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Old 02-09-2011, 04:13 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Upgrade Your Life: Reasons to hold off on the Verizon iPhone

Millions of iPhone users annoyed by the dropped calls and spotty data connections on AT&T have been waiting patiently for a Verizon iPhone—and after years of rumors and endless hype, it's finally here. You may want to think twice before trading in your AT&T iPhone for one from Verizon Wireless, however.

In this week's episode of Upgrade Your Life, Yahoo! News' Becky Worley ticks off a series of reasons why you might want to look before making the Verizon iPhone leap, starting with:

1. Will Verizon's network handle the iPhone onslaught?

As Becky points out, perhaps the main reason that so many iPhone users on AT&T are dying to jump to Verizon is that they're sick of so many dropped calls—and indeed, a Consumer Reports customer satisfaction survey from late last year put AT&T in last place thanks to its shoddy call quality. Verizon Wireless, on the other hand, ranked No. 2 for customer satisfaction in the Consumer Reports survey, right behind regional carrier U.S. Cellular.

So, case closed? Well, not quite. What'll happen once all those new Verizon iPhone users—up to nine million this year, according to a recent estimate—start making calls and firing up data-hungry apps? Might Verizon's much-heralded network buckle under the strain, just as AT&T's did?

Good question. For its part, Verizon has stressed that it already handles a slew of data-intensive Android smartphones, and that the carrier wouldn't "offer devices our network is not prepared to support." But wireless analysts have warned the Los Angeles Times that Verizon's network may not "be the panacea that a lot of consumers are expecting" after the expected "flood of customers" materializes. Verizon already appears to be hedging its bets, recently announcing that it will slow down (or "throttle") data speeds for the small percentage of smartphone users who consumer an "extraordinary" amount of data.

In any case, we won't know for sure how the iPhone will impact Verizon's network until those millions of new iPhone users start activating their handsets—and that's a good reason for taking a wait-and-see attitude, Becky suggests.

2. Making calls around the world

While AT&T and Verizon Wireless are both in the cellular business, they each use different, incompatible network technologies: GSM for AT&T, CDMA for Verizon. Besides the technical differences between the two networks (such as the fact that GSM phones use SIM cards, while CDMA handsets don't), there's the practical matter of coverage. While CDMA networks are prevalent in North America and Asia, GSM rules the roost almost everyone else, especially in Europe.

While Verizon offers a few dual-mode GSM/CDMA "world phones" (such as the Motorola Droid Pro) that'll works just about anywhere, the Verizon iPhone is a CDMA-only model that operates in just 40-odd countries, versus more than 200 for AT&T's GSM-based iPhone.

Of course, there's nothing stopping you from using the iPhone's Wi-Fi connection while you're overseas for e-mail or Skype calls, provided there's a trustworthy Wi-Fi network in range. But if you're a globe-trotting, iPhone-toting jet-setter who needs to make frequent calls, you might be better off sticking with AT&T, Becky says—or waiting until Verizon offers a "world phone" version of the iPhone.

3. Speedy 3G data

Sure, we've all seen those Verizon 3G coverage maps that show the U.S. bathed in a dramatic swath of red, versus a spotty blue patchwork for AT&T's national 3G coverage. But while Verizon may snare the brass ring in terms of coverage, AT&T has been turning heads with the sheer speed of its 3G network.

In the 2010 edition of its annual test of wireless data networks, PC World crowned AT&T and its HSPA-powered network the winner with an average download speed of 1.4Mbps, versus 877 Kbps for Verizon. Meanwhile, early reviewers of the Verizon iPhone have remarked that AT&T's 3G data speeds are a good 40 percent (or more) faster than Verizon's. (Of course, that's assuming you can get a decent AT&T signal.)

All that could change once there's an iPhone that supports Verizon's speedy, just-launched 4G LTE network, which boasts blistering download speeds between 5Mbps and 12Mbps—and that's another good reason to wait, Becky notes.

4. Chatting and surfing at the same time

Another downside to CDMA compared to GSM is that CDMA technology doesn't allow for simultaneous voice and data calls—meaning that if you're surfing away on your Verizon iPhone over 3G, you'll have to put the Web or any data-enabled apps on hold until you hang up. That's opposed to AT&T's GSM network, which does allow for voice calls and data use at the same time.

Of course, Verizon's new 4G LTE network will let you talk and surf simultaneously—but for now, the Verizon iPhone doesn't support LTE. All the more reason to cool your heels, Becky says.

5. The iPhone 5, coming soon?

Neither Apple nor Verizon will say anything official about the new iPhone that's surely around the corner. Given that Apple has announced its latest and greatest iPhone models every summer for three years running, however, it's a safe bet that we'll be seeing the iPhone 5—or whatever it ends up being called—in June or July, just a few months from now.

The latest rumors point toward a dual-core processor for the new iPhone, similar to the latest dual-core, Android-powered speed demons that are starting to hit the market. There's also chatter that the next iPhone might be a dual-mode CDMA/GSM "world phone." And who knows—the next iPhone might even arrive with support for Verizon's ballyhooed 4G LTE network.

Of course, it's always possible that AT&T and Verizon are on different iPhone cycles, meaning that AT&T will get a new iPhone in June/July while Verizon customers will have to wait until next February, a year after the arrival of the first Verizon iPhone.

In any case, says Becky, there's a decent chance that Verizon's new iPhone 4 will be outdated just a few months from now—a good reason, perhaps, to wait until summer to see what Apple has on tap.
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