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I'd been thinking that I wanted to write something about what AT&T customers should do were they to lose their iPhone 4s. Given the high price of an unsubsidized iPhone, should they pay AT&T's early termination fee and buy the cheaper subsidized Verizon iPhone? Could it make economic sense?

Then I decided that if I really wanted to put the proper level of emotion into the post, I'd need to go method with it. (Method blogging... Tell your friends.) So, I promptly left my phone in a cab and have spent the past two days reactivating an old iPhone 3G and stewing in a wasteland of gadget sadness. (The things I do for you people. And you never even call.)

Here's my situation. Using the old 3G feels like moving back in with my parents. Ever since I upgraded the software a few months ago, it became damn near unusable, at least in my case. The response time on the screen is measurable with a sundial. The thrill is gone! And suddenly, the screen looks like an old TV screen in need of bunny ears. I just can't do it. Everything I love about the iPhone -- its grace, its fluidity, what it says about my position on pleated pants -- does not hold for the iPhone 3G.

So, yes, I'm going to get a new iPhone 4. (I know I could wait until summer and get a 5. I know, I know.) But My AT&T service is just OK. The data speed occasionally surprises me, but it drops calls all the time. Verizon's solid network seemed worth exploring.

When the lady at the AT&T store told me I'd have to pay $400 for a new iPhone, I figured that the $200 cost advantage for the Verizon phone itself would cancel out at least a big chunk of AT&T's $325 pro-rated early termination fee, and make a carrier switch feasible.

Alas, as you can see from the graph above, I was wrong. I signed my contract a mere five months ago, which means that I am 10 months away from the crossover point. If I switched now, I'd have to pay an $85 Verizon premium. You got me again, AT&T. You got me again!

But if you, dear irresponsible reader, happen to be later in your AT&T contract and happen to leave your phone in a cab, you may want to give Verizon a good, hard look.

Just remember: cell phone networks are local and AT&T's may actually be better in your area than Verizon's, even if the consensus is that's not true nationwide.

One other caveat. As you get closer to the end of your contract, your local AT&T sales rep may well be willing to give you a better deal than the $400 one they offered me. So check on that.

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