Why an LTE iPhone will mean the most to Verizon

If Apple ships the next iPhone with support for fast LTE 4G networks, as rumors have suggested for a while, Verizon will be one of the networks that benefits the most. The current iPhone 4S is a mixed bag for Verizon, the slowest iPhone on the fastest network, but the next one won't be, and that will make a huge difference.

It may seem like a distant memory now, but when the iPhone launched in 2007, it was AT&T only in the US. Verizon tried to counter-program it several times, including with the disastrous BlackBerry Storm, before it struck a cord with the bombastic Motorola Droid.

While the Droid sold well, it didn't sell iPhone well, and didn't drive iPhone-level customer interest or retention. Verizon tried again with the litigiously iPhone-like Samsung Facinate (née Galaxy S), and again, it sold well, but didn't need it to do what Verizon needed it to do in terms of customer acquisition, retention, or revenue generation.

So in February 2011, Verizon and Apple came to a deal to offer America's most popular phone on America's biggest network, and the Verizon iPhone 4 shipped.

But it wasn't as technologically good as the AT&T/GSM version. Instead of HSPA 7.2mbps speed and simultaneous voice and data, it was stuck on EVDO Rev A ~2.5mbps speed and could only do data when voice wasn't being used. The fragility of AT&T's network, and customer frustration with it, easily counterbalanced any technological inequities, but only for a while.

That's because, at around the same time, Verizon was launching the first LTE network in the US, a network that was well ahead of AT&T. In May of 2011, Verizon debuted the HTC Thunderbolt, their first LTE handset. The speeds weren't stunning by current LTE standards -- roughly 8mbps in Android Central's tests, and battery life was a joke, but Verizon had suddenly become not only the biggest network in the US, but the most advanced.

Yet all they had from Apple was a slow, CDMA iPhone, and since Apple wasn't about to make a gigantic phone with terrible battery life, that was all Verizon was going to get. Even in October of 2011, when Apple launched the iPhone 4S and gave AT&T (and other GSM carriers) HSPA 14.4mbps, Verizon stayed stuck on EVDO Rev A ~2.5mbps.

It didn't really hurt Verizon's sales -- they went on to move an enormous amount of iPhones, but I bet it hurt their pride. They'd spent years and billions building a big network and pushing out next generation technology faster than anyone, and their biggest rival still had a better iPhone. And who knows how many more iPhones they could have sold if they weren't limited by CDMA and EVDO?

Back in May of 2011, I joked that AT&T would invent a 4G iPhone before Apple did by using their BS "HSPA as 4G" marketing to claim they had a 4G iPhone, knowing Verizon couldn't use the same label since their, more proper, "LTE as 4G" wasn't supported yet by Apple.

Low and behold, in March of 2012 AT&T did just that, somehow getting Apple to go along with it to the extent that AT&T, and AT&T alone, got a 4G label plastered on their iPhone status bar.

Verizon didn't stand still. They offered the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and now the Samsung Galaxy S3. But when it came to America's most popular, most profitable single smartphone, America's biggest, most reliable, most advanced network, Verizon, was locked and labeled a generation behind AT&T.

That changes this September. If the rumors of an iPhone 5 with 4G LTE prove true, that changes in a big way. Suddenly Verizon has the fastest iPhone in the most places in the US. The carrier that takes incredible pride in their network can take incredible pride in their iPhone.

And customers who have stayed on AT&T only because of the data speed and simultaneous voice and data, suddenly have a potentially bigger, potentially better option.

The CMDA iPhone was the iPhone Verizon needed, even if it wasn't the iPhone they wanted. The LTE iPhone will be both.

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Why an LTE iPhone will mean the most to Verizon

58 Comments

"Verizon tried again with the litigiously iPhone-like Samsung Facinate (née Galaxy S)"

Sorry to break it to you Rene, but I actually own this phone. Not only does/did it not resemble the iPhone, it wasn't marketed by Verizon as being like it. I live in a fairly metropolitan market for Verizon/At&t/Sprint et al in Charlotte, NC. Never once did I see the Fascinate being compared to the iPhone directly or indirectly. The local Apple store never made any fuss about it even after the lawsuits began.

