Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fight: AT&T vs. Verizon iPhone

A quick look at strengths and weaknesses of the AT&T and Verizon iPhone.

The phones look virtually identical with the Verizon version earning new antenna notch placements on the aluminum shell that holds the phone together.

NETWORK STRENGTH: AT&T has taken a beating from users who say the network is unreliable. It's fast, offering theoretical download speeds of up to 7 MB compared with 3 MB theoretical for Verizon 3G, and in many major markets, including Charlotte, AT&T is quite good. But if you've ever been staring at 1 bar or no bars inside a gym or a mall or a bank while you watch a Verizon customer chatting away, well, you get the picture. Winner: Verizon.

USABILITY: AT&T uses GSM technology that allows users to make calls and use data at the same time. Ever been talking to Grandma and needing to get directions at the same time? This is a feature you might not use a lot, but it's neat to have it when you do. AT&T's faster network also delivers information faster. Winner: AT&T.

PRICING: We have yet to see what Verizon's monthly plans are for iPhone, but both carriers typically have similar calling plans. Verizon, however, still offers unlimited data for $30 per month, which is big when all these new services are debuting, like video chat, that are data hungry. AT&T allows legacy users to keep unlimited plans but new users must choose between 2 GB ($25) and 200 MB ($15). Winner: Verizon.

FEATURES: Most people know what the iPhone can do. It's the world's most popular smart phone for a reason. AT&T, though, currently doesn't allow users to make FaceTime video calls over 3G and only allows users to tether the iPhone to one device. That allows you to, say, share you iPhone internet connection with your computer.

But to do that, even legacy unlimited data users on AT&T have to switch to the 2GB or 200 MB plan, and the tethered data usage comes from that bucket. One trip to Netflix can get your monthly bill zooming. Big fail.

If Verizon keeps unlimited data, it will have a huge advantage here, and Verizon is bringing hotspot capabilities to iPhone. You can give signal to five devices at once (though you can' t make a call while "hotspotting"). So if you're considering a tablet computer, for instance, and you have iPhone, you might not need to pay for a 3G/4G plan for the tablet and can choose the cheaper WiFi version of your chosen tablet if available. Winner: Verizon.

Both iPhone 4s will be excellent phones for the near term. However, I might be a little timid about settling into a new 2 year deal with Verizon for this one when Apple normally releases a new iPhone in June. That one might be compatible with Verizon's faster 4G network (which would also cost more). An LTE Verizon phone would allow simultaneous call/data usage and eliminate any speed advantages AT&T might have.

AT&T has recently completed its higher-speed 3G network, called HSPA+, which offers theoretical download speeds of up to 21 MB or more. It is beginning to roll out devices that will take advantage of those higher speeds (the current iPhone 4 will not). Unfortunately, AT&T is confusing customers by labeling this improved 3G as 4G. AT&T is also going to launch its LTE (long term evolution) network -- what most folks think of when they hear "4G" -- later this year. If nothing else, the guess here is that iPhone 5 will work with the faster version of AT&T's 3G network and possible its new LTE network, too.

Apple traditionally has waited for networks to mature before jumping in. It waited a year to make an iPhone 3G when 3G was available when the first iPhone hit stores. Of course, Android wasn't around then providing worthy competition.

The guess here is that iPhone 5, which will hit stores in June, will work with Verizon LTE and AT&T's higher speed 3G and 4G. Winner: EVEN


Anonymous said...

This will only further prove that the iPhone still doesn't make a good PHONE. Apple doesn't have a clue how to design a good microphone and voice circuit. The reception problems are AT&T's fault, but Apple holds the blame for call quality.

Anonymous said...

"AT&T, though, currently doesn't users to make FaceTime video calls over 3G..."

"...and Verizon is bring hotspot capabilities to iPhone."

Grammar Check!

Anonymous said...

I'd still rather have an Android smart phone over an Apple iPhone... My favorite is Sprint's Epic, but Verizon has some very nice Android smart phones also... I just like Android devices more...

Anonymous said...

DROID stills buries the iphone

NAYZEYE said...

You forgot about Jailbreaking...