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What Will a Verizon iPhone Mean to You?

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Jan 10, 2011, 12:07 PM   by Philip Berne

After months of speculation, it seems Verizon Wireless might finally launch an iPhone at an event in New York's Lincoln Center tomorrow, January 11. Here's what a Verizon iPhone might mean for you.

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Phone Scoop and a number of other publications have been invited to a Verizon Wireless event in New York City this Tuesday, January 11. Current speculation has us believing that Verizon might finally announce its own model of the Apple iPhone. But the speculation ends there. We have no official confirmation from Apple, and even if we knew for sure that an iPhone would launch this week, what exactly would that iPhone look like? What would it have on the inside?

More importantly, though, what is it going to take to buy one? Assuming you already have a cell phone contract, on Verizon Wireless or any of the major, nationwide carriers, what would buying an iPhone actually cost you?

Jumping Ship

If you are currently a Verizon Wireless customer under contract, you probably won't be able to pick up an Apple iPhone on Verizon for the lowest price available. Depending on how long you have left on your current contract, you will probably have to pay an upgrade fee (around $20 or so), and then pay for the new iPhone at almost the full price of the device. You might find some wiggle room here with the right salesperson, but Verizon Wireless does not offer early upgrades, like you'll find on T-Mobile.

When AT&T originally launched its iPhone, it allowed all existing customers to sign up for a new contract and buy the iPhone at the lowest price. Even if you had just signed a 2-year contract and purchased another phone the day before, you got the best price for the iPhone. AT&T also extended its eligibility requirements for the iPhone 4 to allow more customers to buy one for less. It is possible that Verizon Wireless could be more aggressive trying to draw buyers to its new iPhone, so we'll keep an eye out for special deals, especially for existing customers.

  Initial ETF for Smartphones Decrease in ETF Initial ETF for Feature Phones Decrease in ETF
AT&T $325 $10 per month $150 $4 per month
Verizon Wireless $350 $10 per month $175 $5 per month
Sprint $200 $10 per month after 5th month until $50 minimum ETF. $200 $10 per month after 5th month until $50 minimum ETF.
T-Mobile $200 $100 with 180 days remaining. $50 with 90 days remaining. Lesser of $50 or monthly rate with 1 month remaining. $200 $100 with 180 days remaining. $50 with 90 days remaining. Lesser of $50 or monthly rate with 1 month remaining.

If you're not already a Verizon Wireless customer, and you're under contract with a different provider, you're going to have to pay an early termination fee (ETF). The good news is that jumping ship from other carriers to Verizon is less expensive than trying to leave The Network. Verizon Wireless charges $350 to dump your expensive smartphone plan, or $175 if you have a more basic device. For every month of service, Verizon drops the ETF on smartphones by $10, or by $5 for more basic phones.

If you're defecting from AT&T, you'll be paying $325 if you drop your contract in the first month. But for every month you've stuck with Big Blue, you'll pay $10 less. So, if you bought an iPhone 4 last June, and it's been 7 months since you signed a contract, AT&T knocks $70 off your fee, and you only pay $255. If you have a feature phone, and not a smartphone, your ETF on AT&T starts at only $150, but AT&T drops a mere $4 off the fee for every month you pay for service.

If you're leaving Sprint, expect to pay a $200 ETF if you're in your first 5 months of service. After 5 months, Sprint drops its ETF by $10 per month, until you're down to $50 five months from the end of your contract. At that point, $50 is the lowest you'll pay to leave Sprint early.

T-Mobile is a bit more complicated. If you have more than 6 months (180 days) left in your T-Mobile contract, you get slapped with a $200 ETF. With about 3 to 6 months remaining, you'll only pay $100 to leave. From 1-3 months left, you'll pay only $50, and if you leave in the last month, you pay only your monthly fee or $50, whichever is lower.


So, you've decided to pay the ETF or wiggle out of your contract, or you weren't saddled with a contract agreement in the first place. How much more expensive will Verizon Wireless be than your current plan? That depends on what sort of plan you have, but here are a few estimates.

First, let's assume that Verizon Wireless offers the same sort of rate plan for new iPhone buyers that it offers for current Droid and BlackBerry users. A smartphone is a smartphone, after all, even if it comes from Apple. A fully loaded smartphone plan from Verizon Wireless costs $110 to $125 or more. That $110 price gives you unlimited minutes and unlimited text messages, plus unlimited data, as long as you promise not to use a corporate email account (Microsoft Exchange). If you use an Exchange account, Verizon wants $15 more per month for data. If you want to use your phone as a tethered modem, you'll pay another $20 on top of that. So, you could spend up to $145 on a Verizon Wireless iPhone account, assuming Verizon doesn't offer some sort of special deal for the new device.