The rest of the article is fine & I agree. Just wanted to point out what is obvious to most anybody with eyes however.

He's not saying VZW marketed the Fascinate as iPhone like. He's saying Samsung created the Fascinate to be iPhone (3G/3Gs) like, and Verizon benefited from that fact. I think that's what he means anyway. I owned one and it was exactly like an iPhone. Looks is all it had in common with the iPhone. It was a horrible phone, littered with Bing and bloatware. Not too mention the slow updates. It was fun to root and ROM however.

Where do you get it was exactly like an iPhone? I'll simply use the 3G/3GS as a comparison. A bigger screen for one that was much better than iPhone. Better camera with flash. Scrolling dynamic home screens with widgets as opposed to an app drawer. Notifications from a pull down window instead of popup windows. Lock screen shortcuts to messages, phone calls, emails as opposed to none.

Those are just a handful of examples from September 2010 when the Fascinate was released & I switched from iPhone 3G & At&t to Verizon/Fascinate. Now holding them side by side, the differences are still quite obvious to me & anybody I show these phones to.

And you are right about the Bing/bloatware. But the phone was quite easy to root & custom ROM using Odin.

not labeled as such no.. but i did work at verizon up until a month ago.. and when that phone came out i was one of the first ones in my store to notice how much it looked like the iphone 3, 3g and how similar the screen icons and app icons were to the iphone.. not ony did I notice this but so did my coworkers and alot of our customers did too...one of the turn offs about that phone was the copy cat style they used in making it. not to mention it wasnt one of samsungs shining moments..lol.. but yes they did copy apple on that one

If you say so. But it is nowhere near as obvious as you are trying to say it is. In fact, I'd bet dollars to donuts if a completely random survey of non tech people were done with that phone & the 3G/3GS, not a single person would confuse them after seeing them & especially holding them. And that about sums up my feeling on the whole copycat nonsense from Apple as well.

I am really foggy on the whole LTE thing. I know it's faster, way faster and I guess thats great. But does LTE allow simultaneous voice and data too? Or will the Verizon iPhone still lag that feature?

LTE permits that. I think Verizon is running the data-only variant at this time, but it IS upgradeable to support voice and data. However, that's not really an issue since you can use the CDMA to talk and LTE to use data while on a call. With the limitations on bandwidth - I really can't see simultaneous voice and data via LTE happening any time soon.

Maybe I live in an area where there are already a lot of people on Verizon LTE, but I tried out LTE on a few different phones in a Verizon store and I was unimpressed. In fact, I was actually a bit disappointed. It was nowhere near as fast as I was led to believe by all the marketing and word-of-mouth I received.

Yes, it was faster, but it sure wasn't THAT much faster than the 3G on my 4S at the time. I browsed various websites and streamed videos side-by-side with my iPhone, and while "heavy" pages loaded sooner (small/simple pages made practically no difference) and videos started playing sooner, 3G on my iPhone was at most a matter of a few seconds behind. For me that was far from mind-blowing.

I believe there probably was a point in time when Verizon LTE was "ridiculously fast", but at least in my area, that was probably back when there were only a small fraction of the number of users on the network as there are now, and I doubt the impending flood of iPhone users will make that any better if not worse.

Those are numbers, though. I'm sure it is technically faster but I'm talking purely from the actual user experience and the difference in speed was underwhelming to me.

BTW, that 15 Mbps measurement is interesting. Like I said, I suspect all the claims of "ridiculously fast" speeds I heard a long time ago when Verizon was much earlier in their LTE rollout, claims of 40+ Mbps, were during a time when there were far fewer users/devices on the network. If you're getting 15 Mbps now then that just fuels my suspicion that its rapid adoption is actively bogging the network down and may just get worse when all the iPhone users migrate to it.

