Verizon iPhone: Things to consider

After years of speculation, the Verizon iPhone was announced Jan. 11. That sound you heard was millions of people rejoicing at the thought of actually being able to use their iPhone as a phone. It leaves behind its mythical dragon and unicorn cousins and is finally a reality. Unfortunately for me as a T-Mobile customer, I still must patiently wait my turn, but for those of you with a choice let's take a look at what we know at this point.

Presumably as a thank you for being loyal to the company, existing Verizon customers can pre-order the iPhone starting Thursday, while new customers must wait until Feb. 10. The subsidized cost of the iPhone will be $199 for the 16 gigabyte model, $299 for the 32 gigabyte -- as always, these prices reflect a two-year contract. If you don't want the contract, they will gladly sell you the iPhone for $649 and $749, respectively. (Ouch!) Verizon will offer an unlimited data plan for $30 (at this time that appears to be the only option). They have not stated whether or not "unlimited" actually means unlimited, or whether it means 5 gigabytes like on their other mobile devices. Knowing that iPhone users generally use more data than anyone else, my guess is there will be a cap.

The Verizon iPhone does have one feature the AT&T version does not -- it can be used as a mobile Wi-Fi hot spot. Verizon will charge an extra $20 on top of the data plan for this wireless tethering, and it will have its own 2 gigabyte monthly cap. Verizon also will waive the $20 fee if an existing customer is eligible for an annual upgrade. For those who got new phones for Christmas, they also will give you a $200 Visa debit card if you purchased a smart phone between Nov. 26, 2010, and Jan. 10 and paid full retail price for the iPhone and return your existing smart phone. (Umm ... thanks?)

Technically the Verizon iPhone 4 is very similar to the AT&T version, however unlike on AT&T's network, the Verizon iPhone cannot make phone calls and be online at the same time. This is a limitation of the CDMA network Verizon uses. I doubt this is going to be a deal-breaker for most people, but it's worth mentioning since Apple has in the past pointed out that restriction in its advertising. The Verizon iPhone 4 will not be capable of running on Verizon's 4G LTE network. Early reports are that the antenna "death grip" issue that plagued the AT&T iPhone 4 is not being seen on the Verizon version as the antenna seems to have been slightly tweaked.

So there you have it -- more iPhone information than you probably wanted. If you have an iPhone currently with AT&T, the only question to ask before deciding to jump ship is whether you need it to reliably make phone calls and if the mobile Wi-Fi hot spot is something you want. If you don't have an iPhone because of the carrier issue and can now get one, keep in mind that Apple has released a new iPhone every June for the past four years and it's likely to do so again. It will undoubtedly be bigger/faster/stronger so decide if you need the best smart phone on the market today or can wait six months.

Oh, and be thankful you at least have a choice -- can't someone put a Verizon tower near my house already?

Morgan Bonner is Pre-Press Manager and a systems administrator for the Packet and Gazette.