Apple and Verizon Wireless Revisited

June 30th, 2010

The iPhone on Verizon du jour report this week comes to you courtesy of Bloomberg News. Yes, that’s the company owned by the same guy who is now mayor of New York City.

Now this has been an ongoing rumor for months now, that once Apple’s exclusive deal with AT&T expires, the iPhone will be available to other carriers in the U.S. However, the real question has always been not if but when, because nobody outside of Apple, AT&T, their lawyers and a few others under deep cover or an ironclad DNA can give you an accurate answer.

It is understandable that a lot of people would like to see Apple expand your purchase options. AT&T doesn’t get good marks for connection quality in many of the larger cities, despite claims that they are spending billions of dollars to enhance their networks. Yes, there are reports that network reliability is now much better in New York City, and they’re working on Chicago, San Francisco and other trouble spots, but I’d rather hear confirmation from you. I don’t just accept corporate spin without some confirmation.

The usual problems from saturated networks include dropped calls and subpar Internet download speeds. Supposedly, AT&T was caught flat-footed when they embraced the iPhone, not anticipating how fast it would take off, nor the amount of data customers would consume.

The skeptical minded among us might mention that AT&T has long been cursed with bad ratings for their network, so they should have anticipated that there was trouble afoot from this move. It may also be that AT&T was the only major cell carrier to accede to Apple’s penchant for ironclad control, at a time when few expected the iPhone to take off as quickly as it did. Verizon Wireless allegedly insisted that the iPhone become just another commodity product in their smartphone lineup.

This is not to say that a Verizon version of the iPhone wouldn’t have some shortcomings. For one thing, AT&T touts the ability to take a phone call and do something else, such as checking your email, at the same time. Verizon’s CDMA network doesn’t allow for that form of multitasking, even though the Android phones they offer tout the ability to run more than one app at the same time. I don’t pretend to know if this limitation can be addressed with firmware or cheap hardware upgrades to the network, or they have to wait for the rollout of LTE, the next generation system that will also be embraced by AT&T and other carriers.

With LTE, Apple wouldn’t even have to build separate versions of the iPhone in the U.S. They could survive with just one.

But even if Apple doesn’t wait for LTE, which Verizon is expected to begin to deploy next year, I suppose millions of potential customers will survive the lack of simultaneous telephone call and email functionality. There is, of course, Verizon’s fabulous network, which is supposedly freer of dropped calls and other problems.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t be tempted to switch after my AT&T contract expires. My experience with Verizon customer service has been totally unfavorable. Yes, the surveys give them good marks, but I have rarely seen such a collection of uninformed, ill-mannered support people anywhere.

Even though I’m not a Verizon customer, my sister-in-law is, and, being the technical expert in the family, I’m often called upon to help when they encounter problems. On several occasions, after trying to deal with a niggling billing problem, I was promised by a supervisor that a manager would call back “within 48 hours.” That promise was repeated over four telephone calls, and it never happened. The fifth attempt was a charm, but that’s no excuse.

I also recall one instance where I talked to an ill-tempered billing rep who, after being asked why I hadn’t gotten a callback from management, pronounced me deluded. Two days later, they disconnected my sister-in-law’s service not over of a billing issue, but because of a single employee’s nasty disposition. Yes, folks, I did get my sister-in-law a month’s credit for her misery. So even if Verizon Wireless has the better network, their toxic customer support more than convinces me not to become one of their customers.

Oh well, I guess I just lost a potential advertiser, but those are the breaks.

Of course, when Apple finally makes that deal with Verizon, it’s likely they will insist on a certain level of customer support. As it stands now, when you call AT&T about a number for which you’re using an iPhone, you have the option of talking with Apple about your handset, or AT&T about the network and billing. I expect the same will be true for Verizon.

In the end, yes, I believe the deal will happen. It may already be set in stone, becoming effective at the conclusion of the AT&T exclusive. But don’t assume that jumping ship will give you a better experience. Once Verizon is saturated with iPhone traffic, they may have problems too.

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5 Responses to “Apple and Verizon Wireless Revisited”

  1. Darwin says:

    The reason Verizon cannot do data and voice at the same time is because of the way they implemented the CDMA spec originated by Motorola.
    As an aside, the iPhone is very popular as a personal phone at Motorola although it’s not a good idea to let people at work see you have one. I know many people who have a work provided Android phone but their personal phones are iPhones. Mac laptops are also very popular among IT employees and management since we have a choice between Mac and Windows laptops. I also see a lot of iPhones and Mac laptops at Google, Oracle and Cisco. Yes many Google employees have iPhones and Macs are standard there.

  2. erica says:

    Notice that it’s always a financial analyst that’s leaking this news and they only cite “sources familiar with the plans” or “sources briefed on the matter?” How much more vague can they get? They’re using the blogosphere to keep Verizon’s name in the news constantly and to hopefully affect stock prices. VZ jumps every time one of these “Verizon iPhone” rumors comes out. (Seriously, look at the charts)
    This recent news came out and overshadowed AT&T’s announcements that they had completed some major upgrades in New York, and also that AT&T was taking over a whole bunch of Verizon Wireless space as part of the Verizon-Alltel purchase. Yes, AT&T’s footprint will be expanding a whole lot into the Dakotas, Montana, Utah, Colorado, Wisconsin, Kansas, and other states.

    So how convenient that another unfounded “Verizon is getting the iPhone!!” rumor just happens to come out.. from the SAME PEOPLE that have been wrong about it before.

  3. Yacko says:

    Wouldn’t it be desirable or perhaps even necessary for a Verizon LTE phone to have CDMA as fallback?

  4. Andrew says:

    I don’t think its so much iPhone users who will switch to Verizon as Verizon users who will switch to iPhone.

    I’ve been a verizon customer for three years using BlackBerry devices. Generally I’ve been happy with them, and rather like my Current Storm2. That said, the minute the iPhone comes to Verizon I will place my order.

    (I like how your page shows the browser in use and the platform. Of course while it correctly reports IE 8 and Windows 7, it fails to mention that is in Boot Camp on a MacBook Pro)

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