Verizon iPhone -- Can they hear you now?

Verizon boasts of being "America's largest and most reliable network" and I've been putting that claim to the test. I've been comparing reception, voice quality, how quickly voice calls are placed, and messaging speeds with AT&T's iPhone. To see my results, follow along after the break!

First off, it's important to note that my testing took place in Denver, CO. Networks vary depending on location, so someone in a different parts of the country may obtain different results.

Reception

I must be going to all the wrong places, because I have yet to find a place where Verizon and AT&T both have 5 bars at the same time. One of networks seems to always have 1 or 2 bars more than the other and it's an even split between who has more bars more often. So, in my experience, AT&T does not have "more bars in more places", but only in some places.

With that said, I have not had a single dropped call on the Verizon iPhone 4 - not even a skip.

The dreaded 1xRTT

However, Verizon is not immune to that dreaded little circle that, on AT&T's GSM network, indicates GPRS. In fact, minutes after purchasing the Verizon iPhone 4 from the Apple Store, Ally called my AT&T iPhone 4 as I was leaving the parking garage. As you likely guessed, the call dropped. I instinctively grabbed the Verizon iPhone to check the reception, and there it was - the circle! But what exactly does this mean on Verizon's CDMA network?

When that ugly little circle appears on a Verizon iPhone, it is indicating a connection to 1xRTT which is basically CDMA's version of GPRS. According to Wikipedia, it supports packet data speeds of up to 153 kbps with real world data transmission averaging 60–100 kbps. It's probably not even worth trying to surf the web when connected to 1xRTT because of how painfully slow it is.

Voice Quality

I've heard many people praise Verizon for their superior voice quality, but I honestly didn't notice a difference. Ally had the same experience; neither one of use could differentiate the voice quality between Verizon and AT&T iPhone 4's.

Making a voice call

You know how there is always a pause between the moment you place a phone call and when you hear the ringing tone? Well, this pause is consistently shorter on Verizon's iPhone. When placing the same phone call (regardless of network) on both iPhones at the exact same time, the AT&T iPhone was always sent strait to voicemail while Verizon's iPhone went through with the call. To see the comparison in action, check out the video above.

Sending messages

The last thing I tested was sending SMS and MMS messages. In every instance, the Verizon iPhone sent out SMS messages faster than AT&T's iPhone. We only talking a matter of seconds, however; so in the grand scheme, it's not that big of difference. With MMS, Verizon usually sent the message quicker than AT&T, but as you can see in the above video, AT&T did win that race once.

Conclusion

Overall, I do agree that Verizon provides the iPhone 4 with a more reliable network in Denver, CO; however, AT&T isn't far behind. AT&T's network is very solid here and I generally only get dropped calls when in situations like in a parking garage. The best advice I can give is that before deciding which network to purchase your iPhone 4 with, ask around. Find out the reputations of the the networks in your area.

Leanna Lofte

App and Photography Editor at iMore. Mother, wife, and math instructor. Follow her on Twitter @llofte and send her apps to consider for review at iosapps@imore.com

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There are 91 comments. Add yours.

Ilovegeorgia says:

That's cool but im still staying with AT&T

Jim says:

It just goes to show you that people want to feel good about the choice they have already made. Most folks on AT&T are still under contract and it would be a relatively high burden for them to break contract and change networks to Verizon. Since that is the case, they look for any perceived advantage found in the choice they have already made.
There isn't anything necessarily wrong with this as long as you realize you are usually going to succumb to this. You've already made a choice and part of human nature is trying to feel good about that choice. For most of us, we think of the choices we make as a bit of a reflection of ourselves, if we admit a choice we made was a poor one, what does that tell us about ourselves?

SteveC says:

I guess my only question is: When you called and texted Ally, what network was she on?

Brooke says:

So you said your have never had a dropped call on your Verizon iPhone, but when your friend Ally called and you, both had Verizon, and your phone call dropped?

Brooke says:

*called, and you both have Verizon, your call dropped?

estebancam says:

Yes, I was thinking the same thing. It said it on the ATT phone (calling Verizon).
I would like to see that test from an ATT iPhone to another ATT device see if the results are the same. It would be logical to think that Verizon phones call other Verizon phones faster than calls to different carriers.

