Verizon's iPhone: How it affects my upgrade calculus

Verizon's iPhone launch is just enough to force this existing customer into the same waiting game we've been playing.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Verizon's iPhone launch is just enough to force this existing customer into the same waiting game we've been playing. Verizon Wireless finally launched its own version of the iPhone---a 3G network device with a slightly different antenna and the ability to be a personal hotspot.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that the iPhone is still 3G device that arrives weeks before Verizon launches 4G, or speedier Long-Term Evolution smartphones.

All you need to know: Coverage as it happened, Verizon's FAQ, Techmeme, Verizon statement,

event gallery, all incoming Verizon iPhone coverage

Now if you're an existing Verizon customer with a contract that's up---like me---the iPhone launch is a mixed bag. Sure you can scoop up an iPhone 4 Feb. 10, but you could quickly have buyer's remorse. My buying calculus looks like this:

  • My contract is up and I have a BlackBerry Storm (gasp!) that's on its last legs.
  • I've been holding out for a 4G device.
  • To go to an iPhone on Verizon I wanted a 4G capable and personal hotspot functionality. I got half of that.
  • I'm too cheap to pay an early termination fee in the name of having a swell smartphone so I better pick the right device.

All of these moving parts are complicated by the fact Apple is likely to launch an iPhone 5 this summer. If I've waited this long why not hang out a bit more to see if the iPhone 5 will be 4G capable? Play this to the extreme and I may never get a new smartphone.

Given that Android devices are about to be 4G capable in March or so on Verizon Wireless, the first inclination is to go with one of those devices. However, you're only looking at a few weeks to see if the iPhone 5 will be 4G ready.

Simply put, if you've been playing the waiting game at Verizon Wireless you may be compelled to wait just a bit longer. Following the Verizon iPhone press conference I'm left to conclude:

  • AT&T will be safe for a bit.
  • Verizon Wireless will still move a lot of iPhones.
  • A few folks will wait for 4G.
  • Android will remain a big option at Verizon, but AT&T will cannibalize Droid sales a bit.
  • Verizon's network will truly be tested by the iPhone. At stake is its reputation and AT&T's on network quality. If Verizon stumbles AT&T will look better.

Why is this so difficult? Two-year contracts

Perhaps my biggest gripe with this iPhone vs. Android buying decision and silly acronyms like CDMA and LTE is the fact that you're locked into a two-year contract.

If I had a one-year contract without termination fees, the decision would be much easier. You wouldn't have to worry about lock-in and future-proofed networks. The reality is that you're married to your smartphone for two years.

Bottom line: The smartphone industry is moving way too quickly for two-year contracts. We're in a fast-moving industry with tired subscription models. We need something new.


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