iPhone 4 on Verizon

Most of you are already familiar with the Verizon iPhone 4. For a refresher read Verizon iPhone 4. The external differences are not much, but the changes inside the iPhone 4 make a huge difference. Control is now put back into your hands.

Initial reports are promising. The CDMA iPhone 4 that works on Verizon Wireless in the US works quite well. Gone are barely connected 3G sessions and the constant uneasiness that your phone conversations might drop at any moment. Apple sent its CDMA iPhone 4 to a bunch of high-flyers to real-life test it on Verizon’s network. Bottom line: you can now put complete faith in the iPhone 4’s ability to work as a top-notch phone with excellent voice quality and connectivity.

Joshua Topolsky:

Overall, our level of confidence in the phone’s ability to handle one of its main tasks went way, way up during our testing. If you’ve been looking for relief from your woes of dropped or failed calls — right now the Verizon iPhone is making a very serious case for itself.

MG Siegler agrees:

For me, as someone who has spent three and a half years fed up with AT&T, the Verizon iPhone is absolutely, 100 percent worth it. I’ve already cancelled my AT&T contract (by way of Google Voice, actually) and I cannot forsee a future where I ever go back.

There’s long been a slogan that goes along with many Apple products — “it just works”. It’s also the best way to sum up this review. The iPhone 4 on Verizon: it just works.

David Pogue:

A second C.D.M.A. difference: When you exchange long text messages with non-Verizon phones, they get split up into 160-character chunks. G.S.M. phones are smart enough to reconstitute those chunks into one more readable, consolidated message.

Third: You can’t talk on an C.D.M.A. phone while you’re online. That is, if you’re on a call, you can’t simultaneously check a Web site or send e-mail over the cellular network — and, annoyingly, the Personal Hotspot feature cuts off. (It reconnects when you hang up.)

If the top of your screen says “3G,” an indication that you’re in a high-speed Internet area of Verizon’s network, incoming calls take priority and interrupt your online connection. If you’re online in an older, 2G area, you stay online and the call goes directly to voice mail.

The bit about GSM phones’ ability to pull together text messages that are longer than 160 characters might be a really big deal for hardcore texters. Actually I think this will be a big deal for most people that send text messages since once in a blue moon all of us need to send text messages that are longer than 160 characters.

The third difference is problematic. The inconsistent way that incoming calls behave based on whether you’re connected to a 3G or 2G network can be confusing. You have no control over it either since there is no option to manually switch off 3G, like you do on the AT&T iPhone 4. You might never encounter a location with only 2G connectivity, but I would expect Apple and Verizon to work together on this and make the iPhone 4 behave consistently.

Jason Snell:

One of the pleasant surprises of testing the Personal Hotspot was its range. I was able to connect to the device even from a decent distance away. This isn’t short-range networking; you should be able to set the phone down and roam around a room (or even an adjacent room) without losing your Wi-Fi connection. This should be great for hotel rooms without free Wi-Fi, for example.

I find this scene unusual: I turn on the mobile hotspot feature on my iPhone 4. I connect my MacBook Pro to that WiFi network and then leave my iPhone on the desk carrying my MacBook Pro to a different location. You can replace MacBook Pro with iPad or any other WiFi-capable device, but I keep my iPhone next to me at all times if possible. My guess is that you do, too. Yes, it’s good that the Verizon iPhone 4 has a personal hotspot that has a wide range, but I don’t think this long-range feature will see much use. There is one situation where it would come in real handy: when you’re with friends with AT&T iPhones and they need to connect to your Verizon iPhone 4 from different parts of the room.

John Gruber:

Verizon is delighted because the iPhone 4 is effectively a controlled experiment. There’s one difference, the network, and their network looks better. Verizon isn’t competing with Apple. They’re competing against AT&T. Assuming the iPhone 4 continues to perform on Verizon going forward as it has for me this past week, Verizon is going to bash AT&T over the head with the iPhone 4. Same phone, better on Verizon.

The assumption that the iPhone 4 on Verizon will continue to work without a lot of hiccups is a big one. I’m not sure what to expect. eWeek reported that Android smartphone users are more data hungry than iPhone users. Whether or not that is true, Verizon has been under tremendous pressure from a rapidly growing number of Android smartphone customers, all with ferocious appetites for data. So far I haven’t seen a single complaint about Verizon’s network being unreliable. I’ll bet that Gruber is right: even when millions hit Verizon’s network the iPhone 4 will work much better on Verizon than it does on AT&T.

I know Gruber has an iPhone with a grandfathered in unlimited data plan. The other high-flyers probably do, too. And maybe that’s why they didn’t think this was such a big deal. For me there is a major difference between the two iPhones: the data plan. On AT&T you have three options. DataPlus costs $15/mo and gives you 200MB. DataPro costs $25/mo and comes with 2GB. Then there’s the option of adding tethering to DataPro for an additional $20/mo. Just before Verizon opened the doors for current Verizon customers to pre-order iPhone 4s, AT&T announced that its tethering plan would included an extra 2GB of data; before you got 0GB extra data. The DataPro plus tethering now total 4GB for $45/mo. AT&T cites that 65% of its smartphone users consume less than 200MB per month, but that means that 45% use more. I have to be extremely careful not to hit that 200MB limit. Maybe I should just spend the extra $10 and free myself from worrying.

Verizon’s data plan is simple: $30/mo for unlimited data. This deal is rumored to last for only a limited time. If you want the personal hotspot feature that’s an additional $20/mo. This is quite compelling. For just $50/mo you can get five WiFi-equipped devices on Verizon’s rock-solid 3G network without having to worry about bumping up against any data limitations. It isn’t clear whether unlimited is truly unlimited or of the fine print variety that caps data at 5GB/mo. If Verizon’s unlimited plan is truly unlimited then its data plan is almost too good to pass up. Not only would you get a solid 3G connection almost anywhere you go in the US you never have to worry about bumping into any limit.

The iPhone 4 on Verizon is compelling for a variety of reasons, but there is one very important thing to consider: you’re now in control. You no longer need to worry about whether or not you’re in a good-enough location for that important phone call. You don’t have to worry about when your phone conversation might abruptly terminate. You don’t need to worry about these things. With the Verizon iPhone 4, you make, keep, and end phone calls. You’re in control.

PS: Brian Chen noticed that the AT&T iPhone 4 has a bluer display than the Verizon iPhone 4, which was whiter. I suspect there is a different LED backlight in the Verizon iPhone 4 that is pumping out light that is closer to true white.