Happy Verizon iPhone Day!

Time to celebrate. After years of suffering spotty and often poor wireless service at the hands of AT&T (NYSE: T  ) , beginning next month I'll have the option of owning an iPhone built for Verizon's (NYSE: VZ  ) wireless network.

But will the switch be worth my while? Honestly, I'm not sure. Let's review what Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) newest handset can do.

First, the new iPhone won't be a 4G device. Instead, it'll include a classic CMDA chipset, which means no using voice and data at the same time.

On the plus side, Verizon will allow a fairly extreme form of tethering in the new iPhone. Verizon said it would allow as many as five Wi-Fi devices to access the phone's data connection. Unfortunately, neither company would confirm data pricing.

Strip away the platitudes and other hullabaloo, and what you really have is the same iPhone Apple is selling to everyone else, optimized for Verizon's network. Judging by the reaction to the news on my Twitter feed, that'll likely be enough.

Before you hand over that cash ...
Yet detractors remain. Foolish colleague David Williamson says no amount of dropped calls will ever get him be a Verizon customer again. Those who switch may be in for a shock, he argues:

Imagine the worst customer experience you've ever had. Then, imagine the customer service rep punching you in the face during your visit to the store. In my experience, that's what a good interaction with Verizon amounts to -- you don't want to experience a bad one.

He's not the only one who's been on the business end of bad business at Verizon. Despite leading AT&T, Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S  ) , and T-Mobile in a May 2010 customer satisfaction survey conducted by ChangeWave Research, only 49% of Verizon customers said they were "very satisfied."

Less formal research paints a bleaker picture. The Customer Service Scoreboard, an online complaint aggregator, found that 82% of comments about Verizon's wireless service were negative. The site rates Verizon's satisfaction score as "disappointing."

Hello? Profits on hold
In the end, I expect Apple will see some benefits from having a second carrier here in the U.S. But with millions of iPhones being sold every quarter, I wonder whether Apple's real upside from this deal is already overtstated.

On the other hand, Verizon needs the new iPhone, badly. At last week's Consumer Electronics Show, I saw working 4G AT&T phones built by Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI  ) using NVIDIA's (Nasdaq: NVDA  ) Tegra chips for high-definition video playback. The implication? AT&T's seen this day coming for a while, and it's well under way with an Android counterassault.

Who wins that war? At this point, we simply can't know. But at the very least, the wireless arms race should give consumers a broader, better, and better priced range of smartphone choices. Watch this space, investors. It's getting interesting.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. Would you buy a Verizon iPhone? Please vote in the poll below, then leave a comment to explain your thinking.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He had stock and options positions in Apple at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has written puts in Apple, in which it also owns shares. The Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Its disclosure policy has a thing for oatmeal cookies. Please don't ask us why.


Read/Post Comments (11) | Recommend This Article (5)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2011, at 4:06 PM, kpcsrc wrote:

    I wouldn't dream of signing with VZ to get slower 3G speeds and lose the ability to simultaneously check email or surf or use an app while chatting on the phone.

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2011, at 4:22 PM, theptonboy wrote:

    It sounds like the iPhone may not be exclusive to AT&T and Verizon. I would think this would be great for Sprint if they sign an Apple agreement for the iPhone and get the 4G speeds.

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2011, at 4:26 PM, mretome1960 wrote:

    Your poll seems to be aimed at AT&T users. As a Verzion customer my answer is, No, I won't buy an iPhone 4 running on 3G technology. I have 8 months left on my "New Every 2" contract and expect the LTE compatible phones available at that time to be attractive.

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2011, at 4:57 PM, PadiwanJoseViii wrote:

    To ptonboy - May be available on Sprint and other networks, but a CDMA phone (3G) will only work on a CDMA network. Won't work on 4G until they come out with an LTE phone.

    To: mretome1960 - Music to my ears! Motorola announced Droid Bionic, which runs on VZW 4G, at last week's CES and it is kick-***. Should be available before your contract expires.

    Full disclosure - I work for MMI

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2011, at 5:07 PM, Borbality wrote:

    Haha 80% of comments about Verizon are negative? Big surprise. I wonder how many people call "How Am I Driving?" numbers to say how wonderful the guy's doing at the wheel.

    I know I don't go online to say how pleased I am to have working electricity EVERY SINGLE DAY.

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2011, at 5:21 PM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    @PadiwanJoseViii,

    Thanks for chiming in. I saw the Bionic at CES and it looked good, but not awesome. Guess I'm just not as sold on Gingerbread as I am Honeycomb. (The forthcoming tablet version of Android.)

    Foolish best,

    Tim (TMFMileHigh and @milehighfool on Twitter)

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2011, at 5:25 PM, dhanley15 wrote:

    I've had very bad experiences with Verizon customer service

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2011, at 9:39 AM, rav55 wrote:

    Buy an iPhone in Europe or anywhere else overseas and it comes unlocked. Then use it with anyone else but AT&T.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2011, at 1:10 PM, Ivan0310 wrote:

    @PadiwanJoseViii,

    Let's also not forget the fact that Sprint's supposed 4G network is not LTE but WiMAX. They don't have concrete plans yet for an LTE data network or even plans for WiMAX 2 for that matter. So no one is getting an iPhone 4 that can take advantage of 4G dataspeeds until Apple makes a new device.

    Most tech analysts believe that this will be 2012 at the earliest since Verizon will have just barely finished with its rollout of LTE this summer and AT&T by next year.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2011, at 2:24 PM, 4twocents wrote:

    I am a Verizon customer and ATT was what sent me there. The decription in the article of the customer service experience was that of me dealing with ATT. After 6 months of them billing me for my own phone and that of some stranger, claiming they'd fixed the impossible problem each month, only to go through it again the next, and finally threatening legal action for them not holding up their end of the contract when they refused to release me saying I'd signed contract, you couldn't melt me and pour me back there. I had to point out to them that the contract I signed was for me and not some stranger who lived in L.A. that they kept billing me for hince, they breached the contract first and if they wanted to start with threats then I'd gladly file a suit with their legal department. All of a sudden after 6 months I got calls back from management and everyone wanted to play nice. BUT, that's a different story.

    I found with Verizon that I got reception in many more places and every customer service experience I've had has been great. Especially with problems. I always judge real customer service by the way they handle problems. Everyone is happy when they are taking your money but few of them meet my expectations when having to fix a problem. Someone somehow got into my account and ordered 2 blackberry storms on my account, sent them to the other side of the country and changed my contract. I found out when I got my bill. I had no problem getting this settled. I even watched me bills to make sure it was taken care of. It was taken care of with one phone call and talking to two people. I was all prepared for another fight. I realize though that bad experiences effect our decisions too. But, for me I am a die hard Verizon customer until they do something to change my mind. If I were going to get a iphone I would buy it through Verizon.

    But since I like to be unplugged as much as is possible, my ipod is an ipod. I don't want it ringing or something when I'm working out. I use my laptop for computer work and when I turn it off I am done. And my Ancient by today's standards LG phone still suits me just fine. My only concern is that is work where ever I go. I travel a lot and even in some foreign countries I can still get service.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2011, at 2:49 PM, jandersen48 wrote:

    I have had both Verizon and AT & T. Didn't like the service from either one. I switched to Sprint and have been extremely happy. Just upgraded to the HTC EVO 4G. Forget the iphone, its over rated. But the biggest problem with all of the carriers is that they don't have enough 4G coverage yet.

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