Blog Post

It Must Be Nice to Be Verizon

Verizon / AT&T

It must be nice to be Verizon (s vz) right now. Free from the intense scrutiny AT&T (s t) receives by having the hottest and “smartest” smartphone, it can appear to rise above it all. It can have TV ads to claim the best network on the planet, and it’s done. It can have legions of people claiming they’d drop AT&T in a heartbeat, or snap up an iPhone (s aapl) tomorrow, if only it could be on its network.

Even setting aside that the iPhone on Verizon would not likely be the iPhone we recognize, this is ridiculous.

Before we get into it, let me first say that if you live where there’s little or no AT&T coverage, then obviously Verizon or another carrier is what you need. But every carrier has holes in its coverage. Every. One. This article isn’t about that.

No, what this article is about are those places (and there are many) where either carrier is an option. In that case, there are general perceptions where Verizon seems to either have people fooled, or it’s no different than AT&T but it isn’t noticed.

  • It must be nice to sell phones with less usability than the iPhone so your customers don’t hammer your network, and then sit back and let people assume you could handle the load under which AT&T is straining.
  • It must be nice to utilize the same pricing and subsidy strategies as AT&T, but get to remain above the fray while AT&T takes the heat for what the whole industry is doing.
  • It must be nice to charge for carrier cash cows like SMS and tethering, but have everybody only complain about AT&T doing it.
  • It must be nice to brag about having visual voice mail on some phones, while quietly hiding that it’s an extra $3 a month.
  • It must be nice to not allow convenient syncing of data, media, bookmarks, etc., via the excellent iTunes environment, instead using clumsier tools if anything is allowed at all, and have your customers just take it in stride.
  • It must be nice to disable hardware features on many phones, such as Bluetooth, GPS, and Wi-Fi, with little complaint from the masses.
  • It must be nice to avoid GSM, still using CDMA-based technology that the rest of the world (and AT&T) has abandoned. Its rollout to a 4G network could come with headaches as a result.
  • It must be nice to brag about 3G speeds, and have no one point out that your CDMA 3G technology (EV-DO) can handle voice or data, but not both simultaneously. Browsing the web when a call comes in? You can have the call or the web, not both. Oops.

If Verizon received even half the scrutiny AT&T does, it’d be buried with criticism. If AT&T is getting a lot of bad press, Verizon would be ripped to shreds. But since it doesn’t offer a phone that’s particularly compelling, one that taxes its network, one that people actually want to use, few have bothered to look beyond the geek with the glasses it puts on TV. It must be nice.

Finally, this in not intended as a defense of AT&T, and in no way excuses it from legitimate complaints. I’ve certainly grown tired of all that company’s talk, but no action. However, the idea that Verizon would somehow be free from all these complaints — even assuming it allowed the iPhone as is — is not supported by its own actions. As a U.S. carrier it has far more in common with AT&T than people seem to realize.

I was a Verizon customer for years prior to switching for an iPhone over two years ago. The “Verizon envy” many AT&T customers possess is akin to the grass always being greener on the other side. Problem is, most of you would find out it’s crabgrass.

77 Responses to “It Must Be Nice to Be Verizon”

  1. Yusuf Rahman

    Reading this from South Asia, I’ve finally started realizing how crappy the American market for wireless providers. No prepaid connectivity, all these extra charges, and they still use GSM? I thought the free market was supposed to get the consumers what they want, but I guess that’s still someway off. Now excuse while enjoy the free 500 sms’ I got this month. That’s service for you.

    • America hasn’t been a free market since the 1930’s. We have been adding more and more socialist burdens since then. The result is an ugly kludge of an economic system that only serves the ultra rich.

    • or you could just get a prepaid plan from someone like boost or something similar and pay 50 bucks a month for unlimited talk, text, and web. Everything in this world has a price. Often more of the cost is for customer service. I’m in the computer industry and customer service costs account for way more than the equipment costs.

  2. This is classic Apple Apologist commentary. The iPhone doesn’t have cut and paste functionality? We don’t need it. Can’t multitask? It’ll just slow the device down. Instead of acknowledging a legitimate defect in an Apple product or strategy, it’s all about spinning it to avoid even remote criticism of Apple.

    In the case of your blog post, it’s a framing issue. The problem is not that Apple willingly entered into an exclusive arrangement that denied its users the *choice* of carriers (all of whom have their limitations and problems), but rather the problem is all the bandwagoning critics of AT&T. Keep telling yourself that.

    If Apple had elected to launch the iPhone on more than one carrier, AT&T would have at least had the competitive pressure of having to deliver on features and pricing. But instead it’s all about the usual Apple exclusivity, the usual manufactured scarcity.

