iPhone

Verizon officially lands iPhone: Answers to five big questions

It's official. Verizon is getting the iPhone. There are five big questions that we've been hearing in relation to the iPhone 4 launch on Verizon. Here are the answers.

It's official. AT&T's deal as the exclusive US carrier for the iPhone has ended (apparently the 4-year deal concluded at the end of 2010), and Verizon is the first new US telecom to add the iPhone to its roster. The long-anticipated move was announced at a Verizon press event at New York's Lincoln Center on Tuesday in the midst of a circus atmosphere that included the tech press, all of the national news networks, and even The Daily Show.

The iPhone 4 will arrive on Verizon on February 10. Current Verizon customers will be able to pre-order online starting February 3. The price of the iPhone will remain the same: $199 for 16GB and $299 for 32GB, with a two-year Verizon contract. As for the price of Verizon data plans for the iPhone, Verizon coyly stated, "Customers will also be required to activate a data package. Pricing will be announced at a later date."

It's odd that the iPhone wouldn't simply use the existing Verizon 3G data plans. This seems to indicate a couple possible scenarios. Either: 1.) Verizon is going to have a special data plan just for the iPhone (it has been rumored that Verizon would offer a truly unlimited data plan for iPhone), or 2.) Verizon is about to change the price of all of its 3G data plans in conjunction with the iPhone launch.

Beyond the basic details, here are answers to five big questions that we've been hearing from our audience in relation to the iPhone finally landing on Verizon:

1. Will it be CDMA or LTE?

Unfortunately, the iPhone 4 will only run on Verizon's 3G CDMA network and not on its newly-launched 4G LTE network. This was the biggest disappointment of the Verizon iPhone announcement, especially since upcoming Android devices like the HTC Thunderbolt and Motorola Droid Bionic will be running on the LTE superhighway in a few months. At CES last week I tested the HTC Thunderbolt on the Verizon LTE network and was blown away by the desktop-like speeds for loading Web pages. At today's press event Apple said that including LTE in the iPhone 4 would have involved "design compromises" (probably in size and battery life) and would have taken longer before it was ready to launch. However, both Apple and Verizon stated that this is just the beginning of their partnership (Translation: Expect an LTE-capable iPhone in the future).

2. Will it have mobile hotspot capability?

The biggest surprise of the Verizon iPhone announcement -- and arguably the biggest news of the press conference since everything else was pretty much as expected -- was that the Verizon version of the iPhone will offer the capability of turning itself into a mobile hotspot that can share its 3G Internet connection over Wi-Fi with up to five devices. Again, no information was provided on whether Verizon will charge extra for mobile hotspot capability. Verizon has wide variations in its treatment of tethering and mobile hotspot charges. It has charged Android users an additional fee for it, but threw it in for free to Palm Pre Plus users. What they do with the iPhone will probably depend on how aggressively the company wants to try to poach current AT&T iPhone customers.

Photo credit: CNET | CBS Interactive

3. Does new Verizon model fix iPhone 4's antenna?

As you've probably heard, when the iPhone 4 first launched last June there were a bunch of customers who experienced antenna problems when holding the iPhone in a way that covered a sensitive portion of the antenna in the lower left-hand corner of the phone. The problem was drastically overblown by the tech press and drastically understated by Apple. In the end, Apple said the problem was significantly reduced if you use an iPhone case and offered free cases to buyers. A number of people have asked if Apple has fixed the problem in this new iteration of the iPhone 4 for Verizon. Naturally, Apple hasn't said that it has changed anything with the iPhone antenna, but a closer look at the Verizon iPhone shows that it does indeed have a different antenna design and early reports indicate that the Verizon iPhone is not exhibiting the antenna problems.

4. Can you transfer an existing iPhone to Verizon?

The AT&T version of both the iPhone 3GS (which just got a price drop to $50) and iPhone 4 are built on what's called GSM radio technology (used by both AT&T and T-Mobile in the US). Meanwhile, Verizon and Sprint use a completely different technology called CDMA. The two standards are incompatible. They use different radios and operate on different wireless frequencies. So, no, you cannot take your existing AT&T iPhone and walk into a Verizon store and simply switch networks. Even if you own an iPhone 4 you will have to purchase a completely new iPhone 4 with CDMA chips in order for it to work on Verizon.

5. Will iPhone kill Verizon's network like it did to AT&T?

Another question that we heard a lot leading up to the expected announcement of the Verizon iPhone today was whether the influx of millions of new iPhone users would bring the Verizon network to its knees the same way it has crushed the AT&T network in areas such as New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles and at big events like CES and SXSW. I think the answer is "no," for several reasons. First of all, Verizon is a lot more serious than any of the other US wireless carriers when it comes to network integrity. They aggressively test and audit their own network, so I'll think they'll be ready. Second, they just beefed up all of their cell sites to handle additional bandwidth and network load for the launch of their 4G LTE network in 38 cities and they are in the process of upgrading the rest of the US to LTE over the next 24-36 months. Third, while there will be plenty of existing Verizon customers who jump on board with the iPhone and some die-hards who jump from AT&T to Verizon, the vast majority of iPhone customers will remain on AT&T because they are under contract and leaving would be prohibitively expensive.

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About

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 upcoming book, Follow the Geeks (bit.ly/ftgeeks).

19 comments
csnk
csnk

i'll be waiting on that LTE version. no way i'm going all in on the iphone until then. Droid first!

csnk
csnk

Actually the 'true' winner is Samsung since they provide ALL the A4 chips used in the iPhones and they are the largest Android handset manufacturer.. :P Crafts Factory

mohillic
mohillic

i'll be waiting on that LTE version. no way i'm going all in on the iphone until then. Droid first!

supersum
supersum

All mobile providers are the same. They all drop calls, they all dont work in particular locations. Will Verizon dominate? Its just another provider offering the iphone. Apple is the winner in this game.