TK says:

I picked up my Verizon iPhone today and I've very happy with it.

jiden77 says:

If it wasn't for my AT&T Micro Cell in my house, I'd have no signal...coverage in Houston is awful.

ghostface147 says:

I don't know what part of houston you live in, but it's rock solid for me.

Sean says:

Really? Because i had my iphone 3g for 2 years and houston always was great signal.

minister says:

I live in Sugar Land. Solid ATT coverage here. I work in West University Place. Solid ATT coverage there. My wife works in Pearland...and it is AWFUL there. I can't carry on a conversation with her for more than 30-45 seconds without her dropping.

LonerATO says:

I just moved to Houston two months ago and the service with AT&T is crap. I think I am going to switch to Verizon because they have three antennas and a cell site on the top of my parking garage for my apartment in midtown.

eric6052 says:

The real strength of Verizons 3g network lies in the rural footprint. The 4 major carriers all have the major metro areas covered, but Verizon and to a lesser extent Sprint have much more coverage outside of metro areas.

Jay says:

I have to agree with that. Here in Wisconsin AT&T does not have good coverage outside the larger cities, but Verizon does.
Some people hold allegiance to one or the other, mine goes to whoever has the better coverage.

LMP says:

and hence lies the lie!
Verizon current net work is a "network" of purchased rural carriers (mostly analog), no 3g there.. when they move to 4G, which will be the same as AT&T, we will see the pain they'll suffer because they have to build a brand new network from scratch.
At&t just needs to deploy the 700mHz signal (purchased from the old analog tv signal) for better penetration in buildings and just flip a switch when the 4g is ready to go.
Besides Verizon has awful business practices with their customers. At&t has bad customer service and bad employee treatment, but at least they don't steal (for the most part and best of my knowledge).
I have been through all the incarnations of At&t and never had a bad experience. Of course I am not expecting to have reception in the underground!
and my iPhone? great!!!

usmc says:

What, an iPhone being used "INSIDE A BUILDING?" Didn't think that was possible. Freakin AT&T.

Leanna Lofte says:

Verizon dropped to 1xRTT in that same building.

webvex says:

Actually, at the building where I work (which is like a concrete bunker) both carriers have about the same signal strength outside. Inside, Verizon has no signal and AT&T gets about three or four bars. That's because AT&T here (I'm in the same area as Leanna) is on a lower frequency. I've also found AT&T voice quality to be much better than Verizon. However, our area got a major upgrade a little over a year ago.

Mrmercedes22 says:

Whats the point? Its two totally different infrastructures. GSM has always been slower than CDMA! Nothing new there! Just Saying....

Rob says:

Define slower, because I know your not talking about download speed.

Drdoom420 says:

Umm no I'm sorry gsm is faster the download speeds have been posted plenty of times showing gsm is faster. That's why CDMA is dying and they're all moving to "4g" which to me that definition now of "4g" is B.S.

OrionAntares#CB says:

Actually that depends on which version you're comparing. CDMA has been faster than GSM for longer than it's been the other way around.
But regardless of that, the move to 4G isn't a move to GSM or CDMA. Verizon moving to LTE is a real move toward "4G" since that LTE network can easily be updated to LTE Advanced, a real 4G standard. T-mobile and AT&T are just pushing their GSM as far as they can go with it and call it "4G" even though it's going to cap out real quick. And Sprint, I don't know wtf they're doing...

Rob says:

AT&T is building an lte network right now.

OrionAntares#CB says:

That's what they say. But they seem to have delayed when they were supposed to have started introducing it.

bvonscott says:

Actually Verizon is calling their new LTE they will be rolling out "4G" when its not either. "well well well".... ATT is advertising 4G because their GSM speeds are the same as the other carriers supposed "4G", so whats the difference. They are all lying to the general public. Thats marketing for ya

Menno says:

Just incase you missed it, all GSM carriers are also switching to LTE (or wimax) as well. So GSM is "dying" as well.
CDMA was cheaper to deploy, more reliable, and more secure than GSM was when both carrier's started building out their networks. ATT just started getting faster than CDMA carrier's in the past two years. (Verizon had entire old 3g network upgraded to RevA by 2007) So yes, ATT is faster now, they have the "better" technology. but it took them years to implement it, and at the expense of a lot of coverage.
Now when they are rolling out LTE, they're missing spectrum in a lot of key areas, meaning that for their users, they'll go from LTe to Edge. IT's all cost benefit.

