Why you shouldn’t buy a Verizon iPhone until June

One of the questions a lot of people are asking this week is whether or not they should buy a Verizon iPhone.  

Obviously, the answer is contingent upon a number of factors, such as whether you are already own an iPhone, if you are having a bad AT&T experience, or whether or not you want the latest and greatest. 

So, let’s take a look at that question today and hopefully help you reach a conclusion.


Now, if you don’t yet have a smartphone be prepared for a surprise, as they are typically packaged with data service charges that can cost upwards of $100 a month above what you are probably paying now.

That’s really a lot of unplanned fixed cost, especially during these hard times.    

To be sure, iPhone users consistently track more data use, largely because the phones are far easier to use and explore than competitive offerings.  

I’m not saying it isn’t worth it, only to make you have the extra monthly cash to pay for this service. 

Of course, undersubscribing isn’t particularly wise either, because coverage charges can be extreme.

Verizon Coverage

Verizon is stronger than AT&T in terms of geographic and unconstructed data coverage. However, CDMA phones typically work in North and South America which means the phone may not function in Asia or Europe.

Having said that, roaming charges in any of these geographies can be astronomically large, with reported bills for an extended trip weighing in at an excess of $20,000 for some heavy users.

As such, this limitation may actually be a good thing, because if I came back with a $20K phone bill from a trip I’m pretty sure I’d get shot.

This means if you love your iPhone but are having a lot of trouble with dropped calls or data rates, or have always wanted an iPhone but hated AT&T, this phone could be for you.

iPhone 5

The fifth-gen iPhone is expected in June of this year and for those that want the very latest they may want to wait until it arrives.

However, as with the iPhone 2 – the first 3G phone – the iPhone 5’s battery life (like most first-gen 4G phones) will likely be really bad.

Still, the iPhone 4 has had some troubling problems – the biggest of which is that it is relatively fragile (Apple may get sued for this) and is long overdue for a case redesign.   

Of course, a good case – which solves most of the device’s issues – is a good idea with any smartphone, as even Gorilla glass phones have been known to shatter if dropped on concrete.  

So, if you are likely to be upset if you don’t have the latest and greatest in June I’d wait. 

If not, the iPhone 4 should be good enough for those that don’t push technology for several years yet (with a case). 

Android Alternative and Competition

CES was awash with Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and 3.0 (Honeycomb) products – most of which will be launched during the second half of 2011.     

These phones may arrive with better incentives and boast unique advantages over the iPhone 4 or 5 in terms of features such as Flash support and overall performance.

They can also be purchased from a number of vendors, suggesting price competition will be high.  

In addition, AT&T and Verizon are likely to be competing heavily with each other for the iPhone, resulting in obvious benefits for consumers.

So, if you have a high concern about making the wrong choice or missing that big deal, once again, you’ll likely be better off waiting.

Better to Wait until June

While the iPhone 4 isn’t new, the CDMA version is. Meanwhile, Verizon and Apple are still figuring out how to work together. 

As with all brand new products it generally is wise not to be in the very first wave of buyers. 

In this case, since the phone form factor isn’t new, the offsetting benefit of having something most don’t have in the early months is definitely a factor.

I expect we’ll know if there are any problems with this new iPhone within 60 days of launch. 

Of course that’s April, and that’ll be just two months before the expected iPhone 5 is slated to hit the streets.  

In the end, I think most will be better served to wait until the iPhone 5 launches and then pick the phone that bests fits their needs – whether it is an iPhone 4 or 5, an Android 2.3 or 3.0 device, or even a refreshed Windows Phone 7 or RIM product.   

Buying in February means you are taking a lot of risk. Then again, we live on our phones and if you have a problem that Verizon solves, there is really nothing wrong with making the purchase as long as you are willing to accept the risks.

Good hunting!

Rob Enderle is one of the last Inquiry Analysts. Inquiry Analysts are paid to stay up to date on current events and identify trends and either explain the trends or make suggestions, tactical and strategic, on how to best take advantage of them. Currently, he provides his services to most of the major technology and media companies. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer. [[Apple]]