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What "Any App, Any Device" Really Means

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Nov 30, 2007, 3:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Phone Scoop took a few moments to speak with Verizon about its new open handset policy to get the real details.

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Tuesday's announcement from Verizon Wireless certainly stirred up some excitement in the wireless world. While on the surface, the "any apps, any device" mantra seems like a really, really good thing, there are a few caveats. In order to fully understand how the new policy will work, we spoke to Verizon's Nancy Stark to gain some perspective.

Two Customer Subsets

First and foremost, Verizon will continue to operate its existing retail and business models unchanged. It calls this new policy an additive measure.

For customers looking to walk into a Verizon retail store to purchase a new handset with service contract, that option will always remain. Customers who choose this path will be considered full service customers, and they will have access to all of Verizon's phones, and services and applications that are optimized for those devices, 24/7 support and so on.

The other way to obtain Verizon service is to bring your own device to the table. Where you get this device is entirely up to you, as are the applications you choose to download to it. What Verizon will provide customers who want to use their own hardware and services is network access only. You will not be able to take a non-Verizon handset to a Verizon retail store and have it activated there. Verizon will set up a web site and/or 1-800 number for people to use to activate third party handsets. These customers will not have access to the same support that full service customers do. Verizon will not provide support for the handsets or the applications. That will be the user's responsibility. Verizon will only provide support for network access issues.

According to Verizon's Stark, Verizon will continue to work with its existing handset partners to possibly develop additional, non-Verizon handsets that can be activated on Verizon's network, but aren't officially sold by Verizon. Verizon will activate any phone that uses CDMA technology and meets a minimum set of technical standards. Stark said people can build their own phones as far as Verizon is concerned.

Stark also made clear that network access will not be limited to phones. "Don't limit your thinking to devices, handsets, smartphones and PDAs. With 4G, there is going to be all kinds of devices with wireless modules that can access the networks, such as gaming devices, refrigerators, all kinds of consumer electronics."


As it stands, Verizon will publish a set of technical standards sometime in the first quarter of 2008. These standards will be distributed to handset and software developers, who will be given the opportunity to comment on the standards before a final version of standards is published. Verizon expects this process to take up to June 30, 2008. It then hopes to be able to roll out the activation service between July 1 and the end of 2008.

Unless customers bring in a homemade device, Verizon will assume the responsibility for testing and certifying the non-Verizon phones. Verizon will develop a rolling list of devices that are compatible with its network. People interested in activating a non-Verizon phone need only check this list prior to using the web site or 1-800 number to activate the phone. Stark was unable to answer what customers should do if the device they are interested in using is not listed, but suggested that there would be a separate 1-800 number for people to call in these instances.

Customers will not have to pay to have devices certified.

Pricing, Billing, Services

Verizon will offer basic voice, messaging and data services in the form of mobile Web access via its 1xRTT and EVDO networks. Non-Verizon phones will not be able to access Get It Now, or other Verizon-specific software or services, such as the V CAST Music store or other V CAST services. Stark did say, however, that Verizon will have an on-going dialog with its developers to see if Verizon services can eventually be offered on non-Verizon phones. From the onset, users will be limited to using the basic features of the handset they choose. If the handset comes from Sprint, any services that are proprietary to Sprint's network will not work, either.

Ms. Stark made it clear that it is way too early to comment on any sort of pricing for the network access services on non-Verizon phones. But as with current Verizon full service customers, Verizon will make it as easy as possible for non-Verizon phone users to sign up for services and be billed. She said billing will be post-paid initially, with bills sent to subscribers via snail mail, the Internet, straight to their handsets or a credit card, or however a customer chooses. She said pricing will be "in line" with what full service customers pay. Verizon is still considering a pre-paid model, but has nothing in place yet.

Text messaging will be available, but Stark was unable to confirm if picture messaging will be available.

With respect to mobile web/data, Stark said now that Verizon has adopted a per-Megabyte charging system, a similar rate system will be used to charge non-Verizon phone users for the data they use. She said rates will be comparable to the rates offered full service customers. "The biggest governing factor in mobile data usage charges is the customer's willingness to pay," she said.

This will also extend to wireless data cards, such as those from Sierra Wireless or Nortel or others.

