The Verizon iPhone Is the Best Thing That's Happened to AT&T Customers

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There's no doubt that the Verizon iPhone, which is available to existing Verizon customers for pre-order starting today and will be available to the general public starting next Thursday, is a scary, scary thing for AT&T executives. AT&T has been the exclusive carrier of Apple's popular smartphone since its launch more than four years ago, on January 9, 2007, and it's done wonders for their bottom line. But the burst of new data flowing through AT&T's network forced the telecommunications company to expand and improve rapidly; not rapidly enough, though, to stop complaints of dropped calls and overcharge fees. Now that there's an alternative carrier, how many users will leave AT&T? Those numbers will start spilling out soon, but there's one thing we know: Those who remain on AT&T's sheets will benefit from the exodus.

In an effort to sign up as many new subscribers as possible since it was announced that the Verizon iPhone would become a reality, AT&T dropped the price of the iPhone 3GS to only $50, making a smartphone affordable to a larger group of potential buyers.

And even if every AT&T user remained with the carrier, dropped calls should become a more infrequent frustration as the company is working hard to strengthen its network and appease frustrated customers. These upgrades have been in the works for some time, but the announcement of a new competitor only helped to get projects moving faster. As we can be all but certain that every AT&T user won't remain with the company, the network used by those of us who stick around could see less traffic in the coming months. (Disclosure: I'm an iPhone owner and long-time AT&T customer.)

Finally, AT&T is planning to open up mobile hotspot capabilities for new HTC Inspire 4G users in mid-February with an application. Hotspot allows multiple devices to share a broadband connection, but Verizon's iPhone currently holds an exclusive contract on mobile hotspot functionality. "The move is a likely precursor to adding Wi-Fi hotspot capability to AT&T's iPhone," Larry Dignan wrote at ZDNet.

So if you've been dreaming of switching over to the Verizon network, but are stuck, like 90 percent of its customers, with AT&T because of a contract that is prohibitively expensive to break, look on the bright side: Things could be getting better for you soon.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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