Switching to Verizon: It’s About the Coverage

Analysts estimate sales of a Verizon (s vz) iPhone (s aapl) to be from three to six million units per quarter, with a substantial number being sold to refugees from AT&T’s (s t) 3G network. Whether or not you want to flee AT&T will likely come down to coverage and cost, but that’s not all.


The singular issue for iPhone users contemplating switching from AT&T to Verizon is network coverage and reliability. Survey after survey has shown AT&T lagging behind Verizon, most recently from Consumer Reports (via PC World). AT&T customers, half of them iPhone owners, rated AT&T as the worst in value and service. AT&T scored a dismal 60 out of 100, down six points from last year, and was rated worst in voice and data service, as well as customer support. Verizon was rated the second best carrier overall. As for coverage, the 3G maps don’t lie; Verizon wins.


Buying a new phone and terminating a contract is always expensive, but in switching from AT&T to Verizon there are a few caveats. Verizon iPhones start at $199, but that amount is easily recovered through the sale of a used AT&T iPhone on eBay (s ebay). Regarding termination fees, for those who purchased an AT&T smartphone after June 1 2010, the early termination fee is $325, prorated at $10 per month of ownership. Those who bought phones before then pay $175, minus prorating, so iPhone 4 owners pay nearly twice as much as iPhone 3GS owners. However, in both cases there is, in my opinion, a hidden “fee” relating to network coverage.

As an AT&T customer, I don’t need to look at surveys or maps about coverage and reliability. All I need to do is try to make a phone call from home. Without an AT&T 3G MicroCell, I wouldn’t be able to. I had to pay $150 for that device, and there are additional fees for those wanting calling plans with it. In this case, coverage factors into switching cost, too.


Features are really secondary to cost and coverage, but there are a few to consider. The biggest “loss” to switchers will be a lack of simultaneous voice and data. The question is how many people really use that. Unlike Dave, I can’t remember the last time I needed data access on a call. Likewise, not many people will probably use a Verizon iPhone with tethering capability for up to five devices, but for those who will, at least it’s there.

Button placement has shifted slightly on the Verizon iPhone, which may require the purchase of new accessories, especially cases, though the antenna redesign may make these less necessary. For data hogs, the Verizon iPhone could offer an unlimited data plan for $30 (unless they introduce iPhone-specific data pricing), just $5 more than the 2GB capped plan from AT&T. That would probably the best single Verizon-specific feature for prospective switchers besides coverage.

Within Reach

There’s always the choice to wait until June or July to switch and get the next generation of iPhone, too. If I were already on Verizon, that’s what I would do. However, for many suffering with AT&T, the question isn’t about hardware, but about putting up with the inferior coverage and reliability of AT&T’s network. That there’s an answer for that as of Feb. 10, and one that still represents the latest and greatest in smartphone tech that Apple has to offer, will be hard to pass up.

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