Verizon iPhone 4 Review

Full review of the Verizon iPhone 4: Apple’s first CDMA phone

Verizon iPhone 4 Review

The Verizon iPhone is one of the most anticipated smartphones in recent memory, made even more so by the endless rumors and years of waiting those who wanted it had to endure. Now it's here and while the radio has changed it's still pretty much the same iPhone 4 Apple shipped on AT&T back in June 2010. A 7 month old phone on a brand new network is not something iPhone users have had to consider in the past. Is it worth the wait? Is Verizon really a better network? Does CDMA have important shortcomings you need to be aware of? Will the entire thing be rendered moot when Apple announces an iPhone 5 in June?

Figuring out the answers to these questions and more have kept all of us at TiPb extremely busy over the past couple of weeks. So hit the jump and on for our full Verizon iPhone review!

Since the Verizon iPhone 4 is still an iPhone 4 we're only going to look at and compare the differences between the Verizon model and the AT&T/GSM model here. If you haven't already, check out our original iPhone 4 review to see all the features that are similar including FaceTime video calls, Retina Display screen, 5mp camera and HD video recording, etc.

In the box

You'll get the standard Apple headphones, the wall adapter, a sync cable, and your manuals. The only difference is really the phone and the back of the box.

The back of the box simply specifies the carrier. Other than that, everything should be the same. Oh let's not forget that you won't get a handy dandy micro-SIM removal tool, since CDMA phones don't use them.

Hardware differences

The Verizon iPhone has different breaks in the antenna band than its AT&T/GSM sibling. Even though the antenna band was redesigned for CDMA, I don’t see any improvement when it comes to the “death grip” issue (see our explanation of "death touch" vs. "death grip" for more on this). If anything, I experience it more than I do on my AT&T iPhone 4. I’m not sure if attenuation on the Verizon version is worse because of a difference between CDMA and GSM or if it’s something else. I experience the issue on my AT&T iPhone but it seems that the signal doesn’t drop as quick and when it does, it goes up quicker when I’m not touching the break in the band. The Verizon version seems to lose bars a lot quicker and it takes a bit longer for them to come back.

As most people have already figured out, putting a bumper or a case on your phone will solve the death grip problem.

Other than the breaks in the antenna bands, the mute switch and volume buttons are moved down about 2mm on the Verizon iPhone 4. This is because of the break in the antenna at the top left of the phone. For users coming from an AT&T iPhone 4, this can be annoying as many current iPhone 4 cases will not work as the silent switch and volume buttons are positioned differently.

The only other difference I have found is that the Verizon iPhone 4 doesn’t have the FCC and other clearance marks on the back the way the AT&T/GSM version does.

Software differences

The AT&T/GSM iPhone 4 is currently running iOS 4.2.1. The Verizon iPhone 4 launched with iOS 4.2.6. The only major feature 4.2.6 adds is personal hotspot capabilities (called mobile hotspot on other devices). AT&T has announced that they will offer mobile hotspot as well but no dates have been given yet, and it will require an iOS 4.3 update. Currently AT&T offers internet tethering for iPhone users but you are limited to Bluetooth and USB tethering.

The Verizon version supports wifi tethering for up to 5 devices. This is extremely nice if you’re somewhere without wifi and need to access the internet from a wifi only device (like a wifi iPad). You can simply enable the mobile hotspot feature and it’ll show up as a wireless network on your other device. You can also choose to add a password if you’d like. We'll cover that below.

Syncing data

If your’e coming from an AT&T iPhone, you’ll feel right at home. Actually, if you’ve ever used an iPod of any kind or an iPad, you’ll already know what to do. The Verizon iPhone is no different than its AT&T brother. Plug into iTunes, sync your content, and you’re good to go. Verizon also offers a contact transfer app for current customers that’ll easily bring down all your contacts wirelessly for you (given you use Verizon’s contact backup service). If you need more help:

There’s really nothing new here, both iPhones will sync and store data in the same manner.

Apps

All the apps that run on the current AT&T/GSM iPhone also run on the Verizon iPhone (with the sole exception of carrier branded apps, like AT&T Navigator.) Apple has hundreds of thousands of apps and games available for the iPhone and Verizon will be releasing some carrier-specific ones as well, hopefully something to tie into their NFL deal. Here are some good starting points:

Call Clarity

CDMA is long known to handle calls better than GSM. But is that really true? When it comes to clarity, sure. But you do lose some features when using a CDMA iPhone. Conference calls are only good for up to 3 people, including yourself. The way calls are handled can differ too. On AT&T, if you initiate a conference call, you can merge the calls, split them off, and hang up separately. On Verizon, hanging up on one will hang up on both. This is also a downside of the current version of CDMA Verizon is utilizing.

