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Summary:

Analysts estimate sales of a Verizon iPhone to be from three to six million units per quarter, with a substantial number being sold to refugees from AT&T’s network. Whether or not you join the crowd will likely come down to coverage, cost and features.

Verizon iPhone 4

Analysts estimate sales of a Verizon iPhone to be from three to six million units per quarter, with a substantial number being sold to refugees from AT&T’s 3G network. Whether or not you want to flee AT&T will likely come down to coverage and cost, but that’s not all.

Coverage

The singular issue for iPhone users contemplating switching from AT&T to Verizon is network coverage and reliability. Survey after survey has shown AT&T lagging behind Verizon, most recently from Consumer Reports (via PC World). AT&T customers, half of them iPhone owners, rated AT&T as the worst in value and service. AT&T scored a dismal 60 out of 100, down six points from last year, and was rated worst in voice and data service, as well as customer support. Verizon was rated the second best carrier overall. As for coverage, the 3G maps don’t lie; Verizon wins.

Cost

Buying a new phone and terminating a contract is always expensive, but in switching from AT&T to Verizon there are a few caveats. Verizon iPhones start at $199, but that amount is easily recovered through the sale of a used AT&T iPhone on eBay. Regarding termination fees, for those who purchased an AT&T smartphone after June 1 2010, the early termination fee is $325, prorated at $10 per month of ownership. Those who bought phones before then pay $175, minus prorating, so iPhone 4 owners pay nearly twice as much as iPhone 3GS owners. However, in both cases there is, in my opinion, a hidden “fee” relating to network coverage.

As an AT&T customer, I don’t need to look at surveys or maps about coverage and reliability. All I need to do is try to make a phone call from home. Without an AT&T 3G MicroCell, I wouldn’t be able to. I had to pay $150 for that device, and there are additional fees for those wanting calling plans with it. In this case, coverage factors into switching cost, too.

Features

Features are really secondary to cost and coverage, but there are a few to consider. The biggest “loss” to switchers will be a lack of simultaneous voice and data. The question is how many people really use that. Unlike Dave, I can’t remember the last time I needed data access on a call. Likewise, not many people will probably use a Verizon iPhone with tethering capability for up to five devices, but for those who will, at least it’s there.

Button placement has shifted slightly on the Verizon iPhone, which may require the purchase of new accessories, especially cases, though the antenna redesign may make these less necessary. For data hogs, the Verizon iPhone could offer an unlimited data plan for $30 (unless they introduce iPhone-specific data pricing), just $5 more than the 2GB capped plan from AT&T. That would probably the best single Verizon-specific feature for prospective switchers besides coverage.

Within Reach

There’s always the choice to wait until June or July to switch and get the next generation of iPhone, too. If I were already on Verizon, that’s what I would do. However, for many suffering with AT&T, the question isn’t about hardware, but about putting up with the inferior coverage and reliability of AT&T’s network. That there’s an answer for that as of Feb. 10, and one that still represents the latest and greatest in smartphone tech that Apple has to offer, will be hard to pass up.

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  1. ha! There’s no suffering with AT&T. It’s all about choices. And if you feel like your suffering, then you CHOOSE to suffer.

  2. I may not use data access during a call on a daily basis but when I need it it sure is very handy. That makes it worth staying on ATT for me at least until the 4G iPhone arrives

  3. I’m locked into AT&T for a while anyway, but I have to say that my biggest reason for moving away from Verizon a few years back was because I traveled a lot internationally, and my CDMA phone was useless in Europe. Not just expensive, but a brick. I had to constantly borrow or rent a phone (on my company’s dime, of course), but it was incredibly aggravating, particularly given the “temporary” numbers I had to always give out to clients and colleagues because they couldn’t reach me on my actual phone.

    I know some of the newer “global” verizon devices solve this problem, but I haven’t seen anything indicating that the Verizon iphone will be one of these devices. Even though I don’t travel nearly as much as I used to, this is probably the biggest sticking point for me.

    (and I think I’m the only person on earth who gets 5 bars inside my apartment, so not too many connectivity problems)

  4. Coverage is always in the eye of the beholder. I have an AT&T iPhone and very rarely have coverage or dropped call problems. There are certainly areas and friends who don’t have good AT&T coverage at their home or other location. The same is true with Verizon and other carriers. There have been times when I have coverage on AT&T and my friend is unable to make a call standing next to me on Verizon.

    The key to making a carrier decision based on coverage, is whether they provide coverage where you go most often.

    1. You are so right. AT&T works fine everywhere I usually go. The only time I’ve ever had a dropped call was at Dulles, but I am rarely there.

  5. I must be the luckiest person on earth according to all of the negative press AT&T receives. My iPhone 4 (and all previous models) have been outstanding, including coverage. I’ve seen friends with Verizon switch to AT&T after witnessing my flawless experience.

    I don’t disagree that AT&T struggled during the initial wave of network issues due to the sensation better known as the iPhone, but the company has addressed the issue by adding a huge amount of network capacity through fiber, network equipment and additional tower construction. No other company could have handled the iPhone craze and positioned themselves better than AT&T.

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