Verizon iPhone 4 Review

Many of you recall from my review of the Verizon Wireless MiFi the major reason I invested in the MiFi: to boost my data coverage on my iPhone 4 due to the fact that I live in an area with extremely sub-par AT&T coverage (you can read my lamenting over on that review, I’ll spare you from having to re-live my lament again). I’ll say that coverage with AT&T has only worsened up here, not improved. Text messages would take 20 minutes to send, and I’d miss many of my calls, and in some cases didn’t even have enough signal to check my Voicemail to see who was trying to call me!

So when Verizon finally started selling the iPhone 4, I knew what I needed to do in order to free myself from my wireless coverage woes, and believe it or not, I could reduce my wireless bill dramatically (since I would no longer need the dedicated MiFi, my mother didn’t want her iPhone anymore so I could put her down on a regular phone, and I could save money on my texting plan since I’m a moderately texting person but don’t overly text). I knew it was time to jump ship to Verizon.

Since having a MiFi considered me an existing customer, I made it to the pre-order and was able to receive my Verizon iPhone before launch day (I also singed my mother up for an LG Accolade phone which was free with contract, and her part of the bill is only $10/month now!). I was able to sell my AT&T iPhone to a colleague, allowing me to recover some of the costs of having to purchase a new iPhone, as well as the hefty ETF I had to pay AT&T to jump ship (yes, I paid it too, but with our much lower bills and much better service, it’s been well worth it).

Some might be wondering, is there any difference between the AT&T iPhone 4 than the Verizon iPhone 4? As one who has used both, as far as feature set is concerned, there isn’t much of a difference. iOS looks and feels the same on the Verizon iPhone 4 as it did on the AT&T iPhone 4. I still have the Retina Display, FaceTime, HD Video recording, and everything I enjoyed about my AT&T iPhone 4. The major difference is that it works. Call quality is far better on Verizon up here than with AT&T, and I seldom drop a call, and calls finally come in without issues. Text messages work fluidly, and data is far faster up here, thanks to Verizon offering 3G EV-DO data up here in North Georgia. Data rates range usually between 500-700k down, although sometimes I’ve seen 900k, 1.8M, and even over 2MB across Habersham County, which is pretty impressive in a rural area (data is still fast and works great in the major metros as well, there’s hardly an area here that doesn’t work well on Verizon, just the opposite with AT&T). I can surf the web, email, and work in apps without a hitch.

Another minor difference with the Verizon iPhone has to deal with the antenna. In order to incorporate for Verizon iPhone’s CDMA antenna, the antenna notches are in different places on the iPhone (meaning some AT&T cases won’t work with the Verizon iPhone. I had to get a new case, but it was no biggie. The sales lady also talked me into a screen protector, and glad she did. It has kept my screen from scratching). Whether or not this means the antenna is improved from the AT&T model is hard to tell, but since I’m experiencing better network coverage on Verizon, I guess it really doesn’t matter if the antenna is improved or not!

A couple other differences with the Verizon iPhone have to do with the CDMA networking technology used on Verizon’s Network (the iPhone 4 uses Verizon’s CDMA/EV-DO 3G network, not the forthcoming LTE 4G network). One of them is that I cannot use voice and data at the same time when on Verizon’s 3G network. That really doesn’t bother me too much since I could only get EDGE up here with AT&T anyway, which also doesn’t allow simultaneous voice/data (the only time I could access AT&T 3G is when out of town in a metro area, which wasn’t that often anyway). I also realize that Verizon could easily rollout simultaneous voice and data if they wanted to using the SV-DO standard, although it seems they’re holding off on 4G to implement the feature, meaning that my next iPhone will probably be a 4G LTE phone, and I’ll have simultaneous voice/data in my area once 4G is rolled out, which is fine to wait. Simultaneous voice/data works fine over Wi-Fi, so I’m not 100% without the feature. In addition, some of the calling features (conference calling, call waiting, call forwarding, etc.) operate differently due to the fact that I’m on a CDMA phone now, but once I got the hang of how the calling features worked, I was perfectly OK with the adjustment.