No, the iPhone will not lag that feature. You CAN use simultaneous voice and date over LTE on Verizon. That is the difference and what's been one of the problems with their CDMA network is that you CANNOT use simultaneous voice and data over 3G. It's worth mentioning though that even though you can't use voice and data over 3G on Verizon, you've always been able to do it when your phone is on Wifi. Since simultaneous voice and data is a really big deal for me, i've had to use that a lot as a work around.

No LTE would probably mark the first time an iPhone was virtually DOA, on a technological and competitive level. Seriously...I feel even some of the hardcore Applenauts would have a difficult time buying a 3G iPhone 5.

iPhone 5 will have LTE.

Great, everyone move to Verizon and get off my network!
Seriously though, what are the speed comparisons between AT&T and Verizon LTE, say on a 4G the new iPad?

Not where I work. It's a giant granite building that basically blocks all VZW signal unless you have an office with a view... even the guys with 4G phones. Sucks, but I spend a lot of time here, need a phone that works where I do.

Oh, and we have AT&T LTE in our city, too.

I really don't get all the hype about 4G to be honest. I have a very fast broadband connection and I really do care about speed but for me 3G seems to be sufficient for everything I do. I currently get about 6mbps down speeds with 50ms ping on my 3G and I can't imagine any web page loading faster than this because to me it seems the iPhone itself is the bottleneck, not the cellular data speed.

So can anyone explain to me how it will affect my iPhone experience? I'm getting the iPhone 5 for sure but I just can't get myself to be excited about 4G.

My LTE device on Verizon (Galaxy Nexus) gets an average of 22Mbps down and 16Mbps up with 36ms ping (or less) during the day and faster at night. My experience on the iPad 3 is about the same. It would be suggested the next iPhone will do that as well. That's quite a leap from 6Mbps and 50ms ping on a good day. :)

See the thing is, if I already get 6 mbps, I just don't think 22 mbps will make any difference in webpage loading speed. The only thing it'd be useful for is downloading, but the only downloading I do on my iPhone is watching YouTube video's so 6 mbps is very much sufficient for that. Also 24ms ping difference will barely make a difference.

So when you look at the major drawback of 4G which is battery drainage, I just don't believe the benefits outweigh the cost. I think I'll be sticking with my 3G on my future iPhone 5 and enjoying better battery life. If I ever notice a noticable real-world difference in speed I will consider switching but for now I'm really not convinced.

I get about 1.5MB on Verizon 3g, CDMA. So yes LTE will be a big advantage. How/where do you get 6MB on 3g with Verizon? Or are you on AT&T?

Then I guess you haven't actually used an LTE device because you would certainly know the difference right off the bat. To me, by your logic... your "very fast broadband" connection at home should just be capped at 6Mbps, right? I mean... my cell phone is getting the speeds of the average home ISP, yet you say there would not be a noticeable difference between that and 6Mbps tops? The ping makes a difference if you are playing games. Downloading apps - yeah, ping is not really a factor. Naturally, not all miles are the same. For me, when I am on the road, I can connect my device to a charger and stream HD movies with no interruption. It's also great at streaming Slacker as my primary radio. I never experience buffering on LTE. Surfing the web is certainly faster, like surfing on a desktop computer. I know my 3G iPhone on Verizon couldn't do any of those things without a challenge. :)

Honestly - the whole battery life thing is getting a lot better. Just take a look at the RAZR to see how much juice can get pumped out using LTE. Using LTE I was able to get a days worth of usage just like with my 3G iPhone, and much longer than the iPhone if I didn't use the LTE. We are definitely moving past the 2-4 hour lifespan of earlier LTE devices.

I imagine the next iPhone will be on-par with the RAZR, so that's certainly nothing to scoff at.

That's exactly my point, broadband should be much faster because you use it on a computer which can maximize that speed (e.g. for downloading which you generally don't do on an iPhone). On an iPhone I can't imagine a situation where I'd need over 6 mbps of speed.

Sure, when you're talking about HD streaming 4G can be useful but I've never been in a situation where my 3G was unable to handle any streams and I'm not exactly planning to stream HD movies to my iPhone anyways (iPhone screen is too small and if I wanted to watch a movie/TV show on my iPad 3 for instance I just put it on the device instead of streaming).

