drop them both off the roof at the same time and see which one hits the ground first.

Posted by: ozpunk | February 10, 2011 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Does it have the same antenna problems?

Posted by: ChiefJimbo | February 10, 2011 3:12 PM | Report abuse

I would recommend that anyone who travels overseas, or who might want to use their phone beyond the 2 years with another carrier, to never buy a phone that doesn't take a SIM card. That little piece of data is your passport to phone freedom. Without it, you are buying a phone that can only be used with the carrier you started with, so you are stuck with them regardless.

The whole smart phone phenomenon is a bit of a rip, but I know people love those things. If you pay close to 100 a month to use your iPhone, the actual cost over two years is 2,400 dollars (that would pay for a short vacation domestically), plus the phone, plus any other charges they decide to impose (sure, you can fight the charges, but how much time do you have to spend on hold?

Can I fit one more complaint in here? Always being in touch is no great advantage in life. I see people all over who are constantly tending their phones, as though they've been turned into robots to service the little electronic thing in their hands. Why does anyone need 50 text messages a day? Is your actual life really that boring and borderline useless? I think the key is to be in touch when you want to be and off the hook the rest of the time. You know, freedom. You've probably heard people talk about that concept.

So, go ahead, toss away 24,000 dollars over ten years on a phone. Make someone else rich. Or, you could get a cheap, unlimited plan phone and take a trip around the world and have a lot of money left over to give to charity. Your choice.

Doug Terry
http://terryreport.com

Posted by: terryreport | February 10, 2011 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Verizon has lied for 10 years that they will get a tower west of South Mountain, hence I must use AT&T. So much for coverage. BTW Smartphone works well on AT&T here.

Posted by: therev1 | February 10, 2011 3:24 PM | Report abuse

I appreciate Mr. Terry's thinking, but the math escapes me. If two years is $2,400, how is 10 years $24,000?

Posted by: jorgensen1 | February 10, 2011 3:26 PM | Report abuse

terryreport + math = fail.

$100/mo for 10 years.

$100 * 12 monts = $1200

$1200 * 10 = $12,000.

I did this math in my head but if I had actually used the calculator on my smartphone I would have been able to say this: Ten years of smartphone payments, $12,000. Not looking stupid because I can't do simple math, priceless.

Posted by: tricia8 | February 10, 2011 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Now I wish I had used my smartphone to write that message. Then I wouldn't look stupid because I can't spell simple words.

Posted by: tricia8 | February 10, 2011 3:35 PM | Report abuse

You don't need to stick with a company that uses sim cards just because you travel overseas. I travel quite frequently, and simply keep an old AT&T phone to take with me--I buy a sim card there. You could also buy an AT&T go phone and take that with you. Also worth noting; you can often buy a dongle for your laptop for a WHOLE lot less than you can here. Unlimited wifi for 2 GBP/day in the UK--can't beat that!

Sally
http://peopleclaim.com

Posted by: sally18 | February 10, 2011 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Rob,

I would appreciate some more feedback/info. about Face Time. This is my first smart phone, so maybe this is a really, really dumb question, but according to Verizon and Apple, you need a wireless network to use Face Time. But isn't the Verizon 3G network a wireless network?

I don't have access to a wireless network; Internet access at home is through a Ethernet connection. So I am assuming I can't use Face Time unless I either find a "free" wireless spot, or change my home environment from wired to wireless. I apologize if this is a dumb question, but I don't get why the 3G connectivity won't accommodate Face Time. So, some pointers on how to set up/use Face Time would help. Thanks!

Posted by: NW_Washington | February 10, 2011 3:41 PM | Report abuse


WaPo is constantly pimping for Apple and has been for years, but the Motorola Droid X is far superior to iPhone 4 any way you slice it. Android phones in general are improving at a much faster rate than the Apple product, it is not just limited to Motorola phones.