    So evade all you want, but it still comes back to the forbidden territory of saying something remotely critical about Apple. Don’t like CDMA? Why not have both CDMA and GSM versions of the phone? Some phones come equipped for both. Want AT&T’s subsidies? Open it up to multiple carriers and let them compete. Think AT&T stinks? Think Verizon sucks? Offer the iPhone on both.

    The reality is that Verizon’s service would likely be improved by the competitive pressure from AT&T. How’s that baking your noodle? If Apple had the iPhone on AT&T and Verizon, *both* companies would have to improve their game and compete on features and price. So thanks to Apple’s need for artificial scarcity — and enablers such as yourself — both AT&T and Verizon suck that much more.

    However you slice it, the point missing in your “It Must Be Nice to Be Verizon” blog posting is that you refuse to call out Apple for setting up the false either/ or choice between one or more carriers. But that’s understandable, coming from an Apple Apologist. Actually, it’s expected.

    • “the point missing in your “It Must Be Nice to Be Verizon” blog posting is that you refuse to call out Apple for setting up the false either/ or choice between one or more carriers.”

      I’ve never missed that point. If I ever called Apple out for such a thing it would only prove my eyes were closed the last two years.

      It was an Apple decision to buck convention and NOT submit to a carrier on hardware/software specs. AT&T agreed to let Apple make the iPhone Apple’s way, and the result was brilliant. Where was Verizon in all this? Too busy disabling hardware features in the phones they sold. Heck, it’s two years later and they STILL do this.

      So, no, you won’t be seeing me “call out” Apple for entering a vendor/carrier partnership that turned the entire mobile industry on its ear, and where EVERYONE is playing catch up.

  3. jaquin

    The article is timely.
    I think people who see the ads for ATT and Verizon making all kinds of claims about network superiority and “bars” think they are comparable; your article is showing that the issues that ATT has experienced as a result of the tremendous success of the iPhone puts it in a unique situation.
    Though we are on the third iteration of iPhone, (ATT has had some time to prepare), the main fix for the issue is to have more towers, more equipment added at a faster rate than the iPhone is attracting customers and giving those customers new things to try on the network.
    That sounds simple to say but perhaps its time to get some feedback from ATT, to discuss the plans they have to make the necessary improvements to accommodate the influx.
    Without demeaning the Vz network, I think its fair to say that the iPhone phenomena represents a new paradigm and there is little evidence to suggest that Vz could have handled the deluge any better than ATT has.

  4. JanuaryMorning

    I think that out of the major cell phones carriers, AT&T is really the best. I have had sprint, tmobile, cricket, and Verizon. All of which were not only tiresome to deal with, but had HORRIBLE customer service.

    Obviously, when you’re the only carrier putting out the most advanced phone to date, people are going to flock to it. And since theres only one company to be held responsible everyone is going to go after that.

    The iPhone creators dont have to worry about dealing with cell phone coverage problems so they can just design the phone however they want and then let the carriers deal with customers and such.

    AT&T should be compared side to side with all companies in ALL areas, that is only way to fairly evaluate them. Plus, my bf has verizon and she gets shitty service. ha

  5. lapuraveritas

    I’ve gotta admit after using the iPhone 3G in Germany with T-Mobile and coming back to the states…. its just not the same thing. Dropped calls galore…. horrible coverage…. I thought T-mobile D was bad … but this AT&T network is slooooooooowww….. I could keep going but really…… I’ve already switched to back to Blackberry. Now my iPhone is for working out….. just a glorified iPod Touch!

  6. Hanoch

    I live in a large metropolitan area where either AT&T or Verizon is available. I have used both networks extensive. There is absolutely no question that, for voice service, Verizon has the better, more reliable network. AT&T is not horrible, but it can’t match Verizon. Thus, if the most important issue for a user is a reliable voice network, Verizon is the way to go.

  7. I agree with your assessment of Verizon. Their penchant for turning off features such as bluetooth to force customers to use their services is well-known. Their only advantage is coverage — CDMA’s one advantage over GSM. Further, I doubt that Apple will ever succumb to Verizon’s position on their handset suppliers. A Verizon spokesman, in response to a reporter’s question about Apple, stated that Verizon does not comment on ongoing negotiations with vendors. Apple will never allow Verizon to treat them as a vendor where they would be contractually required to adhere to Verizon’s business and design requirements. That’s the biggest change that Apple has made to this business. Apple sees ATT as a partner, not as a customer.

