I have a friend, Andre, who has been a Verizon wireless customer since, well, forever. He's been through a series of Androids and Blackberrys and what he really has always wanted was an iPhone. Only he didn't want to switch to AT&T to get it.
Today, Andre got his wish. In three weeks, he can pre-order iPhone 4 on Verizon.
But should he?
The iPhone 4 released today works with Verizon Wireless' existing 3G network. It's quite reliable, but as someone who has tested smartphones on it for the past 18 months on a regular basis, it's not the fastest thing in the world. I regularly get download speeds in town of about 1 MB with Verizon smartphones. AT&T's iPhone (which is pretty reliable locally, too) regularly pulls down 2-3 times that in my tests.
This means webpages via Verizon will load slower, YouTube videos will buffer longer, etc, and maybe that isn't much of a big deal in exchange for better call reliability -- and reception in gyms and hotels and buildings -- especially when traveling to smaller towns where AT&T's 3G reach isn't too great.
Also, remember Apple is widely expected to stick to its annual release date for an iPhone 5 in June. Apple and Verizon wouldn't comment on future release dates at their New York news conference Monday, so we don't know if Verizon will get iPhone 5 in June, when AT&T customers are expected to get it, or whether Verizon customers wouldn't see a new revision until 2012.
With AT&T and Verizon rolling out next generation LTE 4G networks, many industry analysts expect Apple to deliver an LTE iPhone which would deliver the type speeds home broadband users get -- up to 10 MB down and perhaps faster -- on mobile devices.
What if the Verizon LTE iPhone comes in June?
So does Andre want to sign a contract in three weeks with Verizon for two years and then have to watch iPhone 5 users get to use Verizon's new 4G network in a few months? Verizon is allowing customers to purchase the iPhone at full price ($599) and not sign a long term contract.
I'm not sure what the right answer is. Verizon's 4G network will be available to smart phone users in Charlotte as soon as the handsets are available. I've tested Sprint's version of Wi-Max 4G here and found the speeds remarkable, but Sprint charges $10 per month to access 4G and I'm sure Verizon will do the same.
A new iPhone will add some features but I don't think it will be a major leap from iPhone 4, so if you're happy with the speed you get now from Verizon and don't care to pay the extra money for more, well, have at it, because I do think the best phone on the Verizon network is coming early next month and there's so much pent-up demand that people are going to buy it, and Andre will probably be one of them.