Posted by: screwjob23 | February 10, 2011 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Droid X is ok...far superior is a reach tho. I had the Motorola Droid, Droid X, and currently the Droid 2 pro Droid 2 pro wins that battle easily. I'm debating on waiting til summer for the Bionic or Droid 3 or getting the HTC Thunderbolt in a few weeks.

Posted by: CBell29 | February 10, 2011 4:38 PM | Report abuse

I'll wait for the Thunderbolt, thanks.

Posted by: dkp01 | February 10, 2011 4:39 PM | Report abuse

I would like a comparison between the Verizon Droid (which I bought in December) and the Verizon iPhone. Did I make a mistake not to wait? Also, I would like to know if all the new iPhone users are having any impact on Verizon's capacity.

Posted by: shapshapj | February 10, 2011 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Actually, I have the HTC. But it says Droid when it turns on. So is that a Droid or a Thunderbolt?

Posted by: shapshapj | February 10, 2011 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Sure you can take a special phone with you just to use when you're overseas, but that's not close to the same thing as just bringing your usual phone with you. I like Verizon's coverage better, for certain, but since I travel to Europe 5-6 times a year on business and need to be reachable on my main mobile number, I'm sticking with my AT&T iPhone. I guess Verizon doesn't have a lot of customers who travel a lot internationally, because it looks like they don't care much about that market at all, really.

Posted by: novaseeker | February 10, 2011 5:09 PM | Report abuse


What this will do is allow Apple fanboys who are stuck with AT&T's lousy network, to move to Verizon where they will be able to get a dial tone.

This is not going to increase Apple's market share much if at all in my opinion, it will just move the iPhone user base from one phone company to another.

Posted by: screwjob23 | February 10, 2011 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Does the Verizon iPhone work on DC Metro underground, like other Verizon-serviced phones? AT&T does not.

Posted by: richyancy | February 10, 2011 5:29 PM | Report abuse

"... Verizon includes unlimited texting in voice plans that start at $59.99 and only offers one, unlimited data option for $29.99. You can spend considerably less on AT&T for more restricted service--$54.99 a month buys you 450 minutes of anytime calling at $39.99, 200 megabytes of data at $15, and no texts included--while Verizon's minimum monthly cost is $89.98."

Or you can skip the unlimited text-message thing and save some money, provided you don't send a lot of them. I pay $39.99 a month for my Verizon voice plan and they keep trying to get me to add unlimited text messages for $5 a month. But I do not send and receive many text messages. The most I've ever sent and received in one month came to maybe $3 at 20ยข per message. So I don't see why I should waste my money on the text message thing. Anyway, it seems to me that if you take the base $39.99 450-minute voice plan (which includes unlimited nights and weekends) and then you add the $29.99 data plan (required for all Verizon "smartphones") you come out at $70 a month plus any taxes. That's a lot less than $89.99, assuming the 450 minutes per month works for you during regular weekday business hours.


I played with a Verizon iPhone and a Droid 2 Global at a Verizon store today. I've been thinking about getting one of these devices for a while because I am self-employed. The iPhone struck me as easier to use, while the Droid struck me as more customizable and potentially expandable. Anyone have any thoughts on those two phones head-to-head? The biggest differences are obviously the Droid's global roaming capability and physical keyboard. But does anyone have any other thoughts? The more I played with them, the more I was liking the iPhone, but I can't really put my finger on WHY that is.

Posted by: 1995hoo | February 10, 2011 5:31 PM | Report abuse

NW_Washington, I was just reading the Face Time thing on Apple's site and the way I understood it was that the Wi-Fi connection was only needed for someone wanting to use that feature on an iPod Touch, as that device does not have an independent means of going online. It sounds as though iPhone-to-iPhone doesn't require Wi-Fi. (Their wording is "iPhone 4 to iPhone 4 or to the new iPod touch over Wi-Fi," which made it sound to me as though "over Wi-Fi" applies only to the iPod Touch.)

Posted by: 1995hoo | February 10, 2011 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: tricia8
terryreport + math = fail.

