Verizon Finally Gets the iPhone 4

One of the most keenly anticipated devices in U.S. wireless history -- an Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone 4 that runs on Verizon Wireless 's CDMA network -- was unveiled this morning in New York City. (See Verizon Gets the iPhone4.)

Aside from using 3G CDMA technology rather than a 3G GSM radio, the device is almost exactly the same as the current iPhone 4 being offered by AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T). One key difference is that, as result of the CDMA technology that underpins the phone, Verizon can't currently support simultaneous voice calls and data downloads like it's AT&T counterpart. So, no looking up maps and directions during a phone conversation.

After the announcement, Verizon had its version of the iconic phone on show in the Lincoln Center in NYC Tuesday:

The history
It turns out that Verizon has been talking to Apple since 2008 about developing a 3G CDMA iPhone. The operator's move to offer the WiFi iPad with a 3G MiFi device last year helped the operator to get familiar with Apple's sales and support procedures. (See Verizon Gets iPad With a WiFi Twist.) "This goes to prove the old adage, if you write about something long enough and hard enough it will happen," quipped Verizon President and COO Lowell McAdam at the beginning of the press conference.

The network
Verizon insists that it won't suffer the same call-dropping and capacity problems that AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) has faced as millions of iPhones poured onto its GSM-based network in the last few years. (See AT&T Drunk on iPhone Success and AT&T to Spend $2B More on Wireless in 2010.) "We're ready for this launch," boasted new Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead. He says that the operator has spent time monitoring its network and building out capacity over the past couple of years. In particular, he notes, the operator has been adding more fiber links to its cell sites to improve mobile backhaul capacity, which appears to be one of the bottlenecks that AT&T has experienced with increased data traffic on its network from the iPhone.

The sales
Beefing up network capacity could be a good thing for Verizon if sales predictions are anything close to accurate. "I expect Verizon to sell 10 million iPhone 4s in 2011," says Berge Ayvazian, senior consultant at Heavy Reading.

IHS iSuppli is predicting that Apple will ship 12.1 million CDMA iPhones through Verizon and other global CDMA wireless carriers in 2011. "This will increase global iPhone shipments to 61.2 million units for the year," the analyst firm says in a note.


The wait for LTE
One thing Apple didn't have at the launch was a time frame for its first LTE phone. Apple COO Tim Cook said that the current generation of chipsets supporting the 4G technology placed "design constraints" on Apple that it wasn't ready to live with, while not detailing what those may be. Apple customers, meanwhile, he added, had been asking for a 3G phone on Verizon.

"LTE is a power hog, and will significantly reduce battery life," notes Heavy Reading's Ayvazian. He adds that integrated LTE and CDMA chipsets will be "large and expensive," which could definitely be two factors likely to discourage design-conscious Apple from taking on LTE right away. (See The LTE iPhone.) Just the facts, ma'am
The iPhone will be offered to existing Verizon customers from Feb. 3 and become generally available on Feb. 10. The gadget has a suggested retail price of $199.99 for the 16GB model and $299.99 for the 32GB model with a new two-year customer agreement.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:15:44 PM
re: Verizon Finally Gets the iPhone 4

Outside of San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and New York, is AT&T's iPhone coverage really all that bad?

People in those areas are going hogwild over the Verizon iPhone, obviously... but I wonder if people elsewhere are getting swept up in the hysteria needlessly (as usually happens with, like, everything). How many are going to voluntarily switch to a *slower* network and a phone that can't do voice and data simultaneously?

joset01 12/5/2012 | 5:15:44 PM
re: Verizon Finally Gets the iPhone 4

It *is* really, really bad in parts of Brooklyn. Bad enough to make me not want one. I've had direct experience of this.

Personally, I think there's enough cool, powerful devices on the market now that this seems a little like a retograde step. Never, however, underestimate the lure of Apple and the power of good design.



