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AT&T iPhone wins for speed, Verizon iPhone wins for network

A VeriziPhone is shown first day it was available VerizWireless stores Thursday Feb. 10 2011 Beachwood Ohio. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

A Verizon iPhone is shown the first day it was available at Verizon Wireless stores Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011, in Beachwood, Ohio. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

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Updated: April 22, 2011 10:07PM



All right, you whining babies! You’ve finally got your damn Verizon iPhone. And now there are absolutely no problems anywhere on the whole planet, right?

Here I’m addressing some, but certainly not all, of the friends and family members who’ve been asking me “When will AT&T lose its exclusive hold on the iPhone?” practically since the day the iPhone hit the market.

The rest of you seem like sane and sensible folks. You recognize that the new iPhone 4 released this week merely makes a popular phone available to a wider range of users.

Still, there are some obvious questions that could only be answered by getting the final, shipping product in-hand and performing some real world tests.

At the top of the list: “Is the Verizon network better than AT&T’s?” No reviewer can answer this question for you. If Verizon offers lousy coverage near your home and office, you’ll get lousy signal strength.

In two different state capitals, however, I found that the Verizon iPhone consistently showed more bars than the AT&T model.

Digital network speed was a different story. The AT&T iPhone beat the Verizon phone in every category. Download speeds were 40 percent faster. Upload speeds were — zowie — four-and-a-half times faster.

“Can you still access the Internet if a phone call comes in?”

That’s a famous limitation of a CDMA network: unlike AT&T’s GSM network, CDMA can’t do both voice and data at the same time.

Alas, Apple can’t change the laws of Verizon physics. When a phone call comes in, the Verizon iPhone immediately suspends its digital connection. It resumes its Internet connection when you either reject the incoming call or finish your conversation and hang up.

The same limitation applies when using the Verizon iPhone’s exclusive (for now) Personal Hotspot feature. This is a simple item under the “Settings” menu that lets you share the phone’s 3G Internet connection with as many as 5 WiFi devices, as well as devices connected via Bluetooth or USB. It’s damned useful and I hope it makes its way to the AT&T phone.

At least the iPhone handles it gracefully. If your notebook is connected to the Internet via the iPhone and a call comes in, Internet bandwidth simply drops to zero for the duration of the call. There’s no need to “reconnect” your notebook to the phone.

“Does the Verizon iPhone suffer from the same ‘Grip of Death’ problem as the AT&T model?”

Nope. The only way to degrade the signal by “holding it wrong” is to absolutely smother the antenna on all sides.

“Does it run all of the same apps as the AT&T iPhone?” I’ve tried about two dozen apps in every conceivable category and even the ones that exploit deep hardware features work just fine.

“Did Verizon weigh the iPhone down with all kinds of useless demo apps that merely add confusion and clutter?”

Oh, God, no. The only difference out-of-the-box is the addition of the Personal Hotspot feature.

So which iPhone is superior? Neither, really. We’ve seen that each has a unique advantage or two (chiefly: AT&T’s data speed and Verizon’s network reliability). But the decision will always comes back to two questions about the network: “Which network offers the strongest signal in your home and office?” and “Which one offers the best rate plan for your kind of usage?”

The good news is that it’s the same iPhone, really, and that this is just the beginning of Apple’s “One phone, multiple networks” strategy. Like Android, consumers now have a choice of networks. But unlike Android, the iPhone’s app marketplace hasn’t been fragmented to hell.

The smart plan for most consumers might be to wait until early summer, when Apple traditionally has a new edition of the iPhone to show off.

I mean, why not? You’ve been waiting for a Verizon iPhone for three years. What’s another four months?



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