  8. It’s not about CDMA being either older or obsolete.

    If you’re building your first phone ever, and you want to maximize efficiencies, which technology do you choose? Clearly, GSM, since it’s the “standard” internationally. This allows you to rollout your phone across the globe without requiring the multiple models other hardware makers take in stride because they’ve always kow towed to the carriers. This is one case where being in bed with Qualcomm did not work in Verizon’s favor.

    I doubt that Apple can go with one model forever. Aside form the rumors of a special WiFi-less model in China, I’m not sure they can (or should) avoid Verizon forever. Waiting for a 4G solution (to have one phone run on both networks) does not seem practical. It seems to me the only thing that’ll keep the iPhone off Verizon when AT&T exclusivity ends is if Verizon actually believes they can still dictate hardware terms.

  9. I like the way you try to make CDMA sound like an older obsolete technology when it is in fact just a slightly different 3G standard. GSM does have some advantages (mainly worldwide support), but truthfully the technologies are so similar that it is pretty much a moot point. The main difference between the two technologies (and most likely the reason Version and Sprint went with CDMA) from an end user perspective is that CDMA can handle more active users in the same amount of spectrum.

    Truthfully to most end users it really doesn’t matter what wireless technology user carrier uses. If you travel overseas a lot and are willing to pay insane rates to be able to use your phone while overseas then either get a GSM phone or get a Worldwide Phone that can handle both GSM and CDMA. I know Sprint offers such phones and I imagine Version would too.

  10. I had Verizon for 8 years and switched over for the iPhone 3GS. I never had any problems with Verizon ever as far as service or bills. My bill was the same as my new AT&T but with Verizon I also got full coverage insurance. And with my Verizon smart phone I was able to browse the web while being on a phone call with no problems.

    When I decided to switch, I figured, it’s 2009, how bad could AT&T really be? And service-wise, it’s not terrible, but not as good as Verizon.

    I do wonder though why AT7Tcan’t support mms and tethering when other carriers overseas can and I had tethering and mms on my Verizon smart phone for no extra charge, it was just rolled into my unlimited data plan.

    • Todd,

      That’s technically impossible, unless you’re browsing the web over wifi on a hacked VzW phone. Typically, VzW disables the ability to use wifi while on a call, though there’s a registry hack for their Winmo phones to re-enable it.

      1xRTT and 1xEVDO are just not capable of simultaneous voice & data. Wifi, which requires you to be stationary to work with doesn’t really so much count on a *mobile* phone in this case.

  11. Jason Harris

    I’m an AT&T customer (Curve 8900) and this article comes off as just…I don’t even know.

    We get it Verizon is a cell carrier and has cell carrier problems like all of them. They’ve also got a great reputation for their network coverage, especially 3g. The only reason I’m not particularly keen on the carrier is their handset selection on CDMA tends to lag behind GSM, since GSM is the world market. But it’s funny to see that the Apple halo extends so far that the carrier who holds the iPhone gets a defensive article bashing their competition.

    People are calling the Palm Pre an iPhone killer, looks like you can write another article about how the Pre sucks, then a follow up about how Sprint sucks, because they dared to compete with the precious iPhone.

    • “They’ve also got a great reputation for their network coverage, especially 3g.”

      When you don’t have a phone that people want to hammer your network with, and when you only allow the network to be voice or data, but not both simultaneously, it’s an easier task than AT&T is facing.

      “the carrier who holds the iPhone gets a defensive article bashing their competition”

      I did not defend AT&T. In fact, I did just the opposite by saying “Finally, this is not intended as a defense of AT&T, and in no way excuses it from legitimate complaints.”

      Nor did I “bash” Verizon. Which one of my points do you think was bashing?

    • Jason Harris

      The reality is is that the major carriers are not all that different. AT&T and Verizon being the largest are fairly comparable, with some having better coverage than others in different areas. Part of your issue with not ever hearing complaints about VZN must be related to the fact that you’re mostly talking to iPhone users, because the rest of the world has plenty of complaints about VZN (and Sprint, and T-Mobile….) and I’m not sure who you’re addressing when you’re trying to downplay them. I guess in iPhone circles there’s a lot of ATT specific hate, but the general world really complains about either carrier as much as the other.

      In a lot of markets, Verizon has a higher signal quality. In SoCal (where I am) it has held the advantage for years, and ATT has only recently gotten on par.

      Technology complaints are small or best..you could bash GSM saying “Must be nice to have every electronic device emit interference every time a call comes in!” but it’s really a nitpick.

