The hope of an Apple iPhone on the Verizon Wireless network has been fueling the rumor mill for years, but come Feb. 10 America’s most-pined-for smartphone will be available on arguably its most popular network. Speculations have been made, analysts have opined and the involved parties have made promises. Thinking of queuing up? Below, we’ve collected some key facts about the phone to help you make the call.
Verizon made the iPhone 4 available to its customers for preorder on the morning of Feb. 3. By 8 p.m. EST, its initial inventory was sold out. It will begin offering the phone again, to everyone, on its Web site beginning Feb. 9 at 3:01 a.m. EST. On Feb. 9, customers will also be able to reserve a phone through Apple for in-store pickup beginning Feb. 10 at 7 a.m.
On Feb. 10, Verizon will begin selling the phone in its stores at 7 a.m., and Apple will offer them in its stores, also starting at 7 a.m., on a first come, first-serve basis.
“We will have them in stock, yes,” a customer service representative at the SoHo New York Apple store told eWEEK.
Exactly like AT&T, Verizon is selling a 16GB version of the iPhone 4 starting at $199 and a 32GB version starting at $299; both prices are with new, two-year contracts. What’s different is their rate plans.
Both carriers offer voice plan options, with differing details, that run $40, $60 and $70. As for data plans, which are required, AT&T offers a $15/200MB plan, a $25/2GB plan and a $45 plan for 2GB and the ability to tether – or, extend your iPhone’s 3G connection – to “your Mac notebook or PC laptop,” AT&T writes in the fine print, seeming to say that the connection is for just one other device.
Messaging plans are separate – you can pay 20 cents per text or 30 cents with multimedia; $5 for 200 messages, $15 for 1,500 messages or $20 for unlimited messaging.
Verizon is offering an unlimited data plan (you’ll remember how well that worked out for AT&T, but to each their own) for $30 a month. Alternately, it’s offering a $50 plan that gets you unlimited data on the iPhone plus 2GB on a 3G Mobile Hotspot for tethering up to five WiFi-enabled devices. Additional data is $20 per GB. Verizon notes in its fine print that, “When using 3G Mobile Hotspot, all data (including data accessed on the iPhone) will count against your 2GB monthly allowance.”
Its messaging plan is the same for pay-per use, but its $5 plan gets you 250 messages and a $10 plan is for 500 messages. Unlimited messaging, as with AT&T, is $20.
At a glance, the phones are identical. “Same sleek, thin, satisfying, plastic-free body – all glass and metal,” The New York Times’ David Pogue wrote in his Feb. 2 review of the Verizon iPhone 4. “Same gorgeous high-resolution screen … Same battery life – you’ll need a recharge every night.” And same front and back cameras.
The one exterior difference is that, because the Verizon iPhone is based on CDMA (code division multiple access) technology, not GSM (global system for mobile communications), like AT&T’s, the antenna is different; because of this, the Ringer Off switch, according to Pogue, has been ever so slightly moved, which means the Verizon iPhone doesn’t perfectly work in an AT&T iPhone case.
A more meaningful difference is the Verizon iPhone’s Personal Hotspot – that tethering ability for the five devices, which can be laptops, iPod Touches or other WiFi-enabled devices.
Also because of its CDMA technology, which is less popular in the rest of the world than GSM, the Verizon iPhone works in 40 countries, compared to AT&T’s 220 countries. Pogue added that, again because of CDMA, the Verizon iPhone can only send 160-character text messages, and so breaks up longer messages into chunks.
Finally, the last CDMA gripe, the Verizon iPhone can’t surf the Web and accept a call at the same time – like AT&T users in the commercials do, checking movie times while making plans with a friend. Pogue, however, along with the Wall Street Journal’s Walter Mossberg, found this to not be such a big deal in real life.
The big deal, according to both journalists, was that the Verizon iPhone didn’t drop calls with nearly the frequency that AT&T’s does, even in frequency-challenged places like San Francisco. Mossberg also found the AT&T iPhone to deliver faster data speeds.
Though of course, he was testing it in a world in which maybe just a few dozen Verizon iPhones were live. After Feb. 10, it’s anyone’s guess what that figure will quickly climb to.
Finally, one last detail – not a hard-and-fast fact but a thing to keep in mind: Apple has updated AT&T’s iPhone each summer. There’s a question in the air of whether the Verizon iPhone will get the same updates then, or wait a full year.
Pogue posed this question to an Apple rep who, a little disconcertingly, responded, “Let’s put it this way: We’re not stupid.”
Maybe it’s best to just stick with the facts.