Security, Linux, Java

Verizon will retain the right to refuse certain devices from accessing its network. Anything that it deems harmful to the network or harmful to others will not be activated. The same goes for software. If it detects software that will harm its network or other users of its network, that software will not be allowed to access the network.

Verizon has not finalized any thoughts on the limits of Linux or Java. "This is a technical issue that we haven't sorted out yet," said Stark. "Right now we are committed to preventing our network from being harmed."

Sprint, Alltel Phones

Stark reiterated that unlocked Sprint phones may be activated on Verizon's network already, and this will not change. As long as the phone is unlocked and free of any contractual obligation to Sprint, it will have basic voice and messaging services available on Verizon's network. The same goes for phones from Alltel or any other CDMA provider.

On the flip side of the coin, Sprint is also going to allow non-Sprint phones to be activated on its network. We asked Sprint to comment on this matter, and it offered us this statement via email:

"Currently, every device that accesses the Sprint National Network must meet Sprint's device standards and is subject to a device testing and certification process as a way of ensuring the highest service quality levels. We continually look for new ways to develop and expand the list of handsets that we allow on the Sprint National Network; however, we are careful to balance the desire for increased device access with ensuring an optimal user experience, network and brand integrity and protecting our customers' privacy and security.

Through relationships with third parties, dozens of non-Sprint branded services operate on our network – our most recent announcement was Amazon's Kindle. Of course these devices are subject to a device testing and certification process as a way of ensuring the highest service quality levels."

Final Thoughts

Verizon's Stark offered this in conclusion: "What we have announced the other day is obviously a concept. There are a lot of details that still to be worked out over the next few moths, We want to get information from developers, publish technical standards, and we want to hear input. Nothing is going to be finalized until we have all this input."

Stark reiterated that this is something Verizon has been thinking about for a long time. Because it has been testing various 4G platforms, Verizon knew it needed to evolve its business and that this was coming. "We know there are people out there who want to use Verizon's network, but not necessarily the devices or applications that we offer. These are customers who have their own stuff and want a second choice. These two worlds have been converging for a long time. With 4G on the horizon, we want to be able to meet the needs of our customers." The open handset policy will not only be used for Verizon's existing CDMA network, but will also extend to its future 4G network as well.

About the author, Eric M. Zeman:

Eric has been covering the mobile telecommunications industry for 17 years at various print and online publications. He studied at Rutgers Newark and University of Kentucky, and has a degree in writing. He likes playing guitar, attending concerts, listening to music, and driving sports cars.


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This forum is closed.


Dec 3, 2007, 3:31 PM

switching phones: how easy is it to do?

quick question...

actually, let me ramble for a bit of explanation first...

(scroll down for the actual question)

i have been with many different wireless carriers in the past (t-mobile, cingular, sprint, verizon, and cricket, to name a few) and from my experience, it is a lot easier to switch handsets if you're on a gsm carrier than it is if you're on a cdma carrier.
what i am familiar with is being able to take the sim card out of my old gsm phone, putting it into my new gsm phone, and having my service automatically transferred to the new phone.

however, anytime i've ever wanted to switch phones while i was on a cdma carrier, i've had to call customer service (hold times and agent's accents - AAARRRGGGHHH!!!) to get them to c...
phonerboi74 said:
quick question...

actually, let me ramble for a bit of explanation first...

(scroll down for the actual question)

i have been with many different wireless carriers in the past (t-mobile, cingular, sprint,
on sprint, upgrade eligibility is based on esn, unless the esn is changed by lockline - at least that has been my experience as a sprint customer the last five times i've been involved in it (whether for myself or any of my friends) over the past few...

Dec 1, 2007, 2:42 PM

CDMA = Verizon & Sprint

First of all, all the cool phones are GSM. Most of the other companies are GSM.

So big deal.. I can go to a Sprint store and buy another crappy phone that drains the battery fast and use it on Verizon's network but not get full customer service. (CDMA drains battery life 2x as fast as GSM) Oh, great joy.

Verizon phones and Sprint phone suck moose nuts. That new "awesome" Voyager.. not a full PDA, just a fun consumer phone ("iPhone Killer" my ass).