      ATT and Verizon are both pricier than their competitors, both have some exclusive handsets that the others might like (BB Storm, iPhone) and both have pros and cons compared to the other. But honestly, there’s very little difference between the two. Like I said, the only major difference being the technology of the network, which means that the CDMA side (VZN) lags a bit on handset selection. Fundamentally, they’re pretty much the same. Verizon doesn’t suck. ATT doesn’t suck. They both have minor issues. They both could be cheaper. *shrug*

  12. str1f3

    The problem is that it should be available on all carriers. The truth is that any exclusivity deal with one network will have a lot of trouble due to bandwidth issues. AT&T has handled this in the worst possible way by doing very little to upgrade their network. Availability on all carriers would solve this issue.

    You mention that Verizon will nickel and dime you. That may be true but availability among all carriers will help competition by introducing lowering
    prices. Also AT&T robs you on its roaming plan.

    For EV-DO not supporting cell and data at the same time, AT&T is having a hard time just doing a phone call here in NYC.

    As to Verizon crippling its phones, I’m sure whatever deal that Verizon would strike with Apple would have limited say on the hardware as does AT&T. Apple is also influencing Verizon on this because phones like the Storm 2 are said to have wifi later this year.

    • Really? AT&T is having a hard time just making calls in NYC? That’s odd, I’ve worked in NYC 3-4 days a week for the last 10 years or so. No trouble there at all.

      Back when I was a VzW customer, I dropped calls all the time, especially in NYC.

    • To Jason.
      I work in NYC 5 week days for last 5 years, and I still get call problems with AT&T service, same goes for my home in Brooklyn. My wife with her Razr on VZW network – next to 0% voice call related issues
      Every carrier got weak/no coverage areas even in busy markets as NYC

    • I’d have to blame that on the buildings you’re in then. Perhaps they’re built like Faraday cages, and there are VzW micro/picocells inside the buildings, or something.

      10 years, no trouble.

  13. Victor

    To all the people who say iTunes sucks. You’re just not using it properly. There quite certainly is something wonderful about iTunes- the iPod and everything related to it. There is nothing on the market that works as well as the iTunes and iPod synergy. If you’re on a windows, well then maybe that’s a different story.

    And yes. Verizon sucks. Along with just about every single one of its phones.

  14. The problem I have is that I only have my own personal experience as “data.” I live in Boston metro where there are many options for cell plans (and I’ve had at least 4). And in my personal experience it is true that, given my use pattern, that Verizon has noticeably superior coverage (like in my house) and lower drop rates (I experience daily call drops on ATT compared to weekly or monthly on Verizon).

    When you aggregate data up to a high level, I wouldn’t be surprised if ATT and Verizon compared favorably. But no one uses the phone “in aggregate.” Anyway, since your Op-Ed didn’t include any data either way, it’s hard for me to take it as anything more than yet another personal use case.

  15. Do these posts really need to be so.. snarky? To me this type of “it must be nice” point-by-point dissection does tend to come over all bitter fanboy. We left all that behind with the 360 vs PS3 wars of 2008, right?

    • So now I’m an AT&T fanboy? Really? I’m a fanboy of a CARRIER? Oh please.

      Don’t be so sensitive. Verizon is flying under the radar with people imagining they’re somehow a lot different than AT&T. They’re not.

      If you don’t think Verizon LOVES every “AT&T sucks” article, especially those about pricing even though they have the same prices, you’re nuts. It must, indeed, be nice.

    • I do agree with the points made in the article – Verizon gets an easy ride on many aspects of its service, primarily because it isn’t held up to the kind of standards Apple customers expect.

      I’m certainly not accusing anyone of being an AT&T fanboy, but I reckon that if you were to replace the name Verzion with Microsoft and AT&T with Apple, for example, I think the article would come across as something of a fanboy piece.

      I just thought the tone could have been a little more reasoned. I’m no writer, but it’s better to have constructive feedback than “I’m quitting this blog” right?

    • GJD,

      “I reckon that if you were to replace the name Verizon with Microsoft and AT&T with Apple, for example, I think the article would come across as something of a fanboy piece”

      But that’s a projection you can’t reasonably make. The same could be said if I substituted “New York Yankees” and “Boston Red Sox” as well, but the fact is the article isn’t about those teams, and it isn’t about Apple and Microsoft. It’s about Verizon and AT&T; making statements based on what it COULD have been about is a bit unfair.

      As for the “tone”, it used bullet points to back up whatever tone it has. I used “it must be nice” as the theme of the post because it’s what I always mumble to myself whenever I read one of the (seeming) numerous posts a week about how useless AT&T is, even as almost every argument could be leveled at Verizon as well.

