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Verizon gets its iPhone, but 4G will have to wait

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Verizon, Apple, iPhoneVerizon Wireless confirmed Tuesday one of the worst-kept secrets in the tech industry–as of February 10, the company is adding Apple’s iPhone 4 to the lineup of smart phones supported by the Verizon network. Verizon will offer online ordering of iPhone 4 as of February 3, subsidizing the phone’s cost for customers signing a two-year contract—$200 for the 16-gigabyte model and $300 for the 32-gigabyte model. The wireless carrier has not announced iPhone data plan pricing.

Speculation about the availability of a Verizon iPhone began even before Apple started selling its original iPhone in the U.S. in 2007 with AT&T as its exclusive carrier. AT&T customers will want to take pause before they consider switching iPhone carriers, however. It’s possible to port a phone number from an AT&T iPhone to a Verizon iPhone, but that’s about all that can be transferred.

AT&T’s version of the iPhone runs on the wireless provider’s Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) network and cannot be used on Verizon’s wireless Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) network, which means you have to buy a new iPhone. AT&T customers will also have to buy new apps—those on their AT&T iPhones won’t work on Verizon’s version.

The AT&T and Verizon iPhones do share something important in common; neither operates on a 4G network, which is designed specifically for blazing-fast data transfers. Verizon and Apple said during their joint announcement Tuesday that the chips required to make the Verizon iPhone 4G weren’t ready yet.

This actually puts the 3G iPhone at a disadvantage when compared to other smart phones, such as those using Google’s Android operating system. At last week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Verizon introduced four new handsets that can run on the 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network the company began offering in December, including the HTC ThunderBolt, LG Revolution, DROID Bionic 4G and Samsung 4G LTE Smartphone. AT&T, which of late has begun to embrace Android-based wireless devices, plans to begin launching 4G LTE service by the middle of this year.

The lack of 4G support is a bit of a buzz kill, given how much Verizon played up its LTE network last week at CES. During the company’s keynote at the show, Verizon president and chief operating officer Lowell McAdam boasted that LTE amps up mobile speeds by a factor of 10 while cutting latency in half. Well, at least it does this for Android phones.

Image Courtesy of Apple





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