Polder 12/5/2012 | 5:15:43 PM
re: Verizon Finally Gets the iPhone 4

I have had Verizon as a carrier since about 2003.  Prior to that I had Sprint.  I travel 30 states on a regular basis and have been extremely pleased with Verizon as a carrier.  Both companies that I have worked for during this time have had contracts with AT&T for headquarter employees.  I am constantly letting those people use my phone during trips.  I can cite numerous times where I am web browsing and emailing from my HTC Droid when AT&T iPhone users can't get dial tone.  In my experience, the only place where I have spotty service is along the Carolina coast between Myrtle Beach and Nags Head.  On the other hand, I have been traveling in MT, SD, ND, and WY without a house in sight and been able to web browse and email.  I am willing to bet that you will see a lot of people migrate to Verizon over the next six months.

I don't have a dog in this fight but these are my own observations...

Polder 12/5/2012 | 5:15:43 PM
re: Verizon Finally Gets the iPhone 4

Also, most people I know would trade the ability to do voice and data at the same time in order to have reliable service.  It's a nice feature but how many times do you actually use it?

joset01 12/5/2012 | 5:15:42 PM
re: Verizon Finally Gets the iPhone 4

I have a couple of friends that are spitting blood that they updated to iPhone 4 on AT&T last year and are locked into new contracts, I'll say that.

Fotons 12/5/2012 | 5:15:40 PM
re: Verizon Finally Gets the iPhone 4

In cellular coverage as in real estate, it's all about location, location, location.  I carry an AT&T GSM phone and a VZW CDMA phone, and both of them drop calls from time to time.  Both of them also suffer from zero or one bars of signal strength, and both of them occasionally suffer from one-way audio or echo.  I don't see a material difference in the performance of them over time, but I see a tremendous difference based on my location at any given moment (that's part of why I carry both).  When my travel patterns changed some time ago, I noted that the AT&T phone's performance improved compared to the VZW phone.

Bottom line: mobile phones today are not terribly reliable and one's perception of their reliability probably has more to do with his travel patterns than with a (effectively meaningless) global statement about who has the better network.

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:15:40 PM
re: Verizon Finally Gets the iPhone 4

Thanks for the input, Polder. Sounds like you've had a good experience with Verizon.

Regarding voice+data simultaneously... I don't see many people doing it, but I expect that to become the norm very quickly as the data side improves. It happens at my desk all the time, and I'd expect people to find reasons to use voice+data mobile-ly as well.

Polder 12/5/2012 | 5:15:40 PM
re: Verizon Finally Gets the iPhone 4

Fotons, I would agree with your comments with one caveat.  In all my travel, over 180 nights last year, I can't recall a time that my Verizon phone did not work when a co-workers AT&T phone did work.  I left Sprint in 2003 for the same reasons.  In major metropolitan areas I would argue that the networks are the same.  It is when you leave the top 50 US/Canadian cities that I see a big difference.  98% of cell phone users probably don't go to some of the locations I visit regularly!  Anyone who has been to Kadoka or Faith, SD will know what I mean.  The ability to surf the net and get emails in Scobey, MT is always a constant source of amazement to me.  I remember the "old" days when finding a working pay phone was a challenge.

Polder 12/5/2012 | 5:15:40 PM
re: Verizon Finally Gets the iPhone 4

Your welcome, Verizon has been pretty good to me.  My AT&T oberservations are based on hearing what co-workers have to say.  It will be interesting to see the impact on subscriber counts when next announced.

Where I really see and simultainious voice data solution taking off is on a tablet type device.  Voice quality on iPhone and Droid is not up to snuff yet to use bluetooth all the time while surfing.  I'm still amazed I can use my Kindle account on my Droid.  The app world is getting amazing.

jayja 12/5/2012 | 5:15:25 PM
re: Verizon Finally Gets the iPhone 4

Upstate NY:  Last year at Best Buy, I told the AT&T saleswoman - who was hawking iPhones - that I (a VZW customer) understood that AT&T's signal was too weak here for an iPhone to be practical.

She "shusshed" me to silence, pulled me aside and showed me her Verizon Blackberry.  "You're right", she told me, "my boss makes me carry this around here in order to reach me."

Welcome to NY, iPhone! 

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