Jason says:

Well, it is what it is. I can't say it bothers me.

jwriherd says:

I have the iPhone 4 on AT&T, no real complaints. My brother in law just got it on Vdub. We both did speed tests in separate citties but when we had the same bars showing and my phone on AT&T always did at least twice the speed as his on Vz. Just pointing out the speed on AT&T is still way faster. Even if it has issues. I really don't.

Tooldad says:

About 6 months ago I was an AT&T Blackberry user, and switched both myself and my wife to Verizon Blackberry phones. Both of us were very disappointed with the sound quality of calls. It sounded like Verizon significantly compressed the audio. Since we used the phones for business, and the sound quality was better on AT&T, we switched back before the 30 days were up. Now I am an iPhone user, and would be hesitant to try Verizon again. I'm assuming we would experience the same thing.

kev says:

Its not VZW but the phone. There are settings one can adjust to get better sounding calls but at the expense of battery life.

Tooldad says:

I doubt it was the phone. We tried 3 different phone models. From what I have heard, Verizon compresses their transmission more significantly than AT&T, leading to a lower quality sound. What are these settings you mention?

Foodboy says:

I live in Denver .... crazy.

iPhone junkie says:

I must have a lemon. My Verizon iPhone is horrible. I drop 70% of my calls, where my Verizon BB never dropped 1 call. Data is slow at best, an battery life is the worst loses about 15% an hour

chris gonzales says:

Take it back and do an exchange.

Rob says:

Yeah, your phone is messed up, and the batterylife is bad because it's constantly searching.

Pimp Lucious says:

Spent a lot of time in Colorado. Its a beautiful state which means a lot a travel. Compare Verizon's 3G network in the state to AT&Ts. Nuff said. Won't even mention that lovely 4G network Verizon has in Denver since the iPhone can't take advantage of it.

webvex says:

That's funny, my experience has been the opposite. Personally, I hear a lot more people cursing Verizon lately. Sprint's not too bad and T-Mobile is pathetic, but AT&T is great here.

Jenna Jameson says:

Well,well,well.
@freak. . What happened to Tebow......You changed your name? But you didn't change your desire to troll.......
Some things never change.

blyths says:

When you sent the texts, did you check how fast they were delivered?
That's even more important than how fast it gets sent - because sending is only indicating how fast it's getting to the carrier's servers, not how fast they are delivering it to the recipient.
Here in Canada on Rogers - a text can be delivered in seconds, hours, or not at all :(

kev says:

How fast texts are received have nothing to do with the carrier sending them but the carrier that's receiving them.

blyths says:

Actually it would depend on both carriers - assuming the sending and receiving carriers are different - which I was not. Leanna already said both phones were on Verizon - and the experience I mentioned was also within the same carrier.

yo mama 2 says:

can you talk and surf at the same time...?

valentino says:

hahahaha ! NO it cant :( smh !

Jeff says:

How do you say you haven't dropped a single call and then in the next paragraph you say you dropped a call?! ;-)

blyths says:

No calls dropped on Verizon - the call that dropped was on her AT&T iPhone.

ctt1wbw says:

Verizon Wireless will never get my business. They could give me a smart phone for each day of the week and I'd still say no. Beware, VZW will screw your bill up to the tune of about two grand, openly admit they did it, and refuse to fix it. Like they did me. So, no. No Verizon Wireless.

yo mama 2 says:

i agree and also their customer service and tech support are useless and they don't care about customer....
i forgot and also they suck in Puerto Rico, and they tell you the offer you service over there. that is a false ad.. the should take Puerto Rico from there map..
And if you going to travel out of USA you have to let them know so they can set your device. What kind of crap is that? ain't telling to anybody where i'm going..

