Yes, it's finally here. After almost four years of endless gossip, analyst forecasts, and so-called leaks, the Verizon iPhone
Before we break down the device, we'll offer the cost and release details. Big Red will match AT&T's pricing, which is $199 for the 16GB model and $299 for the 32GB version, but unlike AT&T it will offer unlimited data plans. Existing customers can pre-order the black version beginning February 3 with full availability following on February 10. Verizon was listing the white iPhone 4 on its Web site earlier today but a carrier spokeswoman confirmed to CNET that long-delayed model won't be released until later in the spring.
Outside of a couple of changes, the Verizon iPhone 4 barely differs form its AT&T counterpart. First off, Apple moved the ringer mute switch further down the handset's left side to accommodate the CDMA antenna. Unfortunately, that means the current selection of iPhone 4 bumpers won't fit. And while we're on the subject, Verizon iPhone customers will not be entitled to a free bumper case.
Secondly, the Verizon handset's antenna has a new design. During her hands-on inspection, CNET's Bonnie Cha found that the gap that sits next to the headset jack on the GSM version has moved to the left side (where the ringer switch was). The gap on the lower left side made by famous by "antennagate" is still there, but CNET has found that reception does not degrade if you touch the gap during a call (more on that later).
Honestly, we weren't expecting the Verizon iPhone to offer new features, but we love that it bests its GSM rival by offering a mobile hotspot that can support up to 5 devices. Though it's hardly a new feature--Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile currently offer handsets with that functionality--it is new to Apple. And it will make the Verizon iPhone a better mobile computing device. The bad news is that customers will likely pay an additional $20 per month to use it. That's cheaper than Sprint's $29 monthly charge, but more expensive than T-Mobile's $14.99 fee.
The Verizon iPhone 4 will not support Verizon's 4G LTE network. That's disappointing, but hardly surprising. As we've said before, Apple is not a company to jump on a bleeding edge technology. Verizon's 4G network has yet to be used by cell phone customers (only laptop users are on it now) and Apple will make sure it can deliver the polished user experience that it wants. Also, Apple will wait until LTE covers more territory. On the other hand, you can expect a 4G model on both Verizon and AT&T in the coming months. Sure, you'll have to upgrade to a new version, but Apple is a master at that game.
You'll get the usual goodies like the 5-megapixel camera with LED flash, the front-facing VGA camera, Bluetooth, a digital compass, Retina display, e-mail, voice control, Assisted-GPS and Google Maps, Safari browser, access to apps and media through iTunes, and FaceTime over Wi-Fi. The Verizon iPhone stands apart, however, by offering iOS 4.2.5 over the iOS 4.2.1 that's currently on the AT&T handset. We're still confirming what specific changes iOS 4.2.5 brings.
Voice and data
The CDMA iPhone will not be able to use voice and data at the same time. We think that's a pretty big deal and it's no surprise that Apple and Verizon avoided this point during the
No global roaming
We're not pleased that Verizon's iPhone will not support GSM networks. You'll be able to use it in the United States, Canada, Mexico and a handful of other countries outside North America, but world travelers will have extremely limited roaming capability. Bad, move, Apple and Verizon.
We experienced satisfying call quality when Bonnie used the Verizon iPhone to call a landline handset. On both ends, the voice quality was sharp and natural, the signal remained strong, and we didn't experience any static, interference, audio cut-outs, or dropped calls. The volume remained loud, as well, and background noise was minimal even though Bonnie was calling from a crowded, noisy room. Even better, we didn't experience the attenuation issues we had on the AT&T handset.
Brief data tests also showed an improvement. According Bonnie, the Verizon iPhone loaded Web sites like the New York Times a few seconds faster than an AT&T model in side-by-side testing. That's promising, but it's no guarantee that Verizon will have consistently better service once its handsets are released into the wild. Consider that Bonnie was running her test in a room with dozens of AT&T iPhone and just a few Verizon models. After there's more parity between the two carriers things could change.
All that brings up an important point, which is that users should not expect the Verizon iPhone to be a miracle device.
There's no question that Verizon will benefit from getting Apple's popular device. The investment
Innovation happens too quickly in the wireless world for one device to stay at the head of the pack for long. As CNET's review show, the iPhone is a very good device, but Apple is far from the only company with a great idea. Android is not backing down, Microsoft and RIM will continue to evolve, and we haven't heard the past of Palm yet. The iPhone is on a new carrier, but it remains just one player in a very competitive field.This article originally appeared on CNET