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Friday, February 4, 2011

AT&T vs. Verizon iPhone - A comparison chart to help you choose


Should you get the new Verizon iPhone? Or should you stick with AT&T? On February 10, AT&T will no longer be the only network offering the iPhone, leaving many users wondering if they should switch. Existing Verizon customers can pre-order the iPhone starting February 3.

Check out our quick comparison chart of the AT&T vs. Verizon iPhone, with a detailed explanation of the major differences below the graphic:

AT&T vs. Verizon iPhone Comparison Chart

Verizon's making a big deal out of the fact that they're offering unlimited data, but it costs $30 a month. That's a lot. The minimum voice-text-data plan from AT&T costs $64.99 a month - that gets you 450 minutes of talk time, 1000 text messages and 200 MB of data. The minimum from Verizon, on the other hand, costs $74.98 each month (450 minutes of talk time, 500 text messages, and unlimited data). If you don't plan on going app-happy and Googling everything on your iPhone, then AT&T's the best price.

Data Plans
If you do check the Internet and update your Facebook status often, Verizon's unlimited plan is enticing - but AT&T's $25 data plan gets you 2 GB per month and that's a hard amount to hit unless you watch videos or stream music constantly. You can listen to an hour of music every day, look at 20 sites daily, use 30 apps a week, and send 3000 emails a month and still wouldn't even hit 1.5 GB of data. Plus, any data used while connected to Wi-Fi doesn't count against a data plan - if you have Wi-Fi in your house or at work, it'd be near impossible to use even 500 MB. But still, that unlimited data plan is enticing.

Network speed is a tricky thing to assess, and both will tell you that their service is faster. In many cities, AT&T is technically faster, but the amount of data usage on their network (from iPhone users, mostly) slows them down and Verizon looks faster. In fact, CNet did a quick speed test (see the video to the right) and Verizon's iPhone was roughly 30 percent faster than AT&T's. Netflix also says their videos stream faster on Verizon than on AT&T. However, the GSM phone that AT&T uses has a max speed of 7.2 MB per second while Verizon's CDMA tops out at 3.1 MB per second. Both iPhones use the 3G network, but as AT&T expands its 4G towers (expected to be completed by early 2013), the Verizon iPhone may be left in the dust as the CDMA chip can only use 3G. The short version? Verizon's faster -- for now.

AT&T's network has gotten slammed ever since they launched the iPhone, dropping almost three times as many calls as Verizon. It was recently rated the worst carrier by Consumer Reports, but experts say that might just come with the iPhone territory. According to Apple, 47.5 million iPhones have been sold in the last 12 months. Despite recent growth from Google's Android system, Nielsen reports the Apple iPhone is still the most popular on the market, accounting for 28.6 percent of all U.S. smartphones. Verizon says it's ready for the iPhone 4, but so did AT&T. If 12 million people buy the Verizon iPhone this year, as analysts predict, Verizon's reputation of reliability could be hurt. There is a slight redesign in the antenna of the Verizon iPhone, so it might not have as many issues with dropped calls, but only time will tell.

Tethering / Wi-Fi Hotspot
Verizon has the advantage here by far, but it comes with a price tag. The AT&T iPhone offers tethering with a Bluetooth, but Verizon offers tethering and the option to turn your smartphone into a Wi-Fi Hotspot, giving Internet access to up to five devices. However, any data you load on those devices from the Verizon iPhone Hotspot counts against your limit, which is 2 GB per month for $20. If you use an iPad and a laptop on your iPhone's Wi-Fi, you could eat that up in a week pretty easily, and each additional GB is another $20. However, if you don't use the web too much at home, a Verizon iPhone could conceivably replace your home Internet service and may save you money in the long run.

Data + Voice (Multi-tasking)
The Verizon iPhone has a CDMA chip, which means no multi-tasking because it runs voice and data on different tracks. AT&T wins here, allowing you to use apps or search sites while talking. Imagine you're on the phone with friends, discussing plans to go to the movies - you could browse movie times, read plot summaries and buy tickets without hanging up. The iPhone also has great GPS navigational apps like Mapquest, so you could talk on a Bluetooth in the car while following directions.

The Verizon iPhone is faster, the unlimited data is a plus (but may be only available for a limited time), and the Hotspot feature is sexy... but no multi-tasking, high prices, and a network that hasn't been tested with the data-heavy iPhone? Depending on what kind of user you are, both carriers have advantages and disadvantages. If you have to switch, it's probably not worth the price. If you're a Verizon customer already, you've been wanting the iPhone for months if not years, so you might as well stop waiting.
Keep in mind, Apple has introduced a new iPhone every year for the past three years. Could we see an iPhone 5 this summer? If so, that could change everything.