In most of our Verizon voice tests, call clarity was always on par with AT&T or better.

Personal Hotspot

Personal hotspot is definitely a welcome feature to iOS. It's also only available for Verizon customers at the moment. AT&T has stated they have plans to release it, presumably with the launch of iOS 4.3, but no date has been given yet.

This feature allows you to turn your phone into a wireless hotspot. Up to 5 devices at a time can connect and use your iPhone 4's internet connection. We tested this pretty thoroughly and found that it works as promised. I was pretty impressed with the speeds and reliability.

Data Speeds

Verizon is offering their customers unlimited (though potentially throttled) data, while AT&T only offers 250MB and 2GB data tiers. This is a huge selling point for them. But can their network handle the traffic? From our experience, yet it can. Quite well actually. Leanna and I both conducted speed tests. Mine in the Chicago area and hers in the Denver area. While AT&T was much faster for me, in real world situations (even tethering), neither of us had issues with Verizon and it always loaded pages within seconds of our AT&T iPhones. Sometimes it even loaded them quicker.

Data speeds and network reliability will, of course, heavily rely on coverage in your particular area. AT&T typically handles well in larger populated areas while Verizon has been known to have a strong network in rural areas as well. We conducted several Verizon iPhone 4 speed tests and the results were more than respectable.

Verizon iPhone or AT&T iPhone?

That's really a decision each individual person is going to have to make. As always, you should base it on what the coverage is like where you live. For some, AT&T and Verizon may both be strong players in your area. If you're in that situation, take a look at each carrier and what benefits GSM has over CDMA and vice versa. We also did a Verizon iPhone 4 vs AT&T iPhone 4 comparison. We pitted them against each other, and both held their own. You'll really have to weigh out what options are more important to you. Do you need simultaneous voice and data or are you more concerned with call clarity? The little differences can end up being annoying over time so it may be worth it to weigh your options and choose the carrier that'll best fit your individual needs.

State of the Verizon Jailbreak

A lot of potential Verizon switchers have been asking if they're able to jailbreak if they switch. The answer to that is a big fat yes! greepois0n supports the Verizon iPhone as well. I jailbroke mine on launch day without a hitch. We've also got a complete guide up on how to jailbreak the Verizon iPhone 4. So if you're a jailbreaker (or want to be), make sure to give that a look.

Wrap Up

We had quite a week playing with the Verizon iPhone 4. We came away feeling that Verizon is definitely capable of delivering a great customer experience. I'd have no qualms about using the Verizon iPhone 4 if you don't need simultaneous voice and data or don't mind some of the little annoyances that come along with CDMA. The plans on both carriers are roughly similar with the exception of Verizon offering unlimited data while AT&T only offers tiered.

Now that Verizon finally has the iPhone, both businesses are going to have to compete for our business. For almost 4 years, AT&T hasn't had to compete for iPhone revenue. If you wanted an iPhone, you were going to play by their rules. Those days are long gone and we have a feeling it's going to get pretty interesting from here on out. Let the carrier wars begin!

Allyson Kazmucha

Editor for iMore, Potter pundit, and the ninja in your iOS

More Posts

 

-
loading...
-
loading...
-
loading...
-
loading...

← Previously

Griffin Slap for iPod nano -- accessory review

Next up →

Verizon iPhone didn't meet initial sales expectations?

There are 49 comments. Add yours.

Keith says:

Fair, accurate - very good review. It boils down to the carrier, and their network. Where I live, the choice is a no-brainer: Verizon.

Doc Harley says:

The number of bars is by no way an accurate display of signal. The AT&T iPhone 3Gs I had showed 5 bars and dropped calls like crazy. Before iOS 4, when you could put the iPhone in Field Test mode, it would show (5 bars before FTM) and -100 dBm. When I first moved to Verizon with the Droid X I had around 3 bars, but a signal widget showed the dBm's around -85 and 4 bars. I have been on Verizon since July and have no dropped a single call.

Doc Harley says:

I should add that I have had the Verizon iPhone since Monday, 2/7 and it shows the same number of bars the Droid X did and no issues with calls at all. It's great to be back on an iPhone!

solu says:

Good Review ... I have been using Verizon iPhone for the last week and the network is far better then AT&T's

TONY X says:

Can we surf in internet and talk at the same time, with verizon iphone..?

