This week saw the thing that iPhone fanatics have been waiting for: the release of a Verizon version of the iPhone. Formerly, the iPhone required use of the AT&T network. Naturally there are people out there – desperate anarchists – that have used the iPhone on other networks before now, but this time it is official: No longer are Apple users forced to subscribe to AT&T in order to use their iPhone. While this seems like an obvious step that should have happened about four years ago, the technology industry is still abuzz with this news. I, like a good little geek moth, went toward the equally geeky flame to see whether the hype was worth it.
For those of us in Colorado, this probably has a slightly greater effect than it would on those that already lived like human beings – saturated by the sweet, sweet, cancerous hum of overlapping cell towers. Here in the frontlines of the Continental Divide, we have to be more careful with our cellular providers. Aligning one’s self with the wrong cell service carrier is worse than allying with the wrong political party, worse than marrying the wrong woman, worse than siding with the undead when the cities fall to the restless damned. It is comparable to both voting for the wrong person on American Idol while simultaneously registering as a Communist, and engaging in sexual congress with the One Who Shall Not be Named.
Mostly, you will drop calls like mad, never get your texts on time, and checking your voicemail will be only slightly harder than receiving messages from the great beyond.
AT&T has made significant strides forward in the past few years, but is still only highly functional in population centers, and even then the experience is often spotty. The ability to choose Verizon gives users access to the largest cellular network in the US. That is nice for the fine people of Colorado, but really does affect only a minimum of the populace. With the change to Verizon comes a greater variety of plans, which certainly affects pricing, so coverage is not the only thing to consider.
AT&T has moved to a 4G network, while the Verizon iPhone will still be using a 3G network, so it is the timeless question of quality over quantity. There is more service in more areas, or there is better service for the places where you get it.
AT&T had a stranglehold on the iPhone market, which has helped their success immensely. However, the nature of free market dictates that competition is the only way that the consumer wins. Verizon offers a significant increase in their plan structure, and allows for much more flexibility than AT&T, so the addition is nice, but not earth shattering. This is again only relevant to the minority of people that are between carriers and contracts at the moment. AT&T will hit anyone trying to leave their service for enrollment in the V-army (the Verizon army, not alliance with the television aliens) with a $100 fee.
As to the phone features, there really was nothing stellar with the iPhone for Verizon. It offers a new antenna, but that is only because Apple has to adhere to the standards of CDMA, which is used by Verizon, while GSM is used by AT&T. That is a lot of acronyms to say that they follow different protocols. Why it is significant is not only the antenna, however, but something much more fundamental:
Data and Voice together.
Here is the real bitch of the iPhone on Verizon. If you are one of those people that still watches commercials, you have almost certainly seen the Valentine’s Day spot in which a distraught husband is both talking to his wife on the phone and using his phone to make reservations. This is a feature that is great for those of us that don’t actually listen when people are talking and are instead playing Bejeweled online during our phone conversations. However, on Verizon, we will not be able to do it unless within a WiFi hotspot. So if you were having wet dreams of surfing and talking on your phone, you are still stuck with AT&T.
The big noise with the move to Verizon is the 5 computer tethering system. Former iterations of the iPhone only allowed one computer to utilize the phone’s connectivity to connect to the internet. Now, the iPhone can act as a mobile hotspot for connection of up to five nearby computers, so rather than finding out how the person sitting next to you is doing by asking them, you can check their Facebook status. While I didn’t necessarily need another way to avoid eye contact or human interaction, it is nice to have one.
Now, if I could only figure out how to ask for the WiFi password without actually speaking to Doug.
The Verizon iPhone is really not a drastic improvement in any way. The tethering is a handy addition, but Droid does the same thing, and Sprint provides hotspots as well. It is not new and no one is getting moist over it. Die hard Apple associates might feel the need to grab one, and anyone that can get one on the company dime has already done it and written a review about it (ahem!) but there really isn’t anything to entice anyone toward this mild change. Anyone that hasn’t already bought an iPhone and then had one of their nerd friends jailbreak it to work on Verizon’s network might find this bandwagon appealing, but it will fail to make anyone see god without the innovative use of the vibrate function.