12:59 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman

Apple Plays It Safe With CDMA-Only iPhone

Verizon Wireless and Apple today announced a CDMA version of the iPhone 4. It is 3G only, no LTE 4G on board.

Apple and Verizon Wireless on Tuesday launched a CDMA-only version of the iPhone 4 -- no "world phone" and no LTE 4G capabilities on board -- which was the safest bet Verizon and Apple could make. It means Apple's Wunderphone will be available to Verizon's 93 million subscribers soon rather than later, according to Apple COO Tim Cook.

The device will go on sale to existing Verizon Wireless customers on February 3 for $199 for the 16GB version and $299 for the 32GB version (same as AT&T's prices). The Verizon iPhone 4 will be more widely available starting February 10 via most of Verizon's sale channels.

Verizon did not detail what voice, data, and messaging plans would cost for the new iPhone. Most users should expect a voice and data plan similar to Verizon's other smartphones, however, which run about $70 per month ($40 voice + $30 data).

When comparing the feature lists of two iPhone 4s, there are but two differences. First, the Verizon iPhone can act as a mobile hotspot, allowing up to five other devices to access Verizon's 3G network. Verizon didn't say how much this would cost. AT&T's iPhone can tether to laptops, but not act as a hotspot. Second, the iPhone 4 on Verizon cannot handle simultaneous voice and data calls (which the AT&T iPhone can do). This is because of the differences between CDMA and GSM cellular radio systems, and isn't a feature purposely omitted.

As far as physical differences go, the only ones that are visible to the naked eye are the black antenna bands on the sides of the iPhone 4. Other than that, it has the same dimensions, same weight, same battery life, same Retina Display that the original iPhone 4 has.

During the Q&A session, Apple's Cook reiterated that it is bringing the iPhone 4 -- with the same feature set, just a different radio inside -- to market now because it felt the pressure from Verizon Wireless' customers to deliver the iPhone as soon as possible. That means no LTE 4G. Cook said that LTE also required design compromises (probably antenna and battery life-related) that Apple wasn't ready to make.

Verizon took the opportunity during the event to tout the strength of its 3G network, as if to say, "Don't worry about the lack of 4G." Verizon said it has invested heavily in its CDMA EVDO Rev. A 3G network, both in terms of cellular capacity and bandwidth, as well as backhaul to make sure that Verizon's customers have the best iPhone 4 experience.

For its part, AT&T has made to sure point out that Verizon's EVDO 3G network isn't as fast as its HSPA+ network. Verizon countered that by saying that its network is far stronger than AT&T's.

While many are surely disappointed that the iPhone 4 for Verizon Wireless doesn't break new ground, Verizon and Apple are sure to sell plenty of them starting February 3.

Watch David Berlind's video, Screen Capture: Twitter on FIRE During Verizon iPhone Announcement:

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