I assume that there are three types of customers interested in the iPhone. First, there are messaging addicts. These folks use a bare minimum of minutes, and spend most of their time messaging. They skipped data on their current feature phone, since it didn't have a great browser anyway. But now they want something new and more powerful, and they've been waiting for Verizon to get the iPhone before climbing on board.

If you're coming from this lifestyle, expect your monthly bills to almost double, depending on your current carrier. Sprint and T-Mobile users have probably been paying $50 per month before taxes and fees. AT&T quick messaging users have probably been paying $60 - $70 per month for similar service. Unless Verizon offers an unlikely bargain, your month just got a lot more expensive.

Second, there are the smartphone bargain hunters. These folks use the bare minimum of minutes, send a few texts a month and only use data for email. Some BlackBerry users or frugal smartphone owners fit this type.

These users will see an extra $50 or so increase in their monthly bill. Again, AT&T charges the most for these folks, who are probably paying between $60 and $75 per month, depending on how many messages you send. Verizon and T-Mobile users who are being frugal about their smartphones are probably paying $60 a month as well. Sprint users might be paying more, but getting unlimited data and text messages, with 450 minutes, for $70 monthly.

Finally, there are the harcore power users. These folks want unlimited everything. All the minutes, text and data they can possibly consume. These folks should still expect to may more if they switch to Verizon Wireless, but not much more, probably about $10 - $15 per month. Sprint users are paying $100 for unlimited everything, or $10 more if they use a new 4G phone (even if they aren't covered by the 4G network). T-Mobile charges $100 for unlimited everything.

AT&T users are paying $115 per month for unlimited calling and text messaging, as well as 2GB of data. AT&T's data cap offers the least amount of data among the major carriers. Verizon Wireless' own "unlimited plan" actually offers 5GB of data before the overage fees start kicking in. If Verizon sticks to its current pricing, new iPhone owners who do not pay extra for corporate messaging might actually save money with Verizon, while corporate users will pay about $10 more, monthly.

Of course, there are other charges to consider. AT&T gives away visual voicemail on its iPhone for free. We're not sure if Verizon Wireless will do the same, but it currently charges smartphone users $3 extra per month for the feature. Both AT&T and Verizon charge $10 per month extra for their own branded turn-by-turn GPS navigation apps, though Android users get this service for free on every network.


Perhaps a month ago we might have said that an iPhone with Verizon's new 4G LTE network technology on board would be impossible. But this past week at CES we got our hands on numerous phones, at all stages of development, that were working with Verizon's fast 4G network with no trouble. If Apple announces a product on Tuesday that won't ship until closer to the summer, it is entirely possible that LTE networking will be on board.

If it does have LTE, will the device be thick? The iPhone 4 grabbed at the "Thinnest Smartphone" title, and Apple has had three generations of 3G phones to improve battery life. The LTE phones we saw at CES were all quite thick, especially compared to similar non-LTE phones from the same manufacturers. Battery performance was also up in the air, as we haven't been able to review any of these devices.

To date, Apple has not been in a rush to adopt a new network technology. The original iPhone was not 3G, even though many competing smartphones at the time were. It launched as AT&T was still building up its 3G network. Verizon Wireless has launched LTE in an impressive number of markets, perhaps covering even more customers than AT&T could have covered with 3G when the original phone launched. But there is a benefit to waiting. A long wait for an LTE iPhone would give Apple the chance to improve designs and battery life to bring the faster networking device more inline with current 3G devices.

So, it's likely that Apple might create a CDMA phone just for Verizon Wireless. CDMA is the network technology used by Verizon Wireless and Sprint. It is a completely different technology from the GSM standard used by AT&T and T-Mobile, so phones on CDMA networks will not work on GSM networks unless additional GSM radios are added. In fact, it is even easier for network operators to lock phones to their own specific CDMA network than it is for GSM carriers. GSM phones use a SIM card to identify themselves on the network. These SIM cards are interchangeable, so if your phone is 'unlocked,' that means it will accept a SIM card from another carrier and work on that carrier's network. This is how resourceful iPhone users have been able to unlock their devices to use on T-Mobile (without high-speed 3G networking, since T-Mobile's 3G is on a radio frequency the iPhone does not support) or to use locally on GSM networks abroad. For the record, Apple frowns on this practice, at least for its AT&T iPhones.