      Finally, I appreciate the thoughtful comments. I don’t want to drive people off with “tone”, but in this case I believe the theme fit well. Besides, if every article “tone” was the same we’d all be wishy-washy, mealy-mouthed writers who straddle the fence ’cause we’re afraid to upset anybody. How boring would that be?

  16. Champs

    There is nothing wonderful about iTunes or any of the (US) national wireless services. All of them are some sinister mix of evil and incompetence.

  17. “It must be nice to not allow convenient syncing of data, media, bookmarks, etc, via the excellent iTunes environment,”

    You Must Be Joking! I never seen such cumbersome, slow and resource hog like iTunes.

    “It must be nice to avoid GSM, still using CDMA-based technology that the rest of the world (and AT&T) has abandoned.”

    This must be some sick joke or you are misinformed – BOTH VZW and ATT announced they will deploy CDMA based 4g – LTE.

    As much as I’d love WiMax to succeed it doesn’t seem that way due to very slow deployment rate

  18. Tom, good post, but it’s not just AT&T and VZW that have poor plans. All the carrier plans suck. The best one I have found is Sprint’s $99 all you can eat plan although T-Mobile has a higher data transfer limit. Oh, and I am a VZW customer. I dropped my data plan months ago because I couldn’t justify the expense.

    The fact of the matter is the cell phone industry in the US sucks donkey balls. The carriers collude on pricing–not formally, but informally. There is little differentiation between them except for Springs all you can eat. If Sprint got the iPhone, AT&T would be peeing their pants.

    I almost bought an iPhone 3G last week, but dammit, I simply won’t pay exorbitant rates for SMS. I won’t. Why am I concerned about SMS, because I know alot of people who don’t have data plans but do have SMS. So while I could use Twitter, etc for SMS like functions, they can not.

    • Would love to see a post on new type of coverage in cellular wireless service – I think it’s primarily for web surfing and in Atlanta it’s called “Clear.” I would like to know how this will change the face of communications and implications for iPhone and other mobile devices.

    • Also keep in mind that other carriers in other countries have managed to get things like tethering and MMS up and running with hardly any issues, but for some reason AT&T can’t.

      “It must be nice to brag about 3G speeds, and have no one point out that their CDMA 3G technology (EV-DO) can handle voice or data, but not both simultaneously. Browsing the web when a call comes in? You can have the call or the web, not both. Oops.”

      Uh, what? Who talks on their PHONE while browsing the web on the same device at the same time? No one.

    • @HazardousPaste

      “Uh, what? Who talks on their PHONE while browsing the web on the same device at the same time? No one.”

      I’m trying to work out if you’re trying to be funny because I am always looking things up on my iPhone when I’m on calls (hands-free) or downloading apps or waiting for an email from the person on the other end to send to me etc etc.

      -Mart

    • FeelingGood in L.A.

      @HazardousPaste

      Are you fracking kidding me? I use that ability at least once a day on my iPhone. If someone ask me something I can’t readily answer I immediately put them on speakerphone and google the answer while I am still talking to them. It always impresses the hell out of them and give me an opportunity to show off the iPhone’s abilities.

      It must really suck to be you.

    • lapuraveritas

      um Hazardous Paste ….

      in reference to talking on the phone and surfing the web…..(see Below)

      some ppl do this all the time (its commonly called multitasking)…. esp when accessing fb/twitter/linkedin, googling and talking at the same time…..if your really tech savvy….it can be done via a bluetooth headset! lol!

  19. Well said. I had Verizon for a while, but had problems with it. I had no service at my family’s summer home and had service just about everywhere except my own home. There still is no Verizon service in both of those places to this day. Their phones are very lackluster and feature-less. The iphone is amazingly capable and so enjoyably compatible.

  20. Amen. I was with Verizon for 4 years prior to this June when I switched to AT&T for the iPhone 3GS, and I couldn’t wait to get away from Big Red. I’m sure I’ll have problems with AT&T just like I did with Verizon at some point, but I have the device I want. The coverage has been excellent so far and I’m paying the same price I did for my Blackberry. Even ignoring the CDMA/GSM issue, I’m highly skeptical Verizon would ever offer the iPhone unless Apple agreed to some inane request like disabling WiFi or GPS, or App Store revenue sharing.

    • @Jeff Clark,
      Umm, care to explain why any of this blog post didn’t hit the nail on the head? I’ve always shaken my head in disbelief at the evil empire things Verizon has gotten up to all these years. Sure AT&T has it’s problems, but man, I’d hate to be on a carrier who disabled Bluetooth and wifi and GPS on a perfectly good phone in order to charge me a bucketload to use their crappy services over the cell instead.

      -Mart