Verizon iPhone: now this is a battle

Ronny Kerr · January 11, 2011 · Short URL:

...for existing customers; everyone else can order starting Feb. 10; no simultaneous voice and data

Verizon iPhone announcementVerizon announced Tuesday that, as long expected and highly anticipated, it has partnered with Apple to offer the iPhone 4. Starting next month, AT&T will no longer be the exclusive provider of Apple’s popular smartphone.

None of the iPhone 4’s tech specs (5 megapixel camera, HD video, custom A4 chip) or features (FaceTime, Retina Display) are changing, the only difference being that the phone has been designed to work on Verizon’s CDMA network. The Verizon iPhone will also have the ability to provide a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to five computers; AT&T currently offers tethering to just one.

The phone will cost the same as it does on AT&T’s network: $199 for the 16GB version and $299 for the 32GB. Existing customers will be able to pre-order starting February 3rd and everyone else will be able to order online or in Verizon or Apple stores starting February 10th. Though Verizon wouldn’t comment on sales expectations, the separation in order dates is intended to guarantee that all Verizon customers who want an iPhone can get one.

Apple and Verizon have been in talks since 2008 about bringing the iPhone to a new network, and they spent a year testing the new CDMA phone.

Curiously, Apple COO Tim Cook says the partnership with Verizon is a “multi-year, non-exclusive deal,” meaning that other CDMA networks, most notably Sprint Nextel, could also start selling the iPhone this year.

Asked why the two companies didn’t develop an iPhone for LTE, the next-generation standard to be used by Verizon, AT&T and others, Cook replied that it is not yet possible without design changes to the iPhone--something Apple would never approve.

In the end, the major disappointment for the Verizon iPhone is a shortcoming that the company is trying to keep very quiet: users will not be able to use data and voice simultaneously in the way they can on AT&T smartphones. It’s simply a limitation of the CDMA network.

Asked what happens when you want to use data while getting a phone call, Apple representative Dan Dee responded, "It's the same experience you get on CDMA devices now,” which means the call overrides the data.

Many people are probably pretty surprised that Apple would allow such a hiccup in user experience slip through the cracks, but the company doesn’t seem to think so:

“I think people place different emphasis on things,” responded Cook. “I can tell you that the number one question I've gotten is when will the iPhone work on Verizon. I couldn't be happier to tell people that. They will make those sorts of tradeoffs.”

And Apple will make these sorts of tradeoffs to hit a few more million units sold in a month’s time.

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