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The Verizon iPhone 4 and the AT&T iPhone look almost identical at first glance. There are, however, subtle differences between the two model's hardware and software. The antenna band on the Verizon variant has been redesigned for CDMA and iOS 4.2.6 adds hotspot connectivity for Verizon users. Click through for a quick comparison and photo gallery.

What's in the box?

The Verizon iPhone 4 is pretty much the same deal as the AT&T iPhone 4. 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 whether or not the phone is Verizon or AT&T. 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 sibling. Even though the antenna band was redesigned for CDMA, I don’t see any improvement when it comes to the “death grip” issue. 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.

The only other difference I have found is that the back of the Verizon iPhone 4 doesn’t have exactly the same certifications and FCC clearance marks the AT&T version does.

Software differences

The AT&T 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.

Signal strength differences

I have noticed signal differences in both models. While the AT&T phone seems to keep a steadier signal when it comes to physical bars, the Verizon iPhone seems more finicky when it comes to maintaining and keeping a steady signal. I thought maybe this was just an issue at my home but after testing it out in several different environments, this does seem to be the case. It didn’t ever affect call quality so I don’t see it as a big issue. The picture above I took while writing this article, tethered to Verizon. The iPhone shows 3G with no bars yet I'm tethered on my MacBook, a friend is tethered browsing the web on her PC laptop, and my AT&T iPhone is connected. The internet is still functioning. I do not think the Verizon bars are extremely accurate.

The AT&T version, even with full bars, took quite a bit longer to connect a call than the Verizon version. The fact that CDMA has better voice quality is not a secret. This held true whenever testing call quality on both devices.


There were times when I had 2-3 bars on the Verizon iPhone and full bars on the AT&T iPhone and the Verizon version still seemed to have better call clarity.

This is one of those issues you’re going to have to look at closely before deciding which carrier to go with. While Verizon seemed to have better overall voice quality, AT&T did much better than Verizon when it came to data speeds. I'm still a bit freaked out by being able to tether with no bars. Extremely odd.

While testing personal hotspot, the Verizon iPhone faired extremely well. The connection was steady and barely ever cut out. When tethering on AT&T (using MyWi), the connection was faster but I didn’t think it was such a huge difference that Verizon users would be hindered by the slower data speeds. Unless you plan on downloading substantially large files or streaming media, the Verizon hotspot will work perfectly fine for browsing and basic internet use.

If you’re a frequent talker, Verizon may suit you better. If you rely heavily on e-mail, text, media, and web - AT&T is probably going to serve you better if you live in an area with 3G coverage. Again, this is really going to come down to what you want to use the phone for.

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).

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

Conclusion

The Verizon iPhone is definitely a contender. AT&T should be concerned. Verizon is offering unlimited data and personal hotspot tethering. Their data speeds may not match those of AT&T 3G or HSPA+, but they’re going to be good enough for a majority of users. Likewise the Verizon CDMA iPhone can't roam in anywhere near as many countries as the AT&T GSM iPhone can but many users are more concerned about a good network at home than abroad. Data hungry users could be swayed by Verizon’s unlimited data offering as well. I think it’s only a matter of time before we see AT&T bring back their unlimited feature. Unless Verizon switches to tiered data soon, AT&T will have to if they want to compete.

In the end, the Verizon iPhone is only going to benefit consumers in the United States. Up until now, if you wanted an iPhone, you had no choice but to be tied to AT&T. Now that we have a choice, things are only going to get better for the customer as two reputable carriers are going to have to compete for our business. So no matter how you look at it, the Verizon iPhone 4 is a winner.

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