RagedUSMC says:

I have to disagree there. I have been on AT&T for a year now, but before that i was on Verizon and when i went to Puerto Rico, i never had any issues with my signal except when i was in the middle of the island in the mountains. For AT&T my parents where in Puerto Rico as well and no issues either. Oh and when i was on Verizon, i did not have to call ahead to have them change or set up anything because i was traveling to Puerto Rico.

yo mama 2 says:

i have to disagree with you my friend, first to all there is not verizon in Puerto Rico, they sold their towers and service to claro (another pos company)..
I had 9 or 10 months using a blackberry storm 1 and 2 (i had 9 devices in that time). i went twice in Puerto Rico 10 days each trip. i had 0 service in ponce puerto rico. i had voice service in san juan and 0 data service..
i soon i came to the states i went to get my iPhone 4 (by the way i will never buy another POS, blackberry i do regret changed from iPhone to blackberry, but we all humans and we do make mistakes).
So don't tell me you had service.. and also call them to let then go you going out of USA, so they can set your device (POS blackberry in this case) please. and then dial *286 i guess to set up your network come on, you don't have to do that with att, sprint or tmobile, no even with metro pcs..

Edgar says:

Don't call the man a liar, just because you can't get service! I, too, have been to PR and gotten service with VZW. And, no, I didn't call them ahead of my trip.

Menno says:

This could be because you're using a Global capable phone, so your phone was trying to find a GSM signal. Since Puerto Rico has a CDMA network, CDMA only phones should work just fine in it. Global capable ones might struggle because it's looking for a GSM partner when it should be looking for CDMA (you can update this in your settings)

Edgar says:

You are full of it! VZW customer service and tech support is the best among the major 4 carriers. Don't believe it? Check J.D.Powers survey. I am on VZW for many years now, with no complaints with CS or TS. Been great to me.

chirmer says:

Agreed. I've gone through 6 BlackBerries in a year and a half on V, and every time I've gone in with a problem they've been more than helpful, even giving me new batteries with my replacement phones. They also found a massive discount for my family's plan, since my mother (primary on the account) works in our public school system, we get 15% off our bill every month. They've easily swapped around update times, extended our 30 days with our phone (went in after 40 because we were on vacation and they swapped phones all the same), etc etc. VZW has been nothing but a positive experience for me!

LMP says:

all those "massive discounts" are available in At&t as weel and for sure the other carriers. Also if you had to go through 6 devices in a year isn't that telling you that they are giving you crap with a smile? and I bet you that every time they smiled at you they extended your contract for two years! isn't that great CS???

yo mama 2 says:

this website is getting pay from verizon. that's is way the just talk about the verizon iPhone and they trying to make the att iphone look bad..
the iPhone with att is way better and useful. i least i could tether my laptop, use my iPhone at the same time, make a phone call and i don't loose my connection... you people can hide that...

Edgar says:

Just switched to Droid X this week, and so far it SMOKES the iPhone!

Menno says:

In every town I've lived in The best consistant speeds I can get from ATT are EDGE. Verizon had 3g even when I was in the middle of nowhere. Talk and Surf only works on ATT 3g so for me, and millions of others, that little "marketing term" is pointless.
Not to mention I have wifi at my house, at work, at my favorite coffee shop and at my favorite pub, so I can talk and surf on my Verizon phone every time I need to. When I'm doing things like driving or hanging out with friends (where I don't have wifi) I typically have other things I need to pay attention to.

blyths says:

Ah I see that she actually said calls and texts from both her phones were going to Ally's Verizon phone. That compllicates things - as pointed out by an earlier reply. The AT&T phone had to cross networks on every test - the Verizon phone was only dealing with it's own. To be fair you'd have to test crossovers in both directions and staying on the same network for both phones.

