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Verizon iPhone On Sale At Last

Apple and Verizon Wireless Stores now have the iPhone 4, but is switching from AT&T worth the cost?

"When is the iPhone coming to Verizon Wireless?"That's a question I've had to answer daily for friends and family since Apple debuted the iPhone at MacWorld in January 2007. The iPhone has been available in the U.S. only from AT&T since June 2007. Today marks the end of AT&T's exclusive distribution deal with Apple, and Verizon customers finally have their answer.

The Verizon iPhone 4 was available for pre-order on February 3 to existing Verizon customers only. After seeing unexpectedly high demand for the device, Verizon Wireless and Apple ceased taking pre-orders later that same day. On Wednesday, February 9, Apple's Web site opened up reservations for in-store pickup and orders for the iPhone 4. Today, the iPhone is available to anyone who wants to walk into a Verizon Wireless or Apple retail store to buy one, including non-Verizon customers.

The iPhone 4 comes in two variants, a 16GB model for $199 and a 32GB model for $299. Both are black; there's still no white iPhone 4. The Verizon-compatible iPhone 4 is the exact same size, weight, and dimensions as the AT&T version. The only differences are buried inside, and include an altered antenna design, a different GPS chip, and a different baseband processor from Qualcomm. The software, user interface, and apps are all the same.

The Verizon iPhone 4 offers one feature that the AT&T iPhone 4 does not: mobile hotspot. Verizon iPhone 4 users will be able to use their device as a mobile hotspot and allow up to five other devices use it to access the Internet (for an extra fee, of course). AT&T has said that it considering whether or not to offer this feature.

According to reports filed from around the country, lines formed in the early hours of the morning at Apple and Verizon Stores. Anxious customers braved cold temperatures to be among the first to snatch up the Verizon Wireless iPhone 4. Twitter users flooded the social networking service with images of those waiting in lines at stores all over the map.

Is switching from the AT&T iPhone to the Verizon Wireless iPhone 4 worth it?

If you're a current iPhone 4 user at AT&T, the cost could be hefty. Unless you paid the full retail price for the handset, AT&T will charge customers who leave their contract early a portion of the $350 early termination fee. For some, however, that might be worth it for what you get.

Early reviews of the Verizon iPhone 4 confirm what most have suspected for years. Tech pundits Walter Mossberg, David Pogue, and Ed Baig all reported similar experiences with the Verizon iPhone: fewer dropped calls.

Mossberg wrote in his review, "I can say that, at least in the areas where I was using it, the Verizon model did much, much better with voice calls. In numerous tries over nine days, I had only three dropped calls on the Verizon unit, and those were all to one person who was using an AT&T iPhone in an especially bad area for AT&T: San Francisco."

The improved voice performance of the iPhone 4 comes at the expense of slower data speeds. Verizon's voice network may be superior to AT&T's, but its data network can't reach the peak speeds that AT&T's can. Customers will need to choose between more reliable voice calls on a slower network, or faster data on a less reliable network.

The retail cost of the iPhone isn't going to vary significantly enough between the carriers to make much of a difference. The way AT&T and Verizon are pricing their services will make a bigger impact over the life of a two-year contract. It is worth sitting down and pricing out exactly what features you'll use each month, total it up, and look at the difference each month between the two carriers. Don't forget to multiply that number by 24 for the standard two-year contract.

If the economics work out for you, and solid voice calls and consistent network performance are what you're looking for in a smartphone, the Verizon iPhone 4 is a good choice to make. At least for a few months...until the next iPhone arrives.


Slideshow: Verizon iPhone 4 Teardown

Verizon iPhone Or AT&T, Which Is Better?

Verizon Ceases iPhone Pre-Sales

Verizon iPhone Sales Start Strong

Verizon iPhone Could Have Been A 'World Phone'

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