The iPhone4 is now on Verizon, sporting some hardware and firmware improvements it's picked up over the last several months. But the network is a mixed bag.  (Source: Cell Fanatic)
I want the one with the bigger "GB's"

In a perfect world the iPhone 4 would have launched on Verizon in June 2010 and Apple would have listened to its engineering staff and fixed the phone's antenna.  Unfortunately, that wasn't the case and the iPhone 4 launched on AT&T with a host of problems, leading Apple to fall short of a surging Android.  

Fortunately for Apple, today it has that product that it should have had half a year ago, according to early reviews.  The iPhone 4 on Verizon should perhaps be known as the iPhone 4.5 as it offers up improved hardware.  And while the network itself offers some steps forward and others back, it's what AT&T customers have been clamoring for, so to most earlier buyers it will likely seem better, even if the perceived quality improvement is just a bit of a placebo effect.

I. The Good

Starting with the infamous antenna, TechCrunch blogger MC Siegler writes:

This Verizon version of the iPhone 4 seems to have none of the same antenna issues. Try as I might, using the "death grip" and every other grip I can actually do, I can no longer reproduce the same attenuation problem that the previous iPhone 4 model had. I death grip the thing, and no bars drop. More importantly, calls don't drop and data doesn't stop. Again, Apple won't comment, but problem, apparently, solved.

Of course, the AT&T hardware that's shipping today also likely has the problem solved, but news reviews tend to focus on new phones, thus the fix probably went unnoticed for a couple of months.

But is the Verizon network as much better than AT&T as everyone claims?  Sort of, according to Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal.  He writes:

In my tests, the new Verizon version of the iPhone did much better at voice calling than the AT&T version, and offers some attractive benefits, like unlimited data and a wireless hot-spot capability. But if you really care about data speed, or travel overseas, and AT&T service is tolerable in your area, you may want to stick with AT&T.

USA Today's Edward C. Baig similarly offers:

A winning outcome is a slam-dunk as far as I'm concerned, at least based on my six days of testing a Verizon iPhone in New York City and Northern New Jersey. Though not every call was crystal clear - this is a cellphone, after all - I haven't experienced any of the dropped calls, so far anyway, or other frustrating hiccups during my tests that have been driving some owners of the AT&T iPhone bonkers during the 3½ years that the carrier has had iPhone exclusivity in the U.S.

II. The Bad

But apparently the data network is slower -- unsurprising given that AT&T, on average, offers the fastest data network in the country, according to numerous tests.  Writes Josh Topolsky of Engadget:

So far so good — voice calls are better, minor issues really are minor. It's an iPhone on Verizon's network. Ah, but it's an iPhone on Verizon's network — and that means there are certain considerations you're going to have to take into account when it comes to data.

Let's put this as simply as we can: data rates on the Verizon iPhone 4 we tested were dramatically slower than those on its AT&T counterpart. How much slower? Well, even though network speeds fluctuate based on many factors, we didn't see the Verizon device peak much beyond 1.4 Mbps on downloads (and even that high was rare), and it barely hit 0.5 Mbps on upstream. On the other hand, the AT&T device regularly pulled down above 3 Mbps, and 1 Mbps or more going up. We'll admit that the Verizon speeds were more consistent, but the irrefutable fact is that AT&T's network is much, much faster, at least in our neck of the woods.

Of course, how much that's going to affect you is based on a lot of factors, and in our day-to-day, there wasn't a noticeable sensation of the device being slower. That consistency in data rates actually may have helped in some situations — particularly when pulling down maps. We see our AT&T device stop and start quite a bit on major data pulls, whereas the Verizon phone seemed to latch onto a stream and not stop until the bits were uniformly situated on our phone. That said, there's no denying that YouTube videos and streaming content is going to appear more quickly on your AT&T handset.

Apparently that commercial showing the Verizon and AT&T iPhone 4s operating in unison isn't a very likely scenario.

And The New York Times' David Pogue adds:

Even if Verizon's network is the best in America, its policies and prices are still among the worst.


Consider, too, that if surveys are any indication, Verizon can expect an enormous stampede of new iPhone customers. Last time this happened - to AT&T - the weight of all those bandwidth-sucking iPhones swamped the network, causing interruptions that persist to this day. The same thing might happen to Verizon.

Verizon swears that it's prepared for the onslaught. Then again, that's what AT&T said, too.

III. Some Perspective

So to sum up, the changes from Verizon network are largely expected -- a wireless hotspot, better voice coverage, better voice quality, fewer dropped calls (good), worse fees/prices, and slower data service (bad).  The hardware changes -- a fixed antenna -- are also what one might expect.

It's important to also consider that the original iPhone 4 launching on AT&T had a number of other issues, including the supposedly hardy Gorilla Glass screen shattering far easier than its Android competitors.  While it's uncertain if that issue has been addressed, one issue that has is the proximity sensor woes, which were fixed in an update to iOS 4.

If you're in the market for a smartphone now, you really have just a few top choices like the Android EVO 4G and Epic 4G.  The new and improved iPhone 4 definitely sounds like it earns a spot in this elite group, for its strong OS catalog and more polished hardware, alone.  What network to buy the iPhone 4 on is debatable.

One other thing to consider is that the iPhone 5 is only four months away, and with it likely a 3.5G or 4G data chip (faster data speeds) and other improvements (a faster processor, perhaps).  Likewise a host of hot Android 3.0 smart phones should be launching in the late Spring/early Summer window.  So the Verizon iPhone 4 is a solid option for now, but it will quickly be replaced by the next big thing.

"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn." -- Seagate CEO Bill Watkins

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