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Flipping the Switch

January 12, 2011 - Dave Hecei
The switch will soon start. Yes, the iPhone has another carrier. On Tuesday, January 11th Verizon Wireless held a press event in NYC. Most of the tech and traditional news sources (like the Wall Street Journal) were all guessing that a Verizon based iPhone was about to be announced. After two years of rumors and wishes, they are finally right.

Before today, if you wanted an Apple iPhone you had to use AT&T as your wireless carrier. AT&T uses the global friendly GSM cellular system, which is not compatible with Verizon’s CDMA or Sprint’s PCS network. AT&T has been the exclusive carrier for the iPhone since 2007.

Starting February 10th you will be able to purchase an iPhone 4 that is compatible with Verizon’s CDMA network and their 3G data system. Unfortunately, this new version of the iPhone 4 will not work with Verizon’s new 4G network they are currently deploying across the country.

AT&T got the iPhone in 2007. Since then, AT&T has had a bumpy ride. They regularly rate at or near the bottom in polls for service, connectivity, dropped calls, or customer support. Of course the quality of service seemed to be very regionalized. In the east, AT&T seems to be quite solid. The west is another story. Call and data connection quality also seemed to be tied directly to population. In places like San Francisco, where cell towers are sparse compared to the population, there are plenty of reports of dropped calls and poor data connections.

Sure, there will be plenty of people who have tired of AT&T's service and will jump ship with the new Verizon iPhone. This is something that could end up costing you a hefty termination fee (check you contract). Add that to the cost of getting a new phone and service contract and the cost could shock you.

The other thing to think about is your own contract. If you have had your iPhone for a while now you may have one of the truly ‘unlimited’ data plans. When the iPad was first introduced, AT&T came out with a killer plan that gave you true unlimited data. Somehow most other service providers call their plans ‘unlimited’ but the fine print will almost always say something like ‘reasonable usage – maximum of 5GB of data’. If you went over this 5GB of data you were charged for any overage – usually around $10 to $20 per GB. If you are grandfathered into one of the truly unlimited plans you probably don’t want to switch.

There is also something else that may come from this new deal. If a bunch of people jump ship to Verizon, this will free up the congested AT&T network. It will be interesting to see how Verizon handles all this new strain on their network.

Choice is always good, and so is competition. I doubt there will be much in the way of price wars between these two giants.

Verizon will be flipping the switch next month.


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