CDMA, on the other hand, usually requires some assistance from the carrier to get a new phone working on its network. While both Sprint and Verizon Wireless have said that they are open to some interchangeability, in practice Verizon requires that phones activated on its network have passed through its own network testing. So, it is unlikely a Verizon iPhone could be 'unlocked' to work with Sprint, or any other CDMA network.

The high-speed version of CDMA is called EV-DO, and it comes in two flavors, the original, slower EV-DO Rev. 0 network, and the newer, faster EV-DO Rev. A network. GSM networks confuse the issue somewhat, using a faster 3G technology called WCDMA. This is not the same as the CDMA technology that Verizon uses, and the two are incompatible. In terms of network speed, the EV-DO Rev. A network that will probably come with a CDMA iPhone is comparable in speed to AT&T and T-Mobile's 3.6 Mbps HSDPA network, where HSDPA is a technology used on WCDMA networks. Unfortunately for Verizon, both AT&T and T-Mobile have upgraded their network technology to support newer, faster HSPA networks that can reach theoretical speeds in the 7.2 Mbps range. The current iPhone 4 uses network technology in this range.

In fact, T-Mobile has been shipping a limited number of devices (currently just the T-Mobile G2 and T-Mobile myTouch 4G) that work with networks that clock in at 14 Mbps or 21 Mbps. Both T-Mobile and AT&T have USB data modems that take advantage of these higher-speed, upgraded networks, with more handsets from both carriers on the way.

In the real world, that means that if Verizon Wireless ships an iPhone without LTE on board, it will already be slower than AT&T's iPhone 4. Users should expect actual speeds in the 1 Mbps range, give or take a few hundred Kbps. In some crowded areas the iPhone 4 does not fare much better, but under the best circumstances, I've seen network speeds in the 2-3 Mbps range on the current iPhone, or even a bit better.

There is also the question of global roaming. Verizon Wireless currently ships phones that work with its own CDMA network as well as 3G UMTS networks abroad. Presumably, the new Verizon iPhone could use similar technology. Or, Apple could be even more daring and try to create one single device that would sell on every network, globally. It would need a wide range of bands for GSM networks like AT&T and CDMA networks like Verizon. To date, Verizon Wireless does sell a couple phone models with AT&T's network bands, the Droid 2 Global and the Droid Pro. Verizon does not have any roaming agreement in place for these devices, though, so they will only work on similar networks abroad, they are not able to roam freely where AT&T has service. It is unlikely a new iPhone, even with support for all of these radio bands built in, would be able to freely roam the nation, using whichever service is best. AT&T iPhones will work with AT&T, and Verizon iPhones will work with Verizon, no matter the radios inside.

The current Apple iPhone can be unlocked to work with other GSM networks. This requires some hacking, and Apple has declared this process illegal, though none of the hackers have yet to be prosecuted. However, outside of the U.S., there are some countries that legally require a phone to be unlockable to work on other networks.

Verizon Wireless and Sprint both share similar radio bands and network technologies. Will a CDMA iPhone be unlockable so that a Verizon device will work with Sprint's service? Even if this is possible, it is unclear whether even Sprint would allow it. While using T-Mobile's network with an unlocked AT&T iPhone requires merely popping in a new SIM card, the process for joining one CDMA phone to another network is more complicated, and usually requires the direct intervention of the carrier. In other words, whether or not Apple creates an iPhone for Verizon that is capable of being used on Sprint, if Sprint does not want the phone on its network, the device will most likely be locked out.


The final consideration is more subjective, but I'll try to explore this question without offending fans of any specific platform. Is it worth dumping your BlackBerry, or your Android phone, for an iPhone? What should you expect to lose in the process, and what will you gain? Of course this answer might be a matter of taste, especially when interface design is so integral to the user's appreciation of all of these platforms, but here are some obvious features to consider.

I'm not telling you what to like or dislike, I'm just laying out your options. Personally, I've used all of these smartphone platforms extensively, and I see benefit to each.

Android users will lose a lot of customization options. While Android offers homepage extras like active widgets, customizable folders that can populate based on set criteria, live wallpapers, and myriad types of shortcuts far beyond simple Web page bookmarks, the Apple iPhone does not. There are plenty of apps for Android that control the phone's settings, or theme apps that can skin the interface and even replace popular app icons automatically. Apple is more rigid about these options.

Apple does not offer Flash in its Web browser, unlike the best high-end Android smartphones. Though Flash performance on Android is not perfect, at least it fills in some major gaps in the Web browsing experience, and at most it offers a great way to watch inline video content.