Also, you're using a Galaxy Nexus so if I'm not mistaken its browser (or at least Chrome) is faster than Safari anyway so I'm just comparing iPhone with 3G to iPhone with potential 4G. Also, what 3G speeds did you have before switching to 4G because that's what matters when comparing 3G to 4G.

And about the battery life, I had a quick look online and some guy posted some findings about 3G vs 4G on his Galaxy Nexus and the drainage was about twice on 4G in IDLE (I'm not saying this is exactly true but I think its fair to conclude it's quite a bit more). iPhone 5 will probably be a bit more efficient than that but if you don't need 4G I think if you have fast enough 3G it may be more beneficial to stick to 3G and enjoy the battery life.

You are right. Speeds greater than 6Mbps are kind of a spec point right now (except if you are dealing with CDMA); but thats the key words, "right now". Right now, nothing exists on a phone that can use that effectively and practically.

Fast download and upload speeds are an enabling technology. 10+ Mbps speeds will allow you to get quick bursts of data for games and applications which rely heavily on web-based or server based features, such as loading maps on the fly in an strategy game. Also, with faster connections, applications can offload more processing onto online servers, allowing the apps to be faster and more fully featured while still using less data and battery overall.

One of the big things I am looking for is the reduction in ping time. This is a huge benefit for VNC applications. Also, a fast ping time allows for better head-to-head interaction in video gaming. A game like Street Fighter is won or lost by milliseconds; a ping time of 300 ms renders a bunch of games and applications unplayable.

This is more to do with Verizon customers. They're not getting your 6mbps or anywhere near that. LTE is a huge jump for them.

Now if you have a great area for AT&T getting those kind of speeds now, then you probably won't see much benefit in LTE. Though LTE might be more consistent.

I guess that may be true, but aren't they rolling out 4G mainly in the densely populated areas which already have good 3G coverage?

Until Verizon allows yearly update to the iPhone (as AT&T has always done), many will have a hard time switching. I asked in a Verizon outlet today if there was any possibility of matching AT&T upgrade policy and received a flat "No"

To put it in perspective though, AT&T doesn't allow for a fully subsidized upgrade every year. They only give you a partially subsidized upgrade if you're willing to pay $250 dollars for it. Otherwise you have to wait until you've passed the 20th month of your 24 month contract for the full upgrade. So if you wanted a 16gb iPhone a year into your 2 year contract it would be about $450 dollars. While that still isn't paying the full fee for a new phone after only a year, like you would on Verizon, I don't know how much of an effect it would have on potential switchers. I don't know if there will be that many people that will choose to stay on AT&T so that they can pay $450 or more dollars for an iPhone every year. But there will be some I'm sure.....

The other thing to consider that has an effect on this is that since the new Verizon iPhone on LTE will sport a sim card, that makes more valuable on the black market for people that want to sell them. So essentially that creates your own subsidy if you wanted to by a new Verizon iPhone at full price.

I'll be switching as soon as I can. Portland, OR has LTE with Verizon, but I haven't even been able to find a time-table for AT&T bringing LTE. Besides, I've been testing my Verizon iPad and at least around here, Verizon really does seem to have a better network. AT&T works well in the populated areas, but when we go to the beach, mountains, etc., Verizon is better.

Great post, Rene.

Glad someone is addressing:

"Back in May of 2011, I joked that AT&T would invent a 4G iPhone before Apple did by using their BS "HSPA as 4G" marketing to claim they had a 4G iPhone, knowing Verizon couldn't use the same label since their, more proper, "LTE as 4G" wasn't supported yet by Apple."

I laugh every time I see the current batch of AT&T commercials that advertise "4G in 2,000 more cities than Verizon" followed in the next commercial break by Verizon's assertion that they have America's biggest LTE network. Both true statements - but the AT&T 4G is only by their definition. I know they are a business, but they are doing an incredibly large dis-service to their customers by manipulating them to believe they have 4G.

