Consumer Reports is advising people to hold off buying the iPhone 4 from Verizon Wireless next month, saying the device they'll be getting is a middle-aged smartphone that Apple will likely replace in the summer with a new generation.
The well-respected nonprofit magazine says that in the die-young world of smartphones, the iPhone 4 is already less than the cutting edge. Examples cited include its inability to run on fourth-generation data networks, including Verizon's; and its 3.5-inch screen in an era where a number of smartphones are shipping with 4-inch-plus displays.
Verizon announced this week that it would offer the iPhone 4 to existing customers Feb. 3 and to new customers a week later. That's only a few months before Apple typically releases the next generation of the smartphone, usually in June or July. "This is a transitional phone to tide Verizon through until the summer," Consumer Reports said Tuesday in its Electronics Blog.
The magazine's concerns are worth noting, because buying an iPhone at a carrier's discounted price starting at $199 requires signing a two-year service contract. Breaking the pact by trading in the phone early carries hefty penalties.
Consumer Reports notes that Verizon's customer satisfaction ratings are much higher than AT&T's, while also pointing out shortcomings in Verizon's network. Verizon's CDMA network doesn't allow someone to make a phone call while accessing the Web at the same time. In addition, AT&T's GSM phones can roam with relative ease in much of the world, while CDMA phones can't.
Consumer Reports cautions that iPhone users, who on average consume more data than other smartphone owners, haven't put Verizon's network to the test. "If a lot of folks jump ship from AT&T, in addition to the new iPhone users who've held off from buying one till now, that could impact Verizon service," the magazine says.
A ChangeWave Research survey of 4,000 AT&T customers found that one in four intend to switch to Verizon this year, with the majority intending to do so within the first few months. Verizon hasn't said how many new iPhone customers it expects to sign up.
Consumer Reports is also telling potential buyers to look carefully at the service plans Verizon has yet to release. The magazine expects the carrier to switch from offering unlimited data plans to the tiered or metered plans now used by AT&T. Whether that will amount to lower or higher prices than what AT&T charges is not known.
The magazine's bottom line is that if an iPhone-addicted consumer doesn't care about the device's shortcomings and can't wait to switch to Verizon, then they should go for it. People who are less than fanatical about the smartphone "may want to hold off for a newer version of the iPhone before even considering whether to buy one."
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