If you rely on Google's own services, Android tends to make these a priority. Gmail, Google Talk, Google Maps with Navigation, Google Voice and other Google features almost always work better with the first-party apps available on Android. Apple offers plenty of enhancements with its own MobileMe software, but that service comes with a yearly fee, while most Google services are free.

BlackBerry users will lose the hardware keyboard. In fact, while BlackBerry phones offer a variety of form factors to please users, from narrow to wide, sliders and clamshells, the iPhone only comes in one basic shape.

If your corporation uses BlackBerry Enterprise servers for email, you won't find a native option to work with your iPhone. Likewise, BlackBerry Messenger addicts might find a similar service, but it won't be exactly the same, and you won't be able to connect with your friends via their BBM PIN number. BlackBerry devices also offer deeper menus with tons more tweaks and settings than the Apple iPhone. Finally, my personal reviewing and testing experience has shown that BlackBerry phones live up to their reputation for excellent battery life.

On the other hand, Apple offers iTunes. iTunes offers a very simple, powerful multimedia management tool and sync option. There are similar sync options for every other platform, but none that are tied so tightly and offer so many features as iTunes does with the iPhone. You can sync music and videos; you can control your email and address book sync; you can even rearrange apps and folders on your homescreen panels. iTunes also makes a perfect backup of your phone every time you plug it in.

Apple also has the widest selection of apps available for its platform. There is some question about how much this matters. The number of apps is only impressive if these apps are worth using, and there are great apps available on every smartphone platform, from Android and BlackBerry to Windows Phone 7 and Symbian. Still, there are few apps that are available for other platforms that are not available for Apple's iOS, and numerous apps that are exclusive to Apple.

Bottom Line 

No matter how you feel about the Apple iPhone, this is certainly an interesting time to be a pundit watching wireless network carriers. The original iPhone had a significant effect on the market, and a significant impact on AT&T. Since the original phone was launched almost four years ago, the most common question we've heard about the phone was whether, and when, it would launch on another carrier's network, especially Verizon Wireless. Now it seems that time has come.

There are many questions that will be answered tomorrow. What sort of networking technology will the new iPhone use? Will there still be a single, global iPhone model, or will there be two models, one for GSM and one for CDMA? Will this simply be an iPhone 4 that works on Verizon Wireless, or will this be a new model altogether? How will Verizon charge for service with an iPhone? How open will Verizon be about unlocking the device? Will it come in white?

There are also many questions that cannot be answered immediately. There is no doubt that Verizon Wireless' current smartphone lineup, especially the proliferation of Droid devices, has been shaped by the lack of an available iPhone. The Droid commercials still stress everything that the iPhone doesn't do, but that the Droid does. How will having an iPhone on its network affect Verizon's priorities for other phone platforms? Besides Droid phones, Verizon has always been a major supporter for BlackBerry phones (including the iPhone-clone BlackBerry Storm). How will this affect Verizon's interest in RIM and BlackBerry? Will we ever see an iPhone officially on sale at Sprint or T-Mobile?

There is so much that remains to be seen. In fact, we have no definite proof that an iPhone will appear tomorrow at Verizon Wireless' event. There is only rumor, speculation by major news sources like the Wall Street Journal, and years of anticipation. Only one thing is for certain. Whatever Verizon launches tomorrow, we'll be there to see it.

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Jan 10, 2011, 12:41 PM

Wow - speculation!

It's been a characteristic of Phonescoop for as long as I've been a reader that there was little mention of rumor or speculation about upcoming devices or changes in the industry without some hard evidence. Certainly, phonescoop has been nothing like Engagdet or Gizmodo, both of which editorialize heavily (Gizmodo much moreso).

Not that I'm complaining so much; indeed, the article is a comprehensive look at the question of a Verizon iPhone, and compared to most other technews outlets (who have little beyond "Verizon iPhone Jan 11th! AT&T is hooped!" or some variation there of), it's a thorough examination of the industry in practical consumer terms.

It's a surprising shift in journalistic strategy for what has always been a very relia...
All the people that like to cry about dropping calls will be gone and I won't have to deal with them anymore! This is so epic it's not even funny. Good luck to big red and the new iphone, hopefully they'll put better hardware in there CDMA version to ...
It's a good critique, for sure. We thought long and hard about this idea, and we've never (to my best recollection) published a story claiming that an unannounced phone is actually true. There is good evidence that Verizon Wireless will launch an iPho...

Jan 14, 2011, 4:54 PM


hey guys, what are you doing? lol

Jan 10, 2011, 10:47 PM


"(including the iPhone-clone BlackBerry Storm)."