OrionAntares#CB says:

If you're a Skype subscriber.

TONY X says:

I don't wanna use and pay skype service.. that's way have I have minutes in my plan. and i like, tether my laptop and talk with my iphone at same time..! can you do that.. no because you loose connectivity as soon somebody is calling you. ups..!
AND ALSO verizon SUCK..

OrionAntares#CB says:

You sound angry and/or upset, bro.
You should take a Xanax.

Bill says:

Tony just sounds like an at$t troll. and I would know, as I am on at$t. there are plenty of tonys out there. just enjoy your phones on your respective carriers and leave it at that.
what's next, android fanbois coming on here, telling us iphone suck? don't be a troll tony.

Jonathan says:

For me, the debatable faster speeds of at&t's 3G is a small price to pay for being able to actually use my iPhone without the looming treat of dead zones. I travel through rural Colorado frequently, and believe me, AT&T could not suck any worse. As soon as my contract with AT&T is up, I'll be switching to Verizon.

OrionAntares#CB says:

My fiancé just got her iPhone this week. She got one of those energizer battery cases for it. It makes it look like the Droid X!

cardfan says:

Not only does AT&T offer better data speeds, superior gsm benefits & cheaper rates, they also offer better features such as free calls to any mobile and rollover minutes.
The only reason to switch to verizon is if you have much better coverage in your area.

OrionAntares#CB says:

Well, coverage is a HUGE part, particularly if you are out where AT&T only offers EDGE/GPRS in which case Verizon actually offers faster data service.
But that whole "cheaper rates" is rather disingenuous because Verizon and AT&T offer similar rates. If you want cheaper rates you'd look at Sprint, T-mobile, or a regional carrier, not Verizon/AT&T.

Binja says:

@cardfan, Do you, by chance, work for AT&T? Your message is a word for word transcription of the line AT&T reps read to those threatening to switch to Verizon.

Keith says:

@Binja - if cardfan does not work for AT&T, they are an ardent fanboi :)

jwriherd says:

The more people who leave AT&T for Verizon the better for my signal :) calls do get dropped, Idc I'm never on the phone. Never had Verizon beat me in a speed test on my iPhone 4 on AT&T. Even against the Vz iPhone 4. CDMA speeds are terrible against gsm.

Dood says:

Is this horse dead yet or shall we beat it some more?

Dood says:

Well done RJ. Well done.

Carioca32 says:

It is certaingly one of the most rumored, but most anticipated? I heard the sales are weak and stores were pretty much empty on Feb 10.

Genepsu says:

Sales where not what VERIZON expected but they still did 800,000 units . Which is VERIZONs highest open weekend for any phone. Not bad for a phone that is 7 months old.

chazzman says:

I would like everyone to know with the VErizon iPhone that when you're connected wifi, which most of us are anyways, you can browse the internet, play with apps whatever you want WHILE on a call

Big Red says:

Its funny why ppl keep hating on verizon lol...damn!!!! They got wayyyyy better service than at&t and dat is a str8 uncut fact!!!! Its a no-brainer..."they can hear me now" wit da verizon iphone lol!!!! They damn sure cudn hear me wit at&t's!!!! At&t just took a kick to da nuts wit a pair of steel toe work boots lmao!!! Anywayz...um like chazz um alwayz on wifi so i can talk and browse at da same time!!!! And um da average american, and i dont travel to da other 200+ countries in da world so who cares abt a damn "gsm" phone? Hell i stay in memphis tn lol... And most ppl are like me, and prob wont c another country but maybe twice in life!!!!

fastlane says:

I bet your teachers are very proud of you.

Big Red says:

Very lol!!!! Just keeping it real... If sumn is better then hell, its just better...i dont get paid by at&t nor verizon...verizon is just better...ppl flopped to at&t only bcuz of the iphone...i know cuz i did da same thang!!!! But after drop call after drop call and dead spots i soon sold it and moved to verizon...da service has bn great...and know a verizon iphone????? Lol da choice is really really easy....big red all day!!!

FLskydiver says:

Not sure you should review a jailbroken phone as if it was a vanilla one with current software. Please review the product as sold, and then do a separate review for the jailbreakers. No telling what quirky effects a non-official OS might bring to the mix, which may alter your user experience or opinion in both positive and negative directions.

Allyson Kazmucha says:

Jailbreak makes no difference. And the phones we ran speed tests on were NOT jailbroken. Even though that makes no difference whatsoever.

