I have been waiting two-and-a-half years for this moment: Verizon began taking iPhone orders today. When I switched to the iPhone 3g in the summer of 2008, I waited on line until around 2:00am at the 5th Avenue Apple Store to get it as soon as possible. Even back in 2008, however, I bought the device with full awareness of AT&T's shortcomings -- my former roommate had AT&T until switching to Verizon a year earlier, and told me the vast improvement he experienced. By now, I've actually gotten use to dead zones ("I will probably lose you here, so if I do, I'll call you right back.") and dropped calls ("What part of the conversation did you last year?"). When I used Verizon for six years before owning the iPhone, I can't recall experiencing a single dropped call or dead zone -- and I traveled throughout the U.S. as a consultant at that time.
Yet despite my desire to switch back to Verizon, I won't be waiting on line again one week from today, when non-Verizon subscribers can make the switch. Instead, I'll wait a little longer -- until at least this summer.
My specific situation is probably relatively uncommon. Some iPhone-philes are trying to decide if switching to Verizon is worth the early termination fee. In calculating that cost, this post by my colleague Alexis Madgrigal may help. But I won't need to pay any early termination fee: I rightly predicted that Verizon would offer the iPhone early this year, so I didn't renew my 2-year contract with AT&T last summer when I could have. I am post-contract, so no termination fees would apply. But I'm still waiting. My rationale breaks down into seven parts.
Who Wants Inferior Technology?
Don't get me wrong: I'm dying to upgrade my old iPhone 3g. It has gotten slower and slower, even though I knew enough not to undergo the treacherous iOS4 update. I desperately wish I could enjoy cool new functionality that the iPhone has adopted since then like augmented reality, Face Time, a faster processor, and a better camera. But if I get the iPhone 4 in February, then I may have an inferior device as soon as this summer, if/when Apple releases a new version of the iPhone at its usual timing.
I Have Waited This Long
And under the assumption that a new iPhone is released by Apple this summer, that's just four or so months away. Really, what's four months? I have already exhibited incredible patience by waiting around eight months with an expired contract. To make the purchase hastily would be to ignore the big picture of what I, and probably most others in my position, want: not only an iPhone with Verizon, but the most advanced device possible. That second condition will likely be lost in four short months if I switch to Verizon now.
The Hope for LTE
To be honest, I'm unconvinced that the iPhone 5, 4g, 4s, or whatever Apple calls the next phone it creates will have any additional functionality that makes it revolutionary compared to the iPhone 4 -- with one huge exception. The next iPhone should support super-fast LTE/4G networks. The iPhone 4 doesn't. In fact, there's some reason to believe that hardware upgrade challenges will prevent even the next generation iPhone from supporting LTE too, but we'll see. Apple must recognize that other devices are being released that have the capability for enhanced network speed, so the iPhone must make this leap if it wants to compete. LTE is so much faster that it's worth waiting for.
The Fear of Kinks
As with all new technology, there may be some kinks along the way. We have heard that Verizon and AT&T have extensively tested the Verizon iPhone. But certainly, AT&T didn't anticipate the antennae issue that was quickly discovered after the release of its iPhone 4. Running a device on a new network could reveal unanticipated problems. As millions of Verizon subscribers scoop up iPhones, we'll see if any such problems do arise. And by the time the next iPhone version comes out this summer (probably), AT&T will have had time to address any hardware problems that may arise.
Will Verizon's Network Live Up To the Hype?
The big assumption that everyone is making is that Verizon's network can handle iPhone users' data guzzling. I think this is a safe assumption, but in reality, nobody knows for sure. That is to say, certainly the network will handle the iPhone in some capacity -- but will it do a better job than AT&T's network? By June, we should have some idea of how well the network is performing under the stress of millions of new Verizon iPhone users making their presence felt.
Data Plan May Not Be Truly Finalized
One thing I was a little disappointed about was Verizon's data plan. Some people might like the $29.99 unlimited data plan, but I would prefer AT&T's tiered pricing. My wife and I would be on a family plan. I always use less than 2GB of data per month (but more than 200 MB), and she uses less than 200MB. So our AT&T data fee would be $40 per month total. On Verizon, our unlimited data would cost $60 per month. That's a difference of $240 per year. Verizon may feel pressure to undergo some plan or pricing changes to compete with AT&T when both release a new phone simultaneously this summer (presumably). And if they do, then those who are patient will benefit from the resulting price wars.
Silence from Verizon On These Issues
The frustrating thing about many of the possibilities above is the silence from Verizon on those issues. If the company comes forward and says that any early adopter could simply exchange their iPhone 4 for an upgraded device in June with an extended contract, then I'd be at the Apple Store next week signing up for Verizon. If Verizon says it has no intention of supporting an upgraded iPhone this year, then I would probably settle for getting an iPhone 4 now, with little hope for something better in the near-term. Instead, we're all left to speculate what the future holds, which makes purchasing a phone now more of a risk.
Unless something really bizarre happens, I expect to one day own a Verizon iPhone. That day will just be a little further off than I hoped. But for any iPhone lovers who have waited this long to switch to Verizon, some additional patience may be justified. At this time, there seems little upside to being an early adopter, but a lot of downside if we get an LTE iPhone with additional upgrades in four short months.