Another difference with the Verizon iPhone is that CDMA phones work in fewer countries than do GSM phones (such as the AT&T iPhone). The Verizon iPhone’s CDMA standard works in about 40 countries, verses the AT&T iPhone was a global ready phone, so I could use it around the world. Again, I’m not too worried about this for a few reasons. First of all, I seldom travel out of the country (never traveled out of the country is a better word), and if I traveled around North America, chances are my phone would work since much of North America has CDMA technology rolled out. In the event I did travel to Europe or a country that my iPhone wouldn’t work on, Verizon has a Occasional Global Traveler program that allows me to rent (for free) a GSM smartphone to use while away, with all the roaming charges billed to my Verizon bill. In addition, since Verizon’s (and AT&T’s for that matter) roaming charges are hefty when international roaming, I could also head down to Best Buy, pick up a SIM-unlocked smartphone, and pop in a prepaid SIM card from one of the local carriers to the destination I’m going. So just because I don’t have a global ready phone, doesn’t mean I don’t have options when it comes to international roaming.

So how does my Verizon plan stack up with my old AT&T plan? Well, much is the same, and I was able to drastically lower my bill with a few changes. I still have 700 minutes, and it still costs $60/month for my part of our Family SharePlan. My mother’s phone on my plan is only $10/month, which is the same as AT&T’s for voice, but since she didn’t want an iPhone anymore when we switched to Verizon (she was using my old iPhone 3G, which is happily being used by my CLO’s son now), that was $15/month we could slice off the bill. I still have unlimited data for $30/month, but I’m now able to say good by to my MiFi (another $35-$40/month off our bill) due to the fact that the iPhone has the Personal Hotspot feature built in. Like the MiFi, I can sign up to 5 devices at a time on it using a combination of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or USB (the AT&T iPhone now has this ability in the iOS 4.3 update, but only three devices can work on Wi-Fi at a time), and the feature only costs $20/month for an extra 2GB of data. Here’s the beauty of it though. I can turn the feature on/off at will depending on when I need it (and simply pay the prorated charges), and since I don’t need this feature much, it saves me even more on my wireless bill since I only have to pay for it on the days I need it. I haven’t tested this feature out yet, but I’ve heard it works great, and it’s just one less device I have to carry around with me now (and yes, my MiFi is happy being used by my CLO’s secretary, and I didn’t have to pay the ETF to transfer that one!).

I was also able to cut down on my texting plan since I’m not a heavily texter. I send/receive on average about 400 texts/month. So I chose Verizon’s 500 text plan, which also includes unlimited mobile-mobile texting (meaning I can text anyone on Verizon and it won’t count against my text allotment). It’s seeming to work well for me, and cut my texting plan in half! So with all these changes, I was able to get my bill down to $110/month (about $120 with tax). Not bad, and my wireless coverage works!

So are there any AT&T perks (besides the GSM/CDMA differences listed above) that I lost by switching to Verizon? Well, not really. While it’s true on AT&T I had Rollover Minutes (I don’t on Verizon), I never seemed to use up my 700 minutes each month, much less ever dump into my pull of Rollover Minutes. So it’s a feature I really didn’t lose since I never used it anyway. On AT&T, I also had mobile-mobile calling with other AT&T customers, which I’ve now simply exchanged for Verizon’s mobile-mobile calling. In a way, it’s a nicer feature since Verizon has a larger calling base than does AT&T, and in reality, about half the people I call regularly are on AT&T and the other half are on Verizon, so I’m essentially exchanging one set of mobile-mobile callers for another. AT&T also offers free Wi-Fi hotspots for iPhone users to connect to, which I used a little around here (mainly because of the weak coverage), but I’m not really missing not having AT&T Wi-Fi access now that I have stronger, faster, more reliable (and 3G) data coverage, and with all the issues with Firesheep and Wi-Fi snooping going on lately, I’d usually have to un a VPN service when connected to public Wi-Fi hotspots anyway, slowing down my connection and making my Wi-Fi access not much faster than cellular data. So having a stronger wireless network means more to me than having a few free Wi-Fi hotspots to access. In the event I ever did need them, I could always pay $3 at the place to access them, so no biggie.

Bottom line, what do I think of the Verizon iPhone? I absolutely love it. Coverage is far better on Verizon up here, I get to keep the same iPhone I know and love, and get a hefty bill reduction out of it by the way I was able to make some serious plan changes (sure, I could have done some of them with AT&T, but it paid off better and I was able to get better coverage by switching to Verizon, even after paying AT&T the ETF and paying Verizon the pro-rated charges and activation fees). In addition, I now have a local Verizon Store to walk into for support up here (with AT&T I had to drive a way to visit one), so all in all, switching to the Verizon iPhone was a better experience for me. If you live in an area with sub-par AT&T coverage and looking for a way to keep enjoying the iPhone, now you have a choice. For me, it was the right choice.