Answers to your questions about the Verizon iPhone
As you may have heard, Verizon and Apple will start selling a version of the iPhone 4 for that carrier later this week. That seems like a reasonably straightforward bit of news, but there's always room for confusion in the telecom universe.
Here are my attempts to answer some of the questions I've seen and received over the past couple of weeks:
Q. What are the odds that Verizon will have an updated iPhone this summer?
Very good. Apple might like surprises, but there's been little suspense over the pace of its smartphone updates: Over each of the past three years, it's shipped a new iPhone sometime between the middle of June and the middle of July. (In case you were curious, I expect the next iPad to arrive on the same yearly timeline, placing its shipment in early April.)
Q. When will Verizon have a 4G iPhone?
Don't be misled by occasional mispronunciations of Verizon's new device as the "iPhone 4G"; it only runs on the carrier's widespread but older 3G network, not the fourth-generation LTE service it launched in December. Verizon is about to start selling 4G LTE smartphones such as the HTC Thunderbolt, but the iPhone might not join their ranks until at least this summer -- but maybe not until next.
(Hey, didn't I once predict that Verizon wouldn't get the iPhone until it could ship an LTE version? I did, and was completely wrong about that.)
Q. How do we know that Verizon's network won't have the same capacity problems AT&T's has had?
We don't, and we certainly can't tell from early reviews posted before the masses get access to Verizon iPhones. But after all the trash talking from Verizon about AT&T's network -- including a Super Bowl ad spot -- it had better avoid that fate. The carrier does seem prepared to take possibly harsh measures against especially heavy use, including "throttling" back connections and converting downloaded media to smaller, lower-resolution files.
Q. I got a Droid last summer. Should I upgrade to the iPhone now?
What, are you nuts? Not because an iPhone is inferior to a Droid, but because buying a new phone in mid-contract means you won't get any new-or-renewing customer discounts on a new iPhone: Instead of the advertised prices of $199.99 for the 16-gigabyte version and $299.99 for a 32 GB model, you'd pay $649.99 or $749.99.
Also, Google's Android operating system is pretty good in its own right.
Q. Are there any ways I can avoid paying the full, unsubsidized price for an iPhone even if I'm in a contract with Verizon?
Verizon will give current customers the new-or-renewing deal 20 months into a two-year contract. That's a little more generous than Sprint and T-Mobile (which don't offer that deal until 22 months in) but not as lenient as AT&T, which lets many smartphone users trade up at a discounted price 18 months in.
Verizon's own FAQ page notes one other slight exception to this rule: Subscribers who bought and activated "new smartphones, feature phones or certified pre-owned devices" between Nov. 26 and Jan. 10 can get "up to a $200 Visa debit card" if they pay full retail for an iPhone 4 before Feb. 28 and return their almost-new devices.
Q. Can I use a Verizon iPhone overseas?
Generally speaking, no. Few other countries use the CDMA wireless technology adopted by Verizon and Sprint here -- the list of supported roaming areas on Verizon's site is dominated by the Americas but excludes Africa, Australia, almost all of Europe and much of Asia -- while AT&T's GSM standard is nearly universal in comparison. Note, however, that AT&T charges extortionate rates for data use outside the U.S.
Q. I'm moving from AT&T to Verizon. What should I do with my old iPhone?
You can't convert it to run on Verizon. But you may be able to "unlock" the phone for use with other GSM carriers -- for example, cheap pre-paid services for temporary use overseas. Not all combinations of iPhone hardware and software allow this (the iPhone 4, for instance, does not), and the procedure itself is not the easiest. But it is one option.
So is selling the phone or donating it to charity.
Q. When will Sprint or T-Mobile sell the iPhone next?
When Verizon announced its iPhone deal with Apple last month, Apple chief operating officer Tim Cook described as "strategic" but "non-exclusive." So either of those two carriers could get their own flavor of the iPhone now. But I don't expect any movement on that until at least this summer, maybe not until next -- mainly because I'm sure Verizon would have arranged a decent interval in which it could stand alone as the Not AT&T of the iPhone market.
Also, if any new iPhone were to support 4G, a Sprint version of it wouldn't run on the same 4G technology as a Verizon model; where Verizon uses LTE, Sprint got to the 4G market earlier with a different, less-widely-used technology called WiMax.
One thing's for sure: Nextel won't be carrying the iPhone.
What else would you like to know? Post your question in the comments; I'll be updating this post throughout the week.
| February 7, 2011; 10:34 AM ET
Categories: Apple, Mobile, Telecom
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