Like many iPhone users, I love my device but am sometimes aggravated by my service. I don’t live in New York City or San Francisco, so I don’t have the extreme problems some of my friends do, but I note that sometimes I’ll be sitting on my couch in the living room and phone calls will go straight to voicemail, or txt msgs and emails will not make it to me until quite awhile after they were sent.
You might think, therefore, that Tuesday’s official announcement that the iPhone is actually coming to Verizon Wireless would be something I’d be excited about… Unfortunately for me, and for Verizon Wireless, I’m not the least bit excited about the new opportunity, and I’ll tell you why.
First and foremost, there’s a big financial cost to switching. AT&T and Verizon use different wireless technologies, which means my existing iPhone 4 won’t work on their network. I would have to buy a new iPhone if I want to jump ship from AT&T and bring my service to Verizon — we’re talking a minimum of $199 and that’s if I want the low-end iPhone 4 model, which would be a step down from where I am now. So let’s say $299 for a comparable model.
Next, I’ve got divorcing from AT&T to deal with. Like the large majority of people who currently have an iPhone 4, I signed the technological equivalent of a prenup with AT&T Wireless when I got the new gadget over the summer at a discounted rate. AT&T was clever and offered device upgrades to people at a discount, as long as they agreed to a new 2-year contract… So I’m locked into this contract until June 2012, unless I’m willing to pay an “Early Termination Fee” per my contract.
What’s worse, many wireless companies have increased the cost of their ETF in the last year. Anyone who purchased an iPhone 4 at an AT&T-subsidized price agreed to pay an ETF of $325 for breaking the contract early, minus $10 per month of service. So for me to get out of my current contract in February, I’d be looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of $245 (plus or minus $10, depending on how they calculate months of service) in order to stop paying my monthly bill to AT&T.
So, we’re talking roughly $550 to walk away from AT&T Wireless and get a new iPhone 4 on Verizon’s service. Yes, I could likely sell my AT&T iPhone 4 on eBay for a few hundred of that, but that’s always a gamble.
Really, though, no matter how cranky I would be with AT&T, there are two major factors that would discourage me from switching, even if I was willing to pay the financial costs to move away from AT&T’s occasionally spotty service:
- The Verizon Wireless iPhone will be using CDMA technology on Verizon’s 3G network, which doesn’t get all of the increased speeds of their upgraded 4G network. I might get more reliable signal, but the speed will be less. And what’s even worse, I wouldn’t be able to use data service (Internet browsing, applications, etc.) while on a voice call, which is an absolute deal-breaker for me with as much as I’ve come to use my iPhone.
- If Apple stays true to form, the original UMTS-technology iPhone that AT&T uses will be up for a device upgrade this summer. When the iPhone 5 comes out for AT&T subscribers, Verizon will most likely still be pushing sales of their recently-developed iPhone 4 device, which means their CDMA upgrade is probably several months behind the UMTS one.
Ultimately, these two factors alone would be enough to stop me dead in my tracks, completely ignoring the switching cost of several hundred dollars. My suspicion is that heavy iPhone users who stop and think about it will realize that they may not want to make the change, either.
Will NEW iPhone customers probably flock to Verizon Wireless, especially if they’re existing Verizon customers who like their service? Absolutely. People who aren’t currently iPhone users may not be as bothered by the inability to talk and use the Internet at the same time, either, if they aren’t already accustomed to that functionality with a different smartphone device.
Will there be a mass exodus of existing AT&T iPhone users who break their contracts early and run to Verizon instead, spending several hundred dollars in the process and losing some functionality? Not bloody likely.
I’m staying put. But I will happily welcome my friends on Verizon’s network to the iPhone family. And if they ask nicely, I might even look stuff up for them on my iPhone while they’re talking on theirs and unable to do so. Maybe.