Here’s a quick list of the positives and negatives regarding the new Verizon CDMA iPhone 4, announced today for February 10, 2011 availability.
What’s good: Millions of Verizon Wireless customers who have spent literally years waiting for an iPhone of any sort will be able to get them on February 10.
What’s bad: The Verizon iPhone is a modestly modified iPhone 4, released in the middle of Apple’s traditional one-year upgrade cycle, and does not bring major obvious advantages over the version that has been sold since June, 2010 on other networks.
What’s good: Verizon’s iPhone 4 will, unlike the GSM version, allow five devices to share the cellular data plan over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or USB using the iPhone as a hotspot. It’s called Personal Hotspot and appears within the Settings menu between Wi-Fi and Notifications.
What’s bad: The CDMA iPhone 4 cannot handle voice calling and data at the same time. Data services will stop when a phone call comes in.
What’s good: Verizon suggests that its CDMA (3G) network is capable of delivering the network quality AT&T lacks in many cities, with robust bandwidth so that millions of iPhone users can be added to its towers without the sorts of connectivity and calling problems AT&T iPhone users have faced.
What’s bad: It’s very likely that the actual speed of the data services will be slower on Verizon’s network than on AT&T’s, which is to say that if you’re in a city where AT&T’s network is performing well—fast and reliable—Verizon will be a step down from AT&T rather than a step up.
What’s good: Verizon’s version of the iPhone will get the same 7 hours of promised battery life for calling as the GSM version over 3G.
What’s bad: Verizon’s iPhone will not get the 14 hours of 2G talk time offered as a fallback on the GSM iPhone 4.
What’s good: Verizon’s phone calling through the iPhone will likely cover a larger reliable U.S. service area than AT&T’s.
What’s bad: Verizon’s CDMA network isn’t supported in most other countries, so the lack of GSM support in the Verizon iPhone 4 makes this particular product less ideal than the GSM iPhones to being used outside the United States; according to Apple, it has been optimized specifically for performance in this one country. It does not have a GSM card slot.
What’s good: Prices remain the same for the CDMA and GSM iPhone 4s.
What’s bad: Verizon doesn’t have the now $49 iPhone 3GS, so the only way to get into an iPhone on the CDMA network is to pay $200.
What’s good: The CDMA iPhone 4 doesn’t appear to have any Verizon branding or bloatware—besides the word Verizon at the top of the screen in the carrier name area—and runs iOS 4.2.5 out of the box.
What’s bad: Apple made antenna changes that resulted in small changes to the locations of the Ringer Switch and Volume Buttons, so there may be compatibility issues with some of the thousand or so iPhone 4 cases already released. Word on the street is that the device may still have signal attenuation issues, now when it’s held in landscape mode rather than portrait, due to antenna position changes. It’s unclear whether this is accurate or not, but we’ve heard it called “the death hug”—something that will need to be tested independently for confirmation. Also, we might see some other hidden differences between this phone and the earlier GSM version, as Apple sometimes uses mid-cycle refreshes as an opportunity to introduce new security features that aren’t obvious.
What’s good: Verizon customers will get access to Visual Voicemail.
What’s bad: Existing Verizon customers will lose their old voicemail boxes, including all messages and greetings, so they will need to listen to everything they want to hear before making the transition. “All existing messages will be erased and can not be recovered” once an iPhone 4 is activated, Verizon notes.
What’s good: Verizon will offer a contract-free version of the iPhone 4 so that you needn’t commit to a two-year service plan for the device at the time of purchase.
What’s bad: The Verizon iPhone 4 will only work on Verizon’s network, and existing iPhone devices will not work on Verizon’s network at all, so purchasing a new phone at either full or subsidized pricing is the sole way to become a Verizon iPhone user. Apple will almost certainly attempt to change this by offering true “LTE/4G worldphone” versions of the next iPhone, but for now, it’s two different phones for two different types of networks.