"That changes this September. If the rumors of an iPhone 5 with 4G LTE prove true, that changes in a big way. Suddenly Verizon has the fastest iPhone in the most places in the US. The carrier that takes incredible pride in their network can take incredible pride in their iPhone."

This is where I think the iPhone finally becomes THE phone on Verizon. The iPhone 4/4S on Verizon was to stop the bleeding. I don't think they anticipated it being able to attract many users from AT&T. THIS is the iPhone they have been waiting for. It should put to bed the "Verizon talks people out of the iPhone" stories. While I don't doubt they are, I think the reason is 3G vs 4G LTE. Not any anti-Apple conspiracy. I could be wrong, but I think that is the real reason.

Perfect timing, too, for all those first wave of iPhone on Verizon people (including myself, who was pre-ordering at 3 AM on 2/3/2011). This batch of people will be eligible for an upgrade the first week of October. This phone is going to sell like nothing Verizon has ever seen, IMHO. I, for one, have already gotten a price for my iPhone 4. I am ready to click "Add to Cart" and get my iPhone with LTE...

@ starbird re: " I know they are a business, but they are doing an incredibly large dis-service to their customers by manipulating them to believe they have 4G."

Yup. I think all the cell carriers are trying their best to confuse the public with what "4G" really means. Because none of them actually has real "4G" yet. Nobody in the world does.

LTE is "4G technology" the way a bicycle wheel is "automotive technology." The full name for LTE is "3GPP Long Term Evolution." It's the final phase of evolution of the 3G spec. The actual 4G spec hasn't been finalized yet. Only the 4G requirements have been set (e.g. 1Gbit/sec to stationary and slow-moving devices, 100Mbit/sec to fast-moving devices in cars, trains, etc.)

And, of course, the carriers don't want you to know that the 4G requirements merge voice and data into a single stream of internet packets. No logical reason to charge separately for voice plans and data plans. But they'll continue to try anyway. Because consumers think they already have "4G" already and they're already paying separately for voice and data.

Excellent point. To be honest, for now I will be fine with the CDMA chip for voice and the LTE chip for data. Ultimately, these voice providers will be just data providers.

I'm leaving AT&T for big red. Can't wait to have 10 gigs to use across 3 iPhones and 2 iPads which translate to me getting access to a good 7.5 gigs on my iPad. I can't believe that sounds like a lot to me now.

Will you be able to do simultaneous voice and data on Verizon LTE? I thought that Verizon wouldn't be unrolling VoLTE capability until next year.

AT&T is a GSM backbone with tweaks. So when a GSM lte device falls back to hspa its not like cdma where its off a cliff. do Verizon customers know that ? Also didn't the new iPad with LTE sell out first for AT&T? I think you will have a lot of disappointed Verizon customers.

All of verizon's network will be LTE by end of next year. There won't be any cliffs. This is a battle Verizon is winning big time.

It will mostly be LTE but I tweeted Verizon support about the entire network being LTE by the end of 2013 and this was their response
@giper54 I can answer that! We aren't eliminating 3G network. We're expanding 4G in areas where we have 3G, but we'll still have both.^MSF

I guess that cliff may still be ere but it would be nice if it disappeared

Well, I'm definitely sticking with AT&T. They've been nice to me this far. And when the new iPhone ships with LTE, AT&T is definitely the better choice for me since I will leave LTE permanently disabled and their 3G is clearly a better fallback. I'd rather get the same (perfectly usable) data speeds and significantly more battery when given the choice.

["Verizon talks people out of the iPhone" stories. While I don't doubt they are, I think the reason is 3G vs 4G LTE. Not any anti-Apple conspiracy. I could be wrong, but I think that is the real reason.]

^ This.

People want to find every way to hate Apple (and Verizon) - so they spread BS about Verizon trying to hate on Apple and hinder sales. What you said is exactly true, from any business standpoint. Verizon is investing billions into their LTE network. They want people to use it. They are obviously going to try and sell the Ferrari over the Prius. Fortunately for them, the iPhone is such a hot commodity, it probably sells itself so they probably won't have to push the new iPhone very hard.

