Why I'm Not Leaving AT&T for Verizon's iPhone
First off, the truth: my iPhone dropped three calls yesterday. Three! I am actually so used to the phone cutting me off mid-sentence, I now have no problem picking up EXACTLY where I left off, once I can get the person (usually my husband, who also has an iPhone) back on the line. For the longest time, I have been saying “once Verizon has an iPhone option, I am so there!”
Now, though, I am starting to reconsider. I’m not saying I’m happy with the continuous dropped call situation, but at the same time I am loathe to jump into something new that might be just as bad. I’m nervous about the huge, HUGE number of people that are about to hit Verizon’s network. I’m concerned that the precautions Verizon says they have taken to support the new demands on their network will be akin to a stone in the Grand Canyon once they truly get a sense of how many new subscribers are coming and how much data those subscribers are going to use.
If you have an iPhone or are thinking about getting one, you are no doubt aware that come Thursday, you will have the option of having Verizon as your carrier. I have been an iPhone user since they first came out (because I am an early adopter / glutton for punishment), and while I have been outspoken about my dissatisfaction with AT&T's 3G service, I find that I am not planning to run over to Verizon with the same enthusiasm that I thought I would have when this option became available. Instead, I am doing something I never do—hanging back and proceeding with caution.
Here are the reasons I will be continuing my somewhat codependent/enabling relationship with AT&T for the time being. All of them center on two key concepts: 1) I have a good deal at AT&T and it’s going to be expensive for me to leave, and 2) I honestly do not believe that Verizon has prepared enough for the legion of new subscribers, so I think the problem is going to be just as bad over there starting on Thursday. Here are my ten reasons, spelled out in more detail for your amusement and learning pleasure.
1. All iPhones are not created equal. In case you're under the impression that you're going to walk into a Verizon store with your existing iPhone, throw it on the counter, and yell "I've had it with AT&T, sign me up Verizon!" -- think again. Verizon's network doesn't support AT&T's technology, and while they might make you a screaming deal on a new phone, you still have to buy a new phone. So there's that. In case you’ve forgotten since you got your AT&T iPhone, the Verizon pricing remains the same: $199 for a 16GB phone, and $299 for the 32GB model. These prices are subsidized and based on a 2-year contract and activation, of course.
2. One word: Limitations. Speaking of not being created equal, guess who is losing their grandfathered AT&T data plan? It's you. One problem AT&T has with their network is that they should not have let people EVER sign up for "unlimited data" plans, because when people like me and my techie friends hear unlimited data, we see this as an opportunity to use every possible app on the phone. This hogs up bandwidth and makes you drop your calls, especially in the big cities like San Francisco and New York. Verizon has already announced they're not going to allow this, and now they’ve added “data throttling” to their terms of service, which means even slower download time for the top 5% of users, presumably to get super-users to curtail their excessive downloading activity.
3. AT&T: the enemy you know is better than the unknown opponent.
Yes, okay, AT&T still drops a lot of my calls, and this aggravates me. But, how annoyed will I be if/when I buy a new phone and sign up for a new plan, only to have the problem duplicated over at Verizon because they just added millions (literally, millions) of new, data-chewing smartphone users to their network?
The answer is very. I've been an AT&T customer for seven years, meaning I have a really good deal. I'm not giving that up without an iron-clad guarantee that I will never drop another call, and frankly, I do not believe Verizon is there yet. Also, I’m expecting AT&T to throw some kind of “customer loyalty” party for remaining customers once they get a better idea of just how many people are defecting to Verizon.
4. The "more for me" theory. In which a flood of disgruntled AT&T customers defecting to Verizon = more bandwidth for me! I'm almost certain that once the truly fed up people are gone, my service is going to get better. This would be the cellphone equivalent of going to Disneyland when it rains in order to have all the rides to myself. I hope this happens.
5. Leverage. I call AT&T and nag them all the time to tell them to improve their service, and I use the Mark the Spot app (and seriously, if you have an AT & T iPhone and take nothing else from this article, please go download that app and report it every time you drop a call.) User-based reporting is the only way they can tell that the system needs improvement, and it has actually shown results. Now AT&T knows they need to work harder to keep my business, which I am certain is going to result in improved service. Get this app now if you don’t already have it (it’s free). Also, I’m hoping that since there is now an actual alternative, AT&T will step up their game because they know if I’m not happy, I can go somewhere else. At least this is what I plan to tell them every time I call in the future.
6. Termination fees. As in, I hate paying them, and if I try to leave, AT&T is going to make me buy out my existing contract, to the tune of $325 minus $10 for every service month I have completed in my contract. Ouch!
7. Even more fees. Did you know that when you go over to Verizon, you have to re-purchase all of the apps you had on your old iPhone? Yep. Here it is, right in Verizon’s FAQs.
8. Trade offs, Part I. Your iPhone on Verizon is going to have some limitations, and you might not like them. One of the reasons AT&T's network drops your calls is because it allows you to talk on the phone, look things up in a browser window, and text at the same time. Verizon is not going to let you do this (at least for now), as they are trying to put every possible measure in place to ensure that they don't inherit AT&T's problems. For people like me (AT&T calls us “power users”) who want to use the phone this way (and feel it should be able to be used in this way because multi-tasking was in the original design intention), I think I will be more annoyed by this limitation than the dropped call problem.
9. Trade offs, Part II. Let us now turn our attention to one of the first tests of the new Verizon iPhone, which was conducted by Walt Mossberg from the Wall Street Journal last month, when there were no other iPhones on the network. Mossberg found that overall, the Verizon iPhone in fact, offered a crisper, better quality voice call, and that this iPhone only dropped a few calls over the course of a week, rather than the multiple drops per day that most of us experience. However, he then points out that the trade off comes in the form of much slower download times for data (like, getting your email or waiting for Web pages to load), AT&T was much faster. This conclusion further reaffirms my “stay with AT&T decision,” as I believe that eventually they will get there in terms of the dropped call situation, but overall I am happy with their download speed and would not want to give that up. Score another point for my codependent relationship with AT&T, and click here to read Mossberg’s full report and review.
10. For the big finale, I will scare you with numbers. Truth be told, no one really knows what’s going to happen when all those data-chewing smartphones hit Verizon’s pristine network. Just to give you an inkling of how slammed Verizon’s network is about to be, here are some statistics regarding just how many people are considering moving over. This scares me, and it should scare you as well if you’re a Verizon customer or planning to become one.
- Back in March of 2010, tech website Mashable cited a recent survey and came up with this alarming statistic: "…more than half of Verizon’s customer base would abandon their current phones for an iPhone if given the opportunity."
How many customers does Verizon have, you ask?
According to their website, that would be 94 million. Even if a small fraction of that massive number decided to opt for the iPhone, that would be several million people adding to the data burden, and that’s BEFORE any of the disgruntled AT&T people show up.
- Here’s another cool poll that indicates 26% of AT&T iPhone users intend to switch to Verizon on day one. AT&T has 15 million iPhone customers, in case you’re wondering. If that estimate is right, Verizon will be picking up almost 4 million new users from AT&T.
- Wow, that’s a lot of new people—but it could be even more than that. Back in May of 2010, the Digital Daily reported Davenport & Company analyst Drake Johnstone predicting that the introduction of a Verizon iPhone would result in 40% of AT&T’s user base switch. That’s about 6 million new people on Verizon’s network. Can you hear me now?
What about you? Are you planning to switch? Do you think Verizon’s network is strong enough to handle all those new people? Personally, I cannot wait to see what happens once these new phones go live.
Photo Credit: William Hook.