Apple's mega-popular iPhone hits Verizon Wireless store shelves in the United States today. But before you rush out to buy a Verizon iPhone 4 of your own, CIO.com's Al Sacco says there are some things you should know.
By Al Sacco
Managing Editor, CIO
Today is the big day; the Apple iPhone is finally available in the United States through a wireless carrier other than AT&T. Verizon Wireless’s iPhone 4 smartphone can now be purchased in Apple Stores, Best Buys, Walmarts, and Verizon Wireless retail locations…while supplies last, of course.
But I have a few things you might want to consider before dashing out to wait in line for a Verizon iPhone 4 of your own. In fact, in most cases, I’d advise potential Verizon iPhone 4 buyers to hold off completely on buying Apple’s current iPhone model. Why, you ask? Keep reading.
Apple released the AT&T iPhone 4 on June 24, 2010, almost eight months ago. And in the world of technology, a LOT can change in eight months’ time. Unfortunately, very little has changed about the iPhone 4; the iPhone 4 model being sold by Verizon does have a different cellular radio, a slightly modified antennae design than the original AT&T iPhone 4, as well as a shifted mute button…but that’s about all that’s been changed.
In other words, Verizon iPhone 4 buyers really aren’t getting a “new” device, at least in my opinion. And the Verizon iPhone 4 offers few to no advantages over its AT&T brethren. With the arrival of the iPhone 5 expected this coming Juneassuming Apple sticks to its past release schedule of a new iPhone each summerit would be a wise move for most folks to hold off on signing a two-year Verizon contract for the iPhone 4. The iPhone 5 will surely pack a variety of cool new features and functionality that’ll leave many iPhone 4 users craving more.
2) No Simultaneous Voice/Data Transmission for Verizon iPhone 4
The Verizon Apple iPhone 4 is a 3G, CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A device, and due to limitations with the CDMA wireless technology, the device cannot simultaneously transfer voice and data over the cellular network. In other words, Verizon iPhone 4 users will not be able to make a phone call and then search for information on the Web while on a callat least when only connected to Verizon’s network. This issue is not limited to the iPhone; none of Verizon’s 3G CDMA devices support simultaneous voice/data transfer.
This fact may not seem like a big deal to existing Verizon users because most won’t know what they’re missing, but AT&T or T-Mobile 3G users switching to Verizon for the iPhone could very much miss the functionalityI certainly do when I use a Verizon smartphone. The next version of the iPhone, expected in just a few months, could very well support LTE, which would provide for simultaneous voice and data transfer, and it will almost be a “world phone” that could be used on both CDMA and GSM networks in the United States and elsewhere.
3) Verizon iPhone 4 is Pricey
The Verizon iPhone 4 is available in two versions: a 16GB model that retails for $199.99, and a 32GB model for $299.99, each requiring a two-year Verizon service agreement. Those are the exact same prices that AT&T assigned to its 16GB and 32GB iPhone 4 models when the devices were released last June.
In my opinion, a device that is eight months old should NOT cost as much as it did when initially releasedno matter how popular it is. I would’ve liked to see Verizon undercut AT&T by $50 or so on each model.
The iPhone 5 release is likely only a few months away, as mentioned above, which makes the Verizon iPhone 4 price tags seem all the more unreasonable, especially when you consider that the iPhone 5 is likely to cost the same but will pack a much more powerful feature set.
4) Verizon iPhone 4 is Delicate, Breaks Easily
The Apple iPhone 4 is not exactly built to last, and the Verizon version isn’t any different. The device has glass on both its front and rear faces, and though this design may be pleasing to the eyes, it’s hardly durable.
For example, iPhone 4 screens break a whopping 82 percent more than iPhone 3GS screens, according to SquareTrade, an iPhone warranty provider. In addition, 4.7 percent of iPhone 4 owners say they damaged their Apple smartphones during the first four months of ownership, compared to 2.8 percent of iPhone 3GS owners who reported damage in the first months after their purchases, according to SquareTrade.
No official information is available on the iPhone 5, so it’s unclear if Apple will resolve or at least reduce the iPhone 4 breakage problem. But if you’re someone who generally abuses your smartphone, or just someone who drops it frequently, you should consider a device other than the iPhone&.either that, or get yourself a quality iPhone 4 case.
5) Like It or Not, Apple iPhone is Tied to iTunes
Apple designed the iPhone to function in conjunction with its proprietary iTunes music service and software application, and as such, iPhone users are very much tied to iTunesyour device can only sync with one iTunes library at a time, you can only purchase and load official mobile applications using iTunes, etc.
“Jailbreaking” iPhones, or unlocking the devices from many of Apple constraints, does away with many of the iPhone’s iTunes ties, but it can also open up a whole other can of worms. (Think: weaker security and degraded device performance.) This is not just true of the Verizon iPhone, but all previous iPhone models on all wireless carriers.
If you’re already an iTunes user, you might not really mind the iPhone/iTunes integration. But folks who have avoided or simply do not want to use Apple’s music service and associated software may want to steer clear of the iPhone.
6) Verizon iPhone 4…Antennae Issues?
This is the last point I’ve included in my reasons to hold off on buying Verizon’s iPhone 4, and I purposely put it at the end of the list because antennae issues surely will not be an issue for all Verizon iPhone 4 users. However, if you live or spend lots of time in an area with weak or inconsistent Verizon Wireless 3G coverage, and you tend to hold your phone in a decidedly firm grip, you could find yourself experiencing the wireless signal attenuation problems that plagued Apple’s AT&T iPhone 4 launch last summer, formerly dubbed “antennae-gate,” according to iLounge.
A little history on antennae-gate: Shortly after the AT&T iPhone 4 launch, handfuls of users reported issues with iPhone signal strength when holding the device a certain way. It was later determined that the iPhone 4’s initial antennae design meant that users’ could hold the device a certain way to block the antenna and, therein, inadvertently cause wireless signal issues. Apple admitted the problem…sort of. And it offered its earlier iPhone 4 customers free “bumper” cases that helped to reduce the signal attenuation problem.
But according to iLounge, some Verizon iPhone 4 users will still experience the same issue. So, again, you may want to think twice about scooping up that Verizon iPhone 4, or hold off completely, without first testing one at home and/or at your office, etc., to make sure you don’t find yourself constantly dropping a wireless signal.
Al Sacco covers Mobile and Wireless for CIO.com. Follow Al on Twitter @ASacco. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Al at ASacco@CIO.com.
Al Sacco was a journalist, blogger and editor who covers the fast-paced mobile beat for CIO.com and IDG Enterprise, with a focus on wearable tech, smartphones and tablet PCs. Al managed CIO.com writers and contributors, covered news, and shared insightful expert analysis of key industry happenings. He also wrote a wide variety of tutorials and how-tos to help readers get the most out of their gadgets, and regularly offered up recommendations on software for a number of mobile platforms. Al resides in Boston and is a passionate reader, traveler, beer lover, film buff and Red Sox fan.