My disclaimer to this post is that AT&T coverage can be trying in big cities. Personally, however, my only suffering in cities like NYC or San Francisco relates to data speeds. In general, I believe my non-issues in every other place is comparable to most AT&T customers. I have zero problems with dropped calls or slow data speeds. In addition, compared to other carriers I’ve dealt with (I’ve been with all major U.S. carriers), AT&T offers some of the best customer service. But these aren’t the reasons why I recommend to stick with AT&T’s version of the iPhone…the following are:
The Verizon iPhone operates on CDMA technology, which essentially means it can operate in the U.S. only. Comparatively, I can use swap out my SIM in my iPhone 4 and use it as my phone when traveling to most places around the world. Even if you don’t travel frequently, wouldn’t you like to use your main device when out of the country?
2. iPhone 5
Supposedly, the next iPhone will ship with Qualcomm chipsets, allowing it to work with GSM and CDMA technology. That doesn’t imply, however, that the “iPhone 5″ will be available to Verizon customers when it launches. In fact, it’s doubtful it would be for two reasons: 1) The iPhone is only hitting Verizon in February, so it would be strange to release a new iPhone to Verizon customers within months of that happening. 2) AT&T is not ecstatic about Apple’s new friend. While perhaps not written into a contract, I could see Apple trying to be a good partner by allowing AT&T to have the new iPhone first…at least this time around.
3. Data and voice
Another downside to CDMA is that phone calls and data transfer cannot happen at the same time. This means you can’t look something up on the Web while on a call. If you are already on Verizon, that’s no big deal. For those of us with a GSM provider such as AT&T, it’s a fairly common use case and one that would be missed.
4. Verizon is untested
Everyone knows that AT&T struggled most in the earliest days of the iPhone’s existence. The reason wasn’t as simple as AT&T not having the capacity to support it. They just never understood how big of network hogs iPhone customers would be. There’s obviously been significant learnings since then and I don’t hear as many AT&T critics today. I’m sure Verizon is going to have picked up some pointers in addition to field testing their iPhone…but there will be growing pains just as there was with AT&T.
5. The number of iPhone customers on AT&T
There will definitely be a subset of AT&T customers who jump ship to Verizon but my instinct is that the majority won’t. That means most iPhone customers will still be on AT&T, at least in the short-term, and thus, the in-network benefits will be stronger on AT&T. Anecdotally, the majority of those I interact with each day are all on iPhones, resulting in very low usage of my actual daytime minutes. My conversations with other iPhone customers reflect similar usage patterns.