$100/mo for 10 years.

$100 * 12 monts = $1200

$1200 * 10 = $12,000.

I did this math in my head but if I had actually used the calculator on my smartphone I would have been able to say this: Ten years of smartphone payments, $12,000. Not looking stupid because I can't do simple math, priceless.
------------------------------------------
Vacuum tube based computers can do math too. You are as intelligent as they are. Being a smug idiot, worthless.

Posted by: alientech | February 10, 2011 6:21 PM | Report abuse

"Ten years of smartphone payments, $12,000. Not looking stupid because I can't do simple math, priceless."

You're really good at math, but missed the man's point:

**> You're still paying $12,000 over a 10 year period

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | February 10, 2011 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the comments and questions!

@NoVA23: I don't think your odds are good.

@ozpunk: Would be more entertaining and less hazardous to the hardware to do that in a lower gravitational field, don't you think?

@NW_Washington: Correct, FaceTime requires WiFi, not 3G. Although... what I should try to do is see if I can set up a FaceTime call from an AT&T iPhone that's using WiFi shared from the Verizon iPhone.

@novaseeker: If you need to be able to keep your U.S. number while traveling overseas, Verizon isn't the issue--CDMA is. You need a GSM phone, period.

@richyancy: Since late 2009, all four carriers have provided service in the 20 busiest underground Metro stations. Verizon--and, by way of roaming, Sprint--continue to offer service elsewhere in Metro's subway sections, although AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint are supposed to expand their own coverage there over the next year or two.

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | February 10, 2011 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Best suggestion of all: Get an Android phone, use T-mobile and get tethering for FREE.

Posted by: kettke1 | February 10, 2011 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, meant to say "unlocked" Android phone.

Posted by: kettke1 | February 10, 2011 6:47 PM | Report abuse

I got a Droid X right after Christmas to replace my LG Touch (none-smartphone). I kept having problems and eventually had to pull out the battery several times. I couldn't send outgoing email from Yahoo. I called customer service and they said it couldn't do it yet.

I took it back and the store found that it really could - it was just a defective phone. I got another, but by that time I was afraid of getting another defective product (I had a Palm Treo for a year that kept freezing up or not working for hours).

I returned it and got an iPhone in hopes it will be more reliable. But I loved that large screen on the Droid X.

Posted by: abcd51 | February 10, 2011 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Rob,
I would like to know where I can find some good video tutorials on how to use the iPhone, some place other than youtube.

Posted by: abcd51 | February 10, 2011 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Rob -- Yes, I realize that, but the fact that Verizon's iPhone is CDMA and not GSM makes it a Verizon issue for me. If their iPhone worked with a SIM, I would be tempted to switch due to the differences in network coverage, but since it doesn't, it's a non-starter for me. That's not an iPhone issue, it's an issue with the specs Verizon demanded for their version of the iPhone.

Posted by: novaseeker | February 10, 2011 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Will the next version (coming out in July?) be compatible with Verizon's 4G LTE network?

Posted by: DKaps | February 10, 2011 7:31 PM | Report abuse

If you need unlimited texting, then you need to seek professional help immediately. I'm out in California and my wife's plan is $74.98; 450 minutes for $39.99, unlimited data for $29.99, and $5 for 250 text messages. Add in a 17% corporate vendor discount and my monthly is just over $60. Seems fair to me. Since I frequently travel overseas, I will stick with my BB Bold.

Posted by: KingOfCarlsbad | February 10, 2011 7:38 PM | Report abuse

I would rather you spent some time researching how these companies got their lackeys in the administration to approve throttling of their data service. The approval came just within the past few months. In light of this, I think the President was jesting in the State of the Union Address about wanting to improve anything about internet service.

These companies should be required to advertise their throttled rates as their effective service levels, as they are well below what the consumer expects from 3G service.

You should do all of your tests at the throttled rates.