If the Storm 9530 or Storm2 9550 are iphone clones it is only in the same sense that Bizarro is Superman.
hahahaha; agreed. As someone who has suffered with the S1 for 2+ years and couldn't be happier since getting the DINC. I can only say that BB was (imo) forced by Vz to come out with the Storm after crApple and ATT released the holy phony. Poor RIM, ...
I would certainly consider the Storm to be RIM's answer to the iPhone.
Blackberry made a HUGE mistake because they did try positioning this against the iphone, and Verizon went along with it (initially) This is why so many people bought the device who shouldn't have (peolpe expecting it NOT to be a blackberry) and why t...

Jan 10, 2011, 10:38 PM

I didnt see any phonescoop putting down the iphone before... knowing its issues

So why again is phonescoop and every other tech site trying to put down the verizon iphone... doesnt matter what anyone says either way until you own an iphone you dont know what your talking about and honestly you may say u arent gonna be an iphone owner but u will soon enough... Android is just a device youre gonna have reset every few months... freezing, viruses, and incompatible apps for devices... seriously just get an iphone... still customizable and does everything right! plus the customer service from apple is best hands down!!!!
They are not putting down the iphone. They are engaging in speculation. Until there is an actual product to examine they can do little else. Calm please...
Putting down? Where are you getting that from? 😕

We have all used an iPhone as our primary phone at one point or another. It's a great device.

Jan 10, 2011, 4:19 PM

the beginning of the end of exclusive handset deals...

So, the two largest carriers VZW & AT&T will both have a version of the iPhone, while Sprint, T-Mobile USA, MetroPCS, rural carriers, etc., remain shut out. What a victory for cabals & exclusionary business practices in an already anti competitive market.

Look for the FCC to place limits on carrier exclusive handset deals. Otherwise, as VZW & AT&T increasingly throw around their market share to monopolize (or duopolize) the most desirable devices, the wireless industry could be left w/ the two heavyweights and nothing but small remnants of all other carriers. And that would not serve the public interest.

The problem is, that the average consumer does not realize this. Big Red and Blue continue to dominate the marketing while attracting the herds. I opted to free myself from the tenticles of the two largest carriers in hopes of better pricing while sti...
Sprint, T-Mobile, USCC, Metro, cricket, etc seem to have been doing fine without the iPhone, not everyone in the world wants one, get off the bandwagon. Android and symbian are still more widespread over iOS and will probably continue to be.
So in YOUR (wiwavelengths) perfect world what would the wireless industry look like?

A single giant company that stretches from shore to shore and does nothing but sell a data connection. Its ran by the government so access is rolled into your taxe...
I hope that you are wrong. The last thing we need is the FCC interfering where no monopoly is occurring.

Jan 11, 2011, 5:07 PM

im joining...

im not under contract with tmobile, so the wife and I will be coming to Big Red, but not for the iPhone, its the new adroids we are joining for
Very smart move imo. After using a BBS1 for several years I was a bit hisitant about making the jump but couldn't resist Best Buys free offer on the Droid Incredible over the holidays; WOW, I'll never look back. I can' stop playing with it and the n...

Jan 10, 2011, 11:26 PM

Awesome article!

Thanks for this article. It feels like a guilty pleasure.
iDont Care

Jan 10, 2011, 1:36 PM

iSheep rejoice!!!

There goes Big Red's network. Lets see how those bastards do when the iSheep flock over there from AT&T and hog up their network!
sigh..it means that all the sheeple wil migrate from the overcongested AT&T network to big red..so it's just moving one clog from one artery to another.

Lovely..my android will be suffering while every iCrapPhone hogs our bandwidth.. 😢
Right because you say so? Making the statement " There goes Big Red's network" is the dumbest thing I've ever read.
I'll bet Big Red is slobbering like a wolf.

Jan 10, 2011, 2:33 PM

There is no 5gig cap

Not a hard one anyway.

While it's true that excessive usage every month could cause them to terminate your contract, this isn't at 5gigs, and if you go over the 5gigs they won't smack you with overages (unless you're tethering).

I've gone over 5gigs on many occasions (I love me internet radio and youtube) as have others. I have a friend who averages close to 10gb a month. We haven't been charged a dime overage, or cut off.

Now, if you're tethering and exceed the 5, that's a different story (especially if you're not paying for it). But there is no cap on verizon's unlimited smartphone plan.

Interesting article otherwise. If it comes, it should be interesting. I really want them to announce something like windowsphone7 or th...
Jobs can no longer blame at&t for any iPhone issues and glitches.

Jan 10, 2011, 4:39 PM

Big Red's network

Lets go to the party and get wasted then! 🤤
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