Who should buy the Verizon iPhone – and who shouldn’t

So, the truth is out: The Verizon iPhone is a better “phone” than the one so many have been using for years on AT&T. Time to buy it, right? Not necessarily. While many Verizon customers and people yearning to switch to Verizon should indeed get on board, you might want to hold off.

Who shouldn’t buy it:

Early adopters
Perhaps the biggest reason for anyone not to buy the Verizon iPhone right now is that it’s extremely likely that a new iPhone will come to Verizon as early as June. Most buzz indicates that the iPhone 5 would either come in Verizon and AT&T flavors, or have a super cell-phone chip that lets it run on both networks. If you consider yourself an Apple fan and an early adopter, you probably already have an iPhone 4 from AT&T, so a Verizon iPhone 4 would actually feel like a bit of a letdown. So suffer through another four months with those “Can you hear me? Hey, are you there? Hello?” calls, and your waiting will be rewarded — probably.

Speed freaks
Verizon’s iPhone 4 is being hailed for its call quality, but it’s a simple technological fact that Verizon’s 3G network is slower than AT&T’s. (More reliable, say many, and I’d agree, but still, it’s slower.) That might not matter for most messing around with the iPhone — loading maps and getting e-mail should be about the same, with possibly fewer connectivity problems to hold you up. But if you plan to tether your phone to your laptop — and pay $20 extra every month for that privilege — doesn’t it just make sense to do it with a faster phone?

Given the fact that by mid-year, Verizon will be selling four smart phones that run on its ridiculously fast LTE 4G network, most tech industry watchers are now hoping that Apple’s iPhone 5 will be the fifth.

Business travelers
There are two key reasons why business travelers, who live and die by their mobile phones, would want to wait on the Verizon iPhone. First, it’s not a world phone. Unlike some BlackBerry and Droid models sold by Verizon, this one can’t roam overseas on GSM networks. The AT&T iPhone already runs on America’s GSM network, so roaming with it is easy (if expensive). The next Verizon iPhone may very well think globally.

The other reason is that on Verizon’s iPhone 4, you can’t talk and work at the same time. If you are tethered to your laptop and a call comes in, the data connection drops. If you are on a call and want to check something on the Web, you just can’t. Most of us won’t have a problem with this most of the time, but for people who use a single phone as a universal connection to the outside world, it’s definitely an issue.

Penny pinchers
The Verizon iPhone isn’t going to drop in price. Apple tends to sell out their high-end models, and “discount” their lower-end models only after they’re essentially obsolete. So although you might be able to buy an AT&T-ready iPhone on the cheap on eBay, you’re going to be paying full price up front for an iPhone at Verizon for many months to come. Verizon has a phone trade-in offer, but as the largest credit goes to those who paid full price for an AT&T iPhone 4 only a few months ago, this is mainly a way to help people get out of their AT&T contracts.

But regardless of the phone you choose, Verizon itself isn’t really the carrier for penny pinchers. If you compare 450-minute smart phone plans with mobile data and unlimited texts, Verizon comes in the highest at $90 per month. T-Mobile and Sprint give you more or less the same plan for $80, with other monetary perks, too. Verizon may be reliable, but you pay for that reliability.

Who should buy it:

Everybody else who wants one
There are a lot of great phones in Verizon’s lineup right now, but there are millions of Verizon subscribers who have waited for an iPhone, and probably quite a few AT&T subscribers who have held off on upgrading so that they can jump ship. I have outlined all of the reasons why you wouldn’t want to take the plunge right now, but if you want the coolness and rich functionality of an iPhone — and all that comes with it, from iTunes and Apple TV to the most diverse assortment of docks, cases and car kits — on a network you prefer, then maybe it is time.

If you don’t care about super fast download speeds, if you don’t care about the Next Great Thingamajig, and if you rarely cross the county line, let alone national borders, then follow your instinct and go for it.

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