Exactly. Do you, like me, find it funny how all we do is villify companies? Like the only thing any company wants to do out there is screw over its customers? I have a hard time believing that of any company. They are in a business to make money. They need customers to pay them so they make said money. If they are only trying to screw over their customers, they may have a short term gain, but will, ultimately, fail. At the end of the day it isn't price that dictates where customers go, it is value. As in, "For what I am paying, am I getting what I think to be a fair deal?" If the answer is anything but yes, the customer will walk. Service goes a LONG way into creating that value. Apple knows this, and, as a result, is one of the most successful companies around.

Torn. Philly doesn't have a single drop of AT&T LTE, but I don't like the idea of not being able to surf while talking outside of Verizon's LTE core.

You Can talk and surf on Verizon's LTE... Right?

Additionally, I have a Verizon LTE iPad. I live in a LTE area. But I cannot connect in my neighborhood. I can about half a mile away.

Torn.

Me too I am in the same boat. 95% of the time AT&T is great but there are times where AT&T has only 2 G and Verizon has LTE. Problems I have read are that if you re in a fringe area for LTE it is a battery killer. Check any SG3 forums. Verizon has a great network and superior footprint I think it will reach its full potential when they do voice and data over LTE.

I have to agree with the article I have an iPhone 4 Big Red and the 3G speeds are extremely slow. I watch my friends and family with ATT and Sprint with much faster speeds on their iPhones. But when I do upgrade I will not go with Verizon because of the sucky share everything plan and I will lose my unlimited data plan. Sprint here I come.

I didn't stay with AT&T for data speed or simultaneous voice and data. I stayed with AT&T because Verizon is over priced as hell!!

not really sure what all the hype is about 4G. First of all, wi-fi is available in so many places. does it really matter that the iphone is only 3G??? I would much rather have the battery life. my friend has an android with LTE 4G and not only do I see his battery drain in a few hours, but all he has to do is stand one foot away from where he was picking up 4G and suddenly, no 4G. It is just not stable enough at this point. I'd much rather have 3G plus wi-fi.

Please jump to Verizon. They will not have full LTE on their network till at least the end of 2013. Then you will have the small rural networks they use for roaming coverage that will still be CDMA. While AT&T will have LTE, HSPA+, HSPA, and Edge. Now I admit Edge is not fast, but it is close to CDMA. LTE and HSPA+ real world speeds are very close and will not be as noticeable as the drop from LTE to CDMA. Eventually AT&T will have LTE, and it will be a more mature version. Yes, I know that AT&T has coverage problems, but so does Verizon but people just don't like to admit it. By 2014, AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint will have LTE networks.

Not to be pain, but you've got most of your statements completely wrong.
Verizon already covers about 70% of their entire footprint, way ahead of their schedule. By the end of this year they should have over 80% of their ENTIRE 3G footprint blanketed with 4G LTE. That's about 400 markets. AT&T has about 50.
The whole fallback to HSPA advantage becomes irrelevant by mid 2013 when entire Verizon network gets upgraded to LTE. At that point they'll start introducing VoLTE for their voice, and start upgrading to LTE-Advanced with AWS spectrum being rolled out into 2014.

On the other hand, AT&T will (as usual) try to spend the least amount of their $$$ and milk that HSPA as long as possible to please their investors.

VoLTE will be great but if history repeats itself Apple will be a year or two behind everyone ese with implementing a VoLTE chip.

I'm purely talking network here. Apple is a different story, but if they want to stay competitive with a yearly cycle releases, they will have to provide latest and greatest as there are too many amazing phones out there today. Battery life is not an issue anymore as 28nm chipsets are available.

Rene, you've got quite a few things wrong. First, HTC Thunderbolt was launched on March 15th 2011 not May, and second, the initial Verizon LTE speeds were about 8 times faster than 8mbps. Not sure if your sources tested it in the edge of cell or suburban areas, but in NYC we were able to literary max out LTE sectors. And we still are: http://i.imgur.com/mdhGo.png
Here are a few videos to check out:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVC10FMD8kg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rueyCgw450g