Macboy74 says:

This is interesting I was messing with my girlfriends verizon iphone and mine a couple minutes ago. Did some data speed tests with both phones having around 3-4 bars. I loaded the same NYT page and my phone was done loading in 23 seconds and hers loaded about 20 seconds later. After I loaded the tipb page my phone took 10 seconds hers took 23 seconds. Then I did a text message hers loaded a 1/2 second after mine. She got her phone 2 days ago. She has dropped 2 calls to her mother who is also on verizon. She also mention that yesterday she had no service for a couple minutes when she was in the outskirts of the city. But her calls to me have been great all the way through the call and crystal clear. So lol I don't know. Guess it depends on where you live with any carrier. And why don't people check the coverage of the carrier before they sign up instead of bitching later on.

mv rob says:

I have no complaints with AT&T at all........as long as my Microcell is working :)

paulg1978 says:

Before I had an iPhone I would regularly max my minutes. Since the iPhone my minutes used are way down. To me I want the better data first, then cell reception.

Crunch says:

Yup and we can all run a VoiP app (such as Line 2, which I subscribe to) and talk over data. I've been using two numbers with my iPhone 4 that way and I don't even think about it anymore as to which one uses the cell and data network. (actually, yes, I do, because I get such a kick out of it still haha)

diordon says:

att is great in some places bad in others,wait until verizon is flooded with Iphones then we will see who has better service, voice quality etc.when verizon has more than 1 million iphones on their network then we all can see.

Crunch says:

When T-Mobile started calling its network "4G", I laughed, but since AT&T made the brilliant marketing move of taking a nod from T-Mo, it kind of legitimized the whole thing and now AT&T can claim that it will be the only network with TWO flavors of 4G. (as it already does) :D
And why not? It does make sense in a way, as AT&T's HSPA+ will be faster than both Sprint's 4G (WiMAX) as well as Verizon's initial LTE rollout. I already get 3-6Mbps on my 3G HSPA 7.2 iPhone 4. I did some speed tests in a restaurant during "prime time" (8-9pm) earlier tonight and I kept pulling down speeds of over 5Mbps every single time except for once @ 4.7Mbps.
I'm looking forward to the iPhone 5's HSPA+ 4G radio this summer. I hope it'll be 21Mbps, but it will definitely be at least 14.4Mbps. They could leave the design alone (I adore the glass on both sides) and call it the 4GS. ;-)

OrionAntares#CB says:

Um, no. Verizon's LTE implementation peaks at around 32Mbps while AT&T's HSPA+ implementations peak at 21Mbps. On top of that AT&T seems to only be interested in implementing HSPA let a lone HSPA+ in major cities while Verizon will likely push at least it's base LTE implementation out to more rural areas, areas that already have Verizon EvDo and where AT&T still only offers EDGE or GPRS. And while AT&T focuses resources on HSPA+ (a tech near capping out on speed) in major cities that could instead be focused on either implementing an LTE network or at least on expanding HSPA out to more rural areas, Verizon will be implementing a faster network that could much more easily be updated to a real "4G" standard, LTE Advanced.
What I'm hoping to see with the government pushing for rural high speed wireless and a nudge from Verizon to it's regional partners that the base LTE implementation spreads out to the rural areas pretty quickly.

bvonscott says:

I think you need to dig more into what Verizon and ATT are actually doing in regards to LTE. Verizon's first LTE offering will have a "theoretical" max speed like you mention, but in their tech release it said that real world "peak" speeds will be around 14Mbps and average about the same as ATT's HSPA+ around 7Mbps. There is a very good reason they dont use all of the bandwidth for these technologies. Even the HSPA+ bandwidth is not fully utilized. I invite you to go to wikipedia and look it all up. Im just sayin

iphonemilk says:

good thing i don't make any calls. It's about the DATA Speeds for me.. which is why for NOW i'm staying on ATT

Leanna Lofte says:

Fixing the article to reflect this: It doesn't matter which network I call, Verizon always gets through first.

ArtWatson says:

Wow, I'm surprised you haven't been offered a job from one of the carriers on account of this amazing scientific test that you created. It truly contains all the necessary precautions and steps to conduct a professional controled test such as this.

Menno says:

Laying sarcasm on that thick defeats the purpose. This isn't meant to be a definitive test, it's one writer comparing the device on two seperate networks.

