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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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