You can't use your phone in Europe with CDMA but you can with GSM... that is, unless you buy the "world traveler" phone which basically just switches to GSM when needed (you'll still have to purchase service from a new carrier in UK).

Verizon service is the most expensive around.
I love how all of these people are always hyping how you can use your phone overseas. I do hope you realize that 90% if not more of this countries population is never going to leave this country hauss. I dont use a cdma phone my company gave me a jank...
First of all, not all the cool phones are GSM. That's your opinion. I think that Sprint and Verizon both have some cool phones

Secondly, who cares if GSM is used everywhere else around the world. Most people aren't world travelers.

I myself love...
cleolicious said:
CDMA drains battery life 2x as fast as GSM.

Not true. There's a difference, but it's not 2x.

You can't use your phone in Europe with CDMA but you can with GSM... that is, unless you bu

Dec 7, 2007, 2:04 PM

So, will they unlock it?

I read the report... twice, and somehow I'm still a bit confused. Maybe I'm just special, someone help me out.... So will they unlock a phone for you? I noticed the part that said that they would continue to activate sprint, alltell and such phone on their network... so with this new thing, will they be unlocking them too? If not, what makes this move so different from what they were already doing?
I'm all for it, I just want some verification.

Dec 4, 2007, 4:12 PM

Verizon finally unlocking the chastity belt.

Verizon is making HUGE steps to come out of the gate first here. It's interesting because they are finally breaking out of their micro-view. I believe, in the past, Verizon thought of themselves as just a "Cellular Phone Service" provider. To me, this new news means they are changing their model and viewing themselves now as a "Wireless Communications" company.

We'll see how it all works out, looks like right now you will almost be punished (services wise) for having a non-Verizon device. As with all new changes it will be crazy at first, but after 24-36 months all the billing details/compatibility issues will ironed out and it will be smooth sailing.

I suspect after the sale of the new wireless spectrum and the development of the af...
I agree it's great to see them changing their strategy! For people like myself who refuse to sign up for TV, Vcast, or Data when I have all that at home and paying comcast way to much as it is, this is perfect! I only need solid VOICE and TXT, so to b...

Nov 30, 2007, 3:38 PM


This is a great article, THANK YOU phonescoop for clearing up as many details as humanly possible! 😁

I didn't know that you could already activate a sprint phone on verizons network, did anyone else?

I got an old junky Sanyo 7500 at home free and clear, how would i go about it? I'm assuming the online esn changer will not work, just head down to verizon and ask them πŸ˜•

Thank you
I already knew that. I have a friend's old Samsung SPH-i500 that I was meaning to test out.

Nov 30, 2007, 11:00 PM

sorry but.....

gsm uses dont have to pay more per month, they dont have to call in to get the phone activated you can walk in to any location and get service., if you have a sim card slot and the right bands your good to go.

i dont see why this is big news, the really question is why did it take so long.
please allow me to try to answer this question for you...

as far as i know, gsm networks have always had open handset policies because of the way the phones are built.
further, cdma networks have always been locked for the same reason.

let me e...

Dec 3, 2007, 5:20 AM


if i were to get a blackberry 8830 from sprint for the unlocked GPS capability, could i still tether my phone on vzw's data network? what, if any, would the data implications be?
The only guarantee is that you would have voice and text message capabilities. Any data connection to Verizon with a Sprint phone, reguardless that it's a simular model, will not be guaranteed.

Dec 2, 2007, 3:22 PM

Riddle me this.. simcards work?

Not sure how to ask this question. of if it applies. but in europe, you can have several phones and just slip your simcard into the thing when you want to use a particular phone. this type of thing is what i have wanted for a while. more than one phone, but one account. just use one phone at a time, by transferring card.

will something like this be available due to this change?
Simcards are for GSM phones, right now VZW is CDMA. Even the global phones that have simcards don't pick up the GSM bands used in the U.S. The 4g network should allow GSM is my understanding, but I admit I'm basing that off of limited information at ...

Nov 30, 2007, 8:36 PM

So will you be able to...

buy a Verizon handset without a contract and unlock it to be used on another carrier?
Yeah... but don't expect to use all the features of the phone. If say you had a Voyager... you will be limited to Voice and Text messaging. No Web, navigation, No pix messaging.
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