Brianh23 says:

I'm just glad the iPhone is now available on more than just one carrier. First it was ios vs android and now it's Verizon vs AT&T. All I know is, if you have horrible service with AT&T, then go with Verizon, and if it's the opposite, then go with AT&T, it's really that simple. Side by side, there isn't a major difference in data speed, trust me. And lets face it, simultaneous voice and data REALLY isn't that important, it certainly wasn't for me. AT&T is horrible in my area, so I couldn't wait to make the switch to Verizon! I've had my phone since Monday the 7th, and I'm very pleased with my decision! I know other people have said it before, but can't we all just get along and be happy with our iPhones! Let's just go back to bashing android, ha!

xf says:

Every network has dead spots. If you're standing in one of them, your phone isn't going to work. If you LIVE in one of them, your phone isn't going to work most of the time. This is why it's important to test your new phone on your new network in all the places you go regularly, during the period when you can return your phone for a full refund.
"Tests" like this are totally subjective; you can get a better comparison of expected performance using the vendors' own coverage maps. But doing a meaningful independent test would be prohibitively expensive, and you need something to fill column inches.
And 1xRTT is not that bad. When Sprint introduced "3G", what it was was... 1xRTT. 1xRTT on Sprint totally kicks the ass of EDGE on AT&T. (I can't speak to Verizon, because I haven't had a Verizon phone since they were GTE and their coverage sucked so bad I couldn't use my phone at home.)

Macboy74 says:

I like the guy who said he had a droid x. That was the number phone beside the moto droid that people on verizon dropped to get a iPhone 4. Funny

Alana @ Domestically Challenged says:

I'm so glad I came across this post, not only for the info about the new iPhone, but because we just moved to Colorado and our Sprint service is HORRIBLE! We have been trying to decide whether to go to AT&T or Verizon and this may have sealed it. I get a discount at both, but I would like a phone that a - I don't have to charge all day so that it doesn't die on the way home and b - I don't miss calls from my kids school, which has already happened twice with Sprint.

Macmom says:

I live in a fairly rural area and have had iPhone for 3 years now. I ordered the verizon phone and am currently using both. Ive discovered (at least for me) that verizon drops as many calls as my AT&T iPhone. My calls made from home on verizon are muffled and distorted. Not that AT&T is much better but it is...a little better. Data is really, really slow for me. In conclusion, I hate to say it, but I will be returning my verizon iPhone before the 30 days is up.

BMP says:

Where I am a major city and a Verizon customer for 15 years prior to the Iphone 4 came out. I can say my experience with Verizon was tons of dead spots and a lot of dropped calls. Data on Verizon was slow and the final straw is locking everything down and the PRICE. Switched to AT&T along with my entire family and the in laws. I pay $50 less per month and get a ton more. Data is consistently fast havent found a dead spot yet some areas outside city limits i'm on edge but I don't mind. Went to Estes Park and it was funny watching the people with Verizon,sprint and T mobile walking around with there phones in the air trying to get a signal and I was on egde talking away and on the web with a smile on my face. Bottom line AT&T has been real good to me so far.

pivale says:

about topic "Making a voice call" it's not related to the phone technology (cdms vs gsm), but to the telecom infrastructure...
It's the time that it takes to see if the destination exists, which will be the applied tariff, if you have enough balance to make the call or not, etc.
Those times are very hard to reduce, as it usually implies changes in hardware or make huge changes to software.

b says:

NOT when you are on the web !!!!!!!

Luigi says:

I live I So Cal and have never had any problems with my AT&T service and I'm sometimes on the road quite a bit. I love the rollover minutes, being able to be on web and answer a call at the same time and the no-nonsense pricing plan. But when we went to Mammoth we got zero reception while our friends with Verizon had no problems. I told Verizon that the only way I would go with them is if they could combine my FiOS bill with the wireless plan, give me a discount after switching and give it to me on one bill. They said they could not combine the two for one bill. They will miss a lot of opportunities because of that. Verizon has to come up with more than getting coverage in Mammoth for me to switch. Oh I love FiOS!

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