Jim

Posted by: swanjame | February 10, 2011 8:40 PM | Report abuse

Wishing a not full of tourist paradise place for vacations? go to http://greencolombia.amawebs.com/

Posted by: albeiroespinoza | February 10, 2011 8:45 PM | Report abuse

Will the next version (coming out in July?) be compatible with Verizon's 4G LTE network?

Posted by: DKaps | February 10, 2011 7:31 PM | Report abuse

_________

Good question! The iPhone 4 is not capable of running on the 4G network-the future of wireless networks. I think people should wait a few months and see what 4G phones come out before they lock themselves in for 2 years. I currently have 13 months left for an upgrade and until then i will not be able to use the 4G network. Been hearing news that the newer 4G capable phones will also allow Face Time over the 4G network (instead of only over WiFi like the current iPhone).

Posted by: jamalnasir_2000 | February 10, 2011 8:50 PM | Report abuse

One more thing i would like to point out about the prices listed above- Verizon still offers an unlimited data plan for $29.99. At&T does not. If you go over your limit of 2GB/month you end up paying an extra $10 for another 1GB. If you are a heavy data user (pandora, videos, streaming movies via netflix or blockbuster, live sports etc) you will most likely go over that 2GB limit and end up paying more than $29.99 that Verizon offers. Couple that with my 20% corporate discount for Verizon and i didn't think twice to make the switch to Verizon.

Posted by: jamalnasir_2000 | February 10, 2011 8:58 PM | Report abuse

I walked into a Verizon store today and I can say they were well-staffed. I counted 18 red-shirted employees for 6 customers in the store at 3pm today. They had many in stock, and I could have walked out with either the 16g or 32g versions today.

But I did not get one. I have 4 months left on my present Sprint subscription, and I'll wait to avoid paying the $200 contract breakage fee. Plus there will likely be more news on iPhone 5 when my Pre contract expires June 6. 117 more days to go.

Posted by: palmyra | February 10, 2011 9:21 PM | Report abuse

"it's an issue with the specs Verizon demanded for their version of the iPhone"

I appreciate the sentiment, but lack of a SIM isn't a Verizon spec, a SIM isn't part of the CDMA spec. So this isn't a Verizon issue per se, rather its a side-effect of Verizon using this core technology.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | February 10, 2011 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Rob, I would like to see a head-to-head comparison between the Verizon iPhone and the HTC Incredible. I'm sure there are many of us who decided not to wait for the iPhone, who went with the Droid, and now wonder how they compare. I've been enjoying my phone since September, so regardless of the outcome, I will not regret the decision. But, I am naturally curious to know how the Droid stands up.

Posted by: rmoran02 | February 11, 2011 8:01 AM | Report abuse

@novaseeker--sure, if you want to have only one cell number rather than keep an extra phone for overseas, you can do it, if you're willing to pay the absolutely stratospheric price. Most people I know who travel a lot keep SEVERAL phones, even if they're very, very wealthy. They'll simply change the message on their main number--"I'm currently travelling in France...please call my European cell #..." My cell address book has a lot of listings like--Andy, Europe...Andy, Dubai...Andy, US. You could buy an extra iPhone for less than the price of one week's usage in Europe, if the phone itself is important. I'm just DAZED by how much over the odds we pay for cell phone and wifi service in the US.
Sally
http://peopleclaim.com

Posted by: sally18 | February 11, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Pricing the Verizon iPhones at $200 & $300 is insane when you consider how cheap comparable, if not faster/better, Android devices cost. The Droid X, arguably a better phone, is being given away for free online (see http://BuyDroidPhones.com ), which I'm sure is bound to pull potential Apple customers to the Android side. Engineers at Motorola, HTC, Samsung, and other companies have caught up to, or surpassed, what Apple is doing. Apple simply sustains an advantage with media coverage, the media being so effusive in praising whatever Apple does--or is rumored to be doing. In the end, the declining market share of iOS will speak louder than Apple's hype machine.

Posted by: ledohed | February 11, 2011 2:52 PM | Report abuse

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