FLskydiver says:

I thought I read a jb post that the first thing they did when getting their Verizon phone was jb it. I don't have a problem with jb, I tweak the hell out of my pc's, but to say it doesn't change anything? How can we know what tweaks or jb apps you've installed? I've certainly had I'll effects from tweaks gone bad. It happens. Ive seen post on this very blog about jb bugs. For instance, people couldnt read thier ibooks. And you can't always be sure which tweak it was that caused the conflict. To give Apple, and more importantly US readers a fair review, you should make sure to keep a vanilla iPhone around and if you jb your phone, you should disclose what you did. Just my opinion, of course.

FLskydiver says:

I thought I read a jb post that the first thing they did when getting their Verizon phone was jb it. I don't have a problem with jb, I tweak the hell out of my pc's, but to say it doesn't change anything? How can we know what tweaks or jb apps you've installed? I've certainly had ill effects from tweaks gone bad. It happens. Ive seen post on this very blog about jb bugs. For instance, people couldnt read thier ibooks. And you can't always be sure which tweak it was that caused the conflict. To give Apple, and more importantly US (your readers) a fair review, you should make sure to keep a vanilla iPhone around and if you jb your phone, you should disclose what you did. Just my opinion, of course.

lipo says:

verizon Iphone is here for the best service and please att's people don't hate it just keep your bad service and let the verizon people to enjoy it!

craigcurry says:

The decision to switch to Verizon was a choose my wife made without knowing it. My 2 year ATT contract ended in December. Also in December my wife had a birthday and wanted a new phone that swiped. She is not a technical minded person. So I suggest an iPhone. I was asked what network was the iPhone going to be on and I said ATT. She told me no iPhone because she had heard so many people complaining about the ATT service. So I got her an HTC Incredible at no cost from BestBuy. My wife and daughter are on a Verizon family plan and my son and I are on separate ATT plans. All it cost me to give my wife the Incredible for her birthday was a $24 data plan. The $30 data was reduced to $24 by a corporate discount. If I wait and go with the Verizon iPhone I would save $25 a month over staying with ATT. I waited and got an iPhone 4 from Verizon. It will cost me $10 for a new line and $30 for the data plan. That is $25 less than what I was paying ATT per month. Also my Verizon family plan has unlimited text which I was paying ATT $5 for 200 text a month. Last month I was 85 text over 200 for and extra $8.50 tacked on my bill. Also my daughter wanted the iPhone 4 from Verizon. She had a Blackberry Curve and was 8 months away from an upgrade. We got a new line added for her new iPhone and move her Blackberry data plan to the new line and add my wife's old non-smart phone to my daughter old line. My daughter is fine with paying an extra $10 a month for the new line. Better than $750 or $650 for a iPhone without a contract. She will only be out of $120 with the extra line for 12 months. However I will be able to sell her old phone for about $80 and pocket about $70 which should bring down the cost of the extra line to $50.

Mark says:

Whoa! You sound just like me.

Icvos says:

Ugh. Enough on Verizon. Were way overdue for another iPad 2 and/or 3 rumor story!!

Keith says:

What this blog really needs is more iPhone5 rumors. :)

Justin Fowler says:

Wow, can't believe antennagte is still there!

GinoDotCom says:

AT&T could not not be any worse in new York city. I'm definitely making the switch in the summertime for ip5 on the big red!

JulsAngel says:

Can i use Iphone 4 CDMA on sprint networks???

new it world says:

Is iphone 4 is better than iphone 5 .

Faraz says:

how can we really know unless and until it reaches the market people uses and find out the actual differences between them,right now we can just imagine that iphone should be better than iphone 4.

jule says:

what u need to know about verizon any phone is verizon employees like bilal wahid, song lin.. and a lot of them listen in on ur phone calls, the lowest scum you can find is at verizon, worst company to have anything to do, they are doing illegal they are listening in your calls, watching you shower, they need to be exposed

iPhone app marketing says:

This site is full of vital information for iPhone app developers and users. I’m sure many of those who visit this site will also like it. Congratulations to the administrator and owner of this site. This will give more information for the development of the iPhones industry.

iPhone review says:

Mobile phones come in different styles and features. Hence, it is not surprising to see people seeking mobile phones that have the best features. Take for instance the video camera facility in a mobile phone.

you agree that McAfee anti-spyware is crap now? It doesn't says:

Cheers mate. This is a wonderful article and I enjoy reading it. You have a fantastic manner of being educational and also interesting. Thank you for your time.