Review: Apple iPhone 4 (Verizon CDMA, 16GB/32GB) | iLounge

Review

Review: Apple iPhone 4 (Verizon CDMA, 16GB/32GB)

B
Recommended

Company: Apple Inc.

Website: www.Apple.com

Model: iPhone 4 (Verizon CDMA)

Price: $199/16GB, $299/32GB with New 2-Year Contract

Compatible: PC/Mac

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Jeremy Horwitz

Pros: A solid re-release of the most impressive iPhone yet, combining museum-quality design with industry-leading display and camera hardware, video calling software, and third-party applications that are rarely matched by rival devices. Developed primarily for Verizon Wireless, including the iPhone family’s first Wi-Fi-based Personal Hotspot data-sharing feature for computers and iPads, and benefitting from enhanced call reliability in some parts of the United States. Battery performance is roughly equivalent to original iPhone 4’s, which offered a major jump relative to the prior-generation iPhone 3GS. Still reasonably priced given all of the technology inside.

Cons: Designed for Verizon’s large but slow CDMA wireless network, resulting in markedly reduced data speeds in some areas, and always preventing cellular data services from being used while calls are incoming or in progress. Lack of SIM card slot and GSM support preclude this model from being used on majority of international cellular networks. Despite opportunities to fix previously acknowledged enclosure issues, glass and metal body remains unusually susceptible to damage and antenna attenuation unless a case is purchased and used. Other issues from AT&T iPhone 4 persist, including limited space for high-resolution video, photos, and apps in the lowest capacity 16GB version. Released eight months into iPhone 4’s life cycle, only slightly ahead of anticipated successor model.

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Though we include this section of our iPhone 4 review addendum for your reference, we’ll note up front that Verizon’s and AT&T’s current service plans for the iPhone are subject to considerable change over the next year, as both companies are continuing to make last-minute strategic pricing and feature tweaks in an effort to keep or wrestle away customers. As of today, there are substantial similarities between Verizon’s and AT&T’s plans—some official and documented, others available if you speak with AT&T’s customer retention lines—but there are also some noteworthy differences.

AT&T
Individual Plans $39.99/450 mins $59.99/900 mins $69.99/Unlimited
Family Plans (2 Lines) $59.99/550 mins $69.99/700 mins $89.99/1400 mins $109.99/2100 mins $119.99/Unlimited
Data Plans $15/200MB $25/2GB Tethering with extra 2GB/$20
Text Plans $10/1000 msgs $20/Unlimited (Individual) $30/Unlimited (Family, shared)
Verizon Wireless
Individual Plans $39.99/450 mins $59.99/900 mins $69.99/Unlimited
Family Plans (2 Lines) $69.99/700 mins $89.99/1400 mins $99.99/2000 mins $119.99/Unlimited
Data Plans $30/Unlimited Data Personal Hotspot with 2GB/$20
Text Plans $5/250 msgs $10/500 msgs $20/Unlimited (Individual) $20/5000 msgs (Family, shared) $30/Unlimited (Family, shared)

In order to qualify for the advertised $199/16GB or $299/32GB pricing, a customer must commit to a two-year voice and data service agreement with either company, and fall within that company’s “new customer” or “not recently upgraded customer” qualifications for a full $400 subsidy, details of which are available on Verizon’s and AT&T’s web sites. iPhones can be purchased from both companies without the two-year contract at higher prices. For the time being, Verizon offers only a single data plan option that’s more expensive than AT&T’s at $30 per month, but includes unlimited iPhone data—something that AT&T discontinued for new customers in favor of capped, less expensive $15/$25 plans. Both companies offer Personal Hotspot/Internet Tethering data features for $20 more per month; under its plan, AT&T now allows 4GB of data to be shared between an iPhone and a connected computer or iPad, while Verizon gives the unlimited iPhone user 2GB of data for tethering use. It’s noteworthy that AT&T currently requires unlimited data-using iPhone customers to downgrade to a limited plan before selecting Internet Tethering, a real turn-off for long-time iPhone users.

Verizon offers a wider range of prices for SMS/MMS text messaging, but fewer messages at its $5 and $10 prices as AT&T, while both offer unlimited messages for $20. By comparison, AT&T offers a wider range of family plan two-line cellular calling minutes, but overlaps Verizon with similar offerings at the shared 700, 1400, and unlimited minute packages. Right before press time, AT&T announced an expanded unlimited “Mobile to Any Mobile” calling plan to let its users make unlimited calls to other mobile phones—including rivals’—under certain conditions, yet to be specified.

Since both companies’ offerings are otherwise substantially similar at this point, the major reason to choose one provider over the other come down to scope of coverage, quality of phone service, speed and quality of data service, and quality of customer service. The first three factors depend entirely upon where you live and primarily use your phone in the United States; frequent travelers will be more likely to find Verizon’s service reliable in major cities, but it will also be slower. Customer service from both companies, in our experience, is far too often in the “friendly but clueless” category—agents who express a willingness to do whatever they can to help, then explain how they can’t help, and rarely follow up on promises to do so later. We would not give either AT&T or Verizon a thumbs up for customer service; competitor T-Mobile has historically been better at both avoiding problems in the first place and resolving them properly when they do occur, but of course, it doesn’t have an iPhone yet.

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Editors' Note: iLounge only reviews products in "final" form, but many companies now change their offerings - sometimes several times - after our reviews have been published. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.

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