Smartphone shoppers in the United States finally have what they've been dreaming of for the past three years, the ability to buy an Apple iPhone for a wireless carrier other than AT&T.
As predicted since mid-2010, the iPhone 4 is indeed coming to Verizon. Verizon President and COO Lowell McAdam and Apple COO Tim Cook announced the availability at a New York event on Jan 11. But the new iPhone isn't exactly a carbon copy of AT&T's device; some features that you get with AT&T won't be on the VZW device, and there will be new features. Potential customers will have to decide what's important to them.
As reported earlier in eWEEK, the new iPhone will be a CDMA/EVDO device, which will introduce some limitations inherent to the communications technology. For example, simultaneous voice and data aren't available on the Verizon version-a necessary fact of life if you're using EVDO.
AT&T's HSPA+ network doesn't have this limitation. However, unlike its AT&T competitor, Verizon Wireless' iPhone will include a WiFi hotspot, which first appeared in the Verizon Wireless Droid line of Android phones and is a first for Apple devices, and could be a significant differentiating factor.
While it's possible that AT&T could incorporate these features in a new version of the iPhone, until it completes the build-out of its LTE network, it's unlikely that the company's struggling 3G network could support this capability. Verizon, meanwhile, said in today's announcement that it's been testing its 3G service with "thousands" of CDMA iPhones and is confident that its 3G network will support the demand for data without a problem.
Predictions by some that the new Verizon Wireless iPhone 4 would be dual-mode (CDMA and GSM) or that it would support LTE didn't come to pass. Apple's Tim Cook said that incorporating the current generation of LTE chips would require too many compromises, and that would have interfered with delivery of the iPhone in a timely manner. He said that the decision was made to focus on delivering the iPhone 4 and to provide LTE support at a later date. This supports the assumption that LTE would be featured when the iPhone 5 is released during the summer. AT&T has already indicated that it would have LTE for the iPhone then, and it's highly likely that Verizon Wireless would get it at the same time.
Verizon and Apple also admitted that some of the limitations of 3G would affect the Verizon iPhone. For example, simultaneous voice and data will apparently have to wait for the LTE version. Likewise, Cook declined to address differences in the iPhone 4's troubled antenna system, except to say that it would be optimized for CDMA. This could, of course, mean that the infamous dividing line could be moved to another location.