Verizon (NYSE:VZ) announced Tuesday that starting in February it will finally offer a CDMA version of the iPhone, and with a two-year contract the device will cost the same as the AT&T (NYSE:T) GSM version, starting at $199.99.
While plenty of details on the upcoming relationship were released, there are still plenty of questions left unanswered, which of course leads to tech-analyst speculation across the blogoshpere and beyond. Here’s a look at what Verizon and Apple didn’t say today.
Verizon may have only announced pricing on the phone with a 2-year contract, but that doesn’t rule out speculation that the carrier will also offer a 1-year-contract option. Most, if not all of, Verizon's smartphones on its Web site offer a shorter-term one-year contract option. Although these cost more than with 2-year contracts, the prices are still significantly lower than the full retail price.
Indeed, Verizon Spokeswoman Brenda Raney told FOX Business, "All of our phones have a one year option. There are no plans to change that for iPhone."
Curious if you’re eligible for an upgrade from Verizon? You can check your upgrade availability here.
No details were offered in Tuesday’s announcement about how much Verizon users will have to pay monthly to use their shiny-new CDMA iPhone 4s. According to FAQs posted on Verizon’s Web site, customers will choose from any of its current nationwide voice plans (same story with AT&T), but they will need to activate a data package. Pricing on that, according to the site, will be announced in coming weeks.
However, Verizon’s current pricing for 3G smartphones and what it calls “Feature Phones” is $29.99 a month for unlimited data or $15 a month for 150MB. Compare that to AT&T’s two consumer iPhone data plans of $25 a month for 2GB and $15 a month for 200MB.
Along with the iPhone 4 release last year, AT&T discontinued its $29.99 unlimited data plan. It remains to be seen if Verizon will follow suit, but according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the carrier is confident enough in its network to offer iPhone users no limits on data.
Tuesday’s announcement also mentioned the ability for Verizon iPhone users to turn their phones into mobile WiFi hotspots for up to five devices at a time. Though no price information on this was provided, Verizon offers this service (with a cap of 5GB per month) for no additional charge on Palm Pre Plus and Palm Pixi Plus smartphones. On the other hand, on some Google Android phones and BlackBerrys, Verizon charges $20 a month for this feature and caps it at 2GB. So, the carrier could really go either way on it.
iPhone on Even More Carriers
During the Q&A session after Tuesday’s announcement Apple COO Tim Cook was asked whether the CDMA iPhone was exclusive to Verizon, to which he replied, it’s a multi-year, non-exclusive deal. And smaller rival Sprint (NYSE:S) also uses CDMA technology, so it wouldn't be a leap for that carrier to grab the phone down the line.
It’s also a wait-and-see game as to whether T-Mobile and others might have a shot at scoring the GSM version of the phone in the future.
Many Apple addicts remember the company’s “Antennagate” fiasco pretty well, where users complained about dropped calls on the iPhone 4 and Steve Jobs’ infamous “you’re holding it the wrong way” comment made headlines. Did Apple use the opportunity of this new phone to make modifications to the antenna to prevent similar issues for Verizon users? Asked if any changes were made to the CDMA iPhone’s antenna, Apple’s Cook said it was modified to work on a CDMA network and that it will work great.
Major confirmation of course won’t be possible until the phone is widely released, but tech site SlashGear was able to get its hands on a sample at the event and reports (at least in the short time it had access to the device) it was not able to “reproduce the ‘death grip’ symptoms that plagued the initial launch of the iPhone 4.”
Can Verizon's Network Handle It?
"Our relationship with Apple has developed over the last two years. In 2008 we started talking about bringing the iPhone to a CDMA network. We spent a year testing,” said Verizon COO Lowell McAdam at Tuesday’s event.
Verizon says it’s spent plenty of time testing its network and is confident it can handle the additional demand of new iPhone users. But gadget blog Gizmodo points out that AT&T originally built much more capacity than it thought it needed for the iPhone, and even then it still faced problems.
Some experts say the iPhone is the best and worst thing that happened to AT&T, bringing to it new customers, but also taking the blame of being the culprit of AT&T’s coverage and service woes. Recently, Consumer Reports called the company the “worst-rated U.S. carrier,” with iPhone users being the least satisfied.
FaceTime Over 3G
Apple touts its video-conferencing feature FaceTime as a way to chat up with anyone no matter where they are, but sadly the AT&T iPhone limits “anywhere” to anywhere there’s a WiFi connection, as 3G video calls are not enabled. Verizon could set itself apart from AT&T here as well, by allowing this feature that many users complain about.
Since the launch of the first iPhone, Apple has historically refreshed the phone each summer. No details were given on whether the Verizon iPhone will follow this same cycle. Indeed, Apple’s Tim Cook flat-out said, “We don’t comment on that.” So here’s yet one more game of wait-and-see.