Xennex1170
Xennex1170

Actually the 'true' winner is Samsung since they provide ALL the A4 chips used in the iPhones and they are the largest Android handset manufacturer.. :P

Animal13
Animal13

Grizzlydude, Did Verizon pay you to post that? I was checking my notes today and yes, Verizon's CDMA does not allow simultaneous voice and data: "The change, of course, is the addition of the CDMA radio to support VZW bands. Unfortunately, Verizon has confirmed that CDMA???s long-standing achilles heel ??? it???s inability to access the Internet and use the phone at the same time ??? will carry over to the Verizon iPhone. " Nice Try GrizzlyDude

TNT
TNT

I think another reason Verizon's network will not be overwhelmed the way AT&T's was is it's not offered on LTE. While there will be some who are coming off contract and really want an iPhone now, I think many will wait until the LTE version comes available next year. That gives AT&T exactly 12 months to get their network upgraded and win consumer loyalty.

klapper
klapper

The GSM iPhone for AT&T works well with international networks and supports UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA. Several people here have the AT&T unlimited international data plan for iPhone. Any word on the international functionality and plan offerings for the Verizon CDMA iPhone?

mhbowman
mhbowman

Nice article!! I love Apple products but can't deal with a touch screen, so I selected the Droid and have been happy with it. @YawningDog: Your experience with Verizon sounds like my experience with Sprint, and I'd never go back. As far as bill pay goes. I set all mine up through my bank as opposed to managing multiple locations.

yawningdogge
yawningdogge

They have a good network, I will grant them that. But their customer service and business practices have made me hopping mad so many times that I hate them with a purple passion. I used to have Alltel, until Verizon bought them. My WWAN speeds immediately went from 500k downloads to 9k. (In the middle of a work-related, 100mb virus definition download.) I called, they hung up on me. I called again, they hung up on me again. The third time I called, they said I needed a new modem. Fine. I can log into their website, but I cannot view or pay my bill. I don't get a bill in the mail either. I have to call them (On my sprint phone) in order to pay my bill. Two people have warned me not to sign up for automatic billpay because even once your contract runs out and you tell them to shut off their service, they will continue to draft your account. I have Verizon Fios at home (my only home internet option.) The installer unplugged my satellite connection to install the modem and never re-connected it and never bothered to tell me. He also loaded a ton of bloatware on my laptop. They have also signed me up for automatic billpay, which I never authorized. Fios is smokin' fast, and their wireless network is rock-solid. But I really, really hate Verizon.

gunga55
gunga55

If you still have Alltel you can only use alltel towers, and not verizon's. Also all deals that Alltel had with others to use their towers is no gone. Also Verizon is starting to "replace" the Alltel towers. I am not sure exactly what that means. It might be that they are upgrading or converting them over to "full" Verizon towers. It comes down to Verizon wants every one to re-sign. I personally will be going over to Spint but that is just me. (ok I really want an Evo)

jbrill1012
jbrill1012

Please before you start to open your mouth about things, know what you're talking about. Verizon and Alltel had a long standing relationship for roaming on each others networks and nothing changed to a point when this came about. Yes they had to make adjustments and in making those, a lot of customers didn't get taken care of properly. I can tell you how ever there are things such as surveys put into place that you as a customer should fully exercise. There's nothing that I hate more than to see an upset customer and I did everything I could to try and get that customer taken care of. You find yourself being mistreated by a company I can guarantee that if you speak to the right person (managers, district managers, regional managers, all the way up to the CEO)it will get taken care of. For a company such the size as Verizon Wireless they don't want to lose customers because that's their bottom line and revenue source. No you can't go and write an e-mail to the CEO and act like an idiot then expect anything. I can how ever speak on behalf of Verizon Wireless' as an ex-employee and say they are customer service focused, but you need to have a bit of patients and follow the chain of command through the management as with any company. It's hard to see results if you fail to give their management a chance to fix things. Yes I understand you have jobs to do and it may not always be convenient for you to do so. When it comes to the transition of 2 companies merging together, there are always going to be snags it's inevitable.

chaapala
chaapala

They will be sold on Ebay, given to the kids, whatever, when the current owner jumps to VZW. AT&T will still have the traffic from many of those phones.

Realvdude
Realvdude

There is also the fact that this is four years after the ATT issue. I imagine that all providers have extensively improved their networks since then, knowing that data consumption was only going to grow.

Animal13
Animal13

Verizon / CDMA has not fixed their limitation of using the phone and Internet at the same time. If you are on the Internet and take a call the Internet is dropped. Verizon's answer is to aggressively look for local wifi hotspots so you can be on the Internet and phone at the same time. If I'm on a local wifi hotspot, why would I need tethering? If I am am sharing my phone Internet by becoming a tethering hotspot, what happens to the other 5 people depending on me for Internet? They lose their Internet, that's what. I can already hear the cries of anguish, " Animal! Get off the phone so I can finish uploading the report.". There's a reason the included Verizon bloatware is a hotspot seeker...

Grizzlydude
Grizzlydude

I use my phone and surf the web all the time from my Incredible on Verizon's network. Recently on a family trip my kids were watching youtube videos on a tethered laptop,I was using the GPS and my wife was talking on the bluetooth while going down the highway in the middle of nowhere. I loved it.

mattohare
mattohare

If it's not GSM, I expect it will not work in most of the rest of the world? I think all the faster coverage here around Europe is all GSM. Sounds like the Vzw iPhone would only work in wireless hotspots?

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