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Gadgets & Gizmos

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Before you choose your iPhone carrier, figure out your priorities

4

February

Verizon and AT&T are in full swing now, trying to bolster their strengths and point out each other's weaknesses as we approach the public release of the iPhone 4 on Verizon. After last night's record-breaking pre-sale of the iPhone to existing Verizon customers, it seems likely we'll be seeing tons of new iPhone users soon. With so many fantastic choices out there I keep wondering, why?

verizon-vs-att-iphone.jpg

It's just like when my daughter asks for a $60 Vera Bradley backpack when we can get her a $25 Jansport one that does the same thing. They both carry books, right? Yes, but the Vera Bradley one does it with style and (this is the big one) status. So even though there are new and more capable Smartphones on the market (yes, I said it), the iPhone remains as the Rolex of phones everyone wants to have and Verizon is seen as the Rolls Royce of services.

But it's not always wise to make decisions based on name brands alone. So before rushing off to buy an iPhone or any phone on any carrier, you should figure out your needs and buy the phone that fits them best. In the case of the iPhone on Verizon or AT&T, here's what you have:

Verizon - Early reports are that voice quality is a lot better with less dropped calls. iphone_4_verizon-1.jpgData speeds are reported to be slower, however, so if you plan to do a lot of surfing, uploading of photos or video or you're a Netflix junkie, Verizon might not be the best choice. Also, Verizon recently disclosed that although they will be offering unlimited data on the iPhone for $30 a month, they plan to use data optimization (compression) and slow down the accounts of so-called "data hogs" who represent the top 5% of users. So if you plan to move around a lot of data with your new Verizon iPhone, it may be a lot slower than it would be on AT&T. Also, you cannot use your Verizon iPhone for voice calls and data at the same time.Here's an excerpt from the Verizon memo:

Verizon Wireless strives to provide customers the best experience when using our network, a shared resource among tens of millions of customers.  To help achieve this, if you use an extraordinary amount of data and fall within the top 5% of Verizon Wireless data users we may reduce your data throughput speeds periodically for the remainder of your then current and immediately following billing cycle to ensure high quality network performance for other users at locations and times of peak demand.  Our proactive management of the Verizon Wireless network is designed to ensure that the remaining 95% of data customers aren't negatively affected by the inordinate data consumption of just a few users.

AT&T - The iPhone has been on the AT&T network for four years and from the beginning they experienced network problems that likely were caused by underestimating the amount of data iPhone users would be using. apple-iphone-4-att.jpgThere also were reports of poor voice quality and dropped calls. AT&T has fixed many of the original problems but in some cities (New York, San Francisco, Orlando, Jacksonville) users continue to report problems with voice calls. Data, on the other hand, appears to be more robust on AT&T's network and early comparisons with the Verizon iPhone are showing AT&T's speeds to be considerably faster. Also, AT&T is adding 2GB of data use to their tethering accounts with no extra charge for a total of 4GB of included monthly data in their top data package. Additionally, iPhones on AT&T can be used for data and voice connections at the same time. They have not announced plans for data compression or bandwidth slowdowns based on individual use. If data is your priority on the iPhone, AT&T may be the better choice.

Keep in mind that with both carriers your results may vary based on where you live. We have four AT&T iPhones in my home and they all work great everywhere except at our house, where voice calls are terrible. But that seems to be the case with all cell phones at our house. Talk to friends and neighbors where you live to see what's working for them. You also can check coverage maps for AT&T and Verizon to see how strong the service is where you plan to use the phone.

Be an informed consumer and you'll be happier with your choice in the long run. Our phones are a main part of our daily lives and not just a status symbol. Sometimes the Jansport backpack, while not as sexy as the Vera Bradley one, is the best one for the job.

[Last modified: Friday, February 4, 2011 11:52am]

    

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