I got a chance to test drive the long-awaited Verizon iPhone this week. I'm not going to bore you by writing a product review. It's essentially the same iPhone 4 that's on AT&T and I've already reviewed it. My colleague Bill Detwiler will be doing a thorough Cracking Open to show how the technology differs on the inside and you can take a look at my photo gallery of the Verizon iPhone to learn some of the subtle product differences.
For my part, I think the most important thing to talk about is who should be lining up to buy the Verizon iPhone, and even more importantly, who should wait. Here are my recommendations.
See full photo gallery. Photo credit: Jason Hiner | TechRepublic
Who should buy
- Verizon customers in a holding pattern - There are lots of existing Verizon customers who have been holding on to an old BlackBerry, Windows Mobile device, or feature phone while waiting for the iPhone to finally arrive on Verizon. Since there have been a steady stream of rumors for over two years predicting the iPhone's imminent arrival on the biggest wireless network in the US, most of these people have expired two-year contracts and old devices (and they've proven they don't mind holding on to a device for a while). These are prime candidates for the Verizon iPhone, especially if they already use an iPod and/or iTunes.
- iPhone users in an AT&T dead zone - For many current iPhone users in San Francisco as well as parts of Silicon Valley, New York, and Los Angeles, the AT&T service is so inconsistent and unreliable (because of the high density of data hungry iPhone users) that they might as well have an iPod Touch instead of an iPhone. For them, having an iPhone that can make phone calls without dropping and get consistent data service is worth whatever they have to pay in AT&T breakup fees.
- Those not in an LTE city - If you're not in one of the 38 cities that has Verizon's 4G LTE service (and not in a large metro area that's likely to get it in 2011), then there's no reason to hold for an LTE version of the iPhone 5, which we could see in the second half of 2011.
Who should wait
- People currently under contract - If you're currently under a Verizon contract with an Android or BlackBerry device, or under an iPhone contract with AT&T (and getting decent service), or under contract with another wireless provider, I'd warn against breaking your contract in order to get Verizon's first iPhone. If you're getting decent service and are relatively happy where you are, but simply prefer an iPhone to what you have now, I'd suggest that you wait it out. It's quite likely that the iPhone 5 will be coming to Verizon within the next six months, and it may even have a dual core processor and LTE.
- People in LTE cities - If you're in one of the 38 Verizon LTE cities then it makes no sense to get a device that's not LTE-capable and this first Verizon iPhone is not. LTE is a major game-changer. As I reported in my post about the HTC Thunderbolt from CES last month, I was able to surf the Web at desktop speeds on that device and was blown away by the low latency. With three strong Android devices — the HTC Thunderbolt, LG Revolution, and Droid Bionic — launching with LTE capability in the coming months and an LTE version of the iPhone looming later this year, I think people in LTE cities will regret it if they lock themselves into a non-LTE device for the next couple years.
- Early adopters - If you are a gadget lover who tends to be an early adopter of the latest and greatest devices, the Verizon iPhone is not a good idea. Remember that this is last year's technology adapted to the Verizon network. In the next several months there are going to be some very impressive smartphones hitting the market, including the three LTE phones I mentioned above and the Motorola Atrix 4G (possibly the groundbreaking device of the year). And, don't forget that the iPhone 5 is right around the corner and will probably be announced in June. With dual core processors, 4G LTE, and NFC likely to be introduced into lots of new phones in 2011, technophiles won't want to be stuck with last year's technology.
Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.