iPhone 4 Verizon vs iPhone 4 AT&T

Finally AT&T has some competition in the US as the iPhone hits Verizon. Just because there are two networks carrying Apple’s darling though, that doesn’t mean that it’s quite the same deal with both companies. Yes, there’s that small matter of CDMA radio technology compared to that of plain old GSM and that, as it turns out, has some slightly more profound consequences than you might think.

So, in order to get a decent picture of just what those differences are, yes, it’s a good old fashioned showdown Pocket-lint style. It’s the iPhone 4 Verizon vs iPhone 4 AT&T.

Form Factor

1st: iPhone 4 AT&T
115.2 x 58.7 x 9.3mm, 137g

2nd: iPhone 4 Verizon
115.2 x 58.7 x 9.3mm, 137g


Okay, so on the surface, this might look like a tie but that’s not actually the case. Although, stats-wise, the iPhone 4 on both networks is the same model, a close examination of the chassis reveals that, because of the handset having to accommodate the CDMA radio, there's had to be some alterations. The change is that the iPhone 4 antenna notch has moved from the top of the device to down the side, right where the mute and two volume buttons should be and, as a result, those sound controls have shifted as well.

Minor detail? Well, no. The function of the phone will be the same but all those carefully crafted iPhone 4 bumpers and cases are not going to fit properly. So, until the accessory manufacturers pull their fingers out, you’re going to be short a few optional trinkets on Verizon.

Connectivity

Tie: iPhone AT&T
Simultaneous data & voice

Tie: iPhone Verizon
Free tethering


Again this looks like a straight tie or situation of pure CDMA over GSM, but there’s another story going on. The trouble is that on Verizon there’s a limit in that you can’t use voice and data at the same time. In other words, you’re not going to be able to, say, be on a call to someone and look up a location on your phone map or search for some information that's germane to your conversation. You'll have to hang up and get back to them.

Now that's not very iPhone, is it? On the other hand, Verizon does make up for this with the massive boon of offering mobile hotspots for up to five devices on the same data plan that you sign up for with the Apple phone. In practice, what we’re talking about is free wireless tethering of your other gadgets to your iPhone. Very, very handy indeed, especially, when other networks in the UK and US charge for that over the phone’s Bluetooth radio. Verizon offers it over Wi-Fi. There is a rumour that iOS 4.3 will allow the same feature - just as you get on Android phones - but how that’ll go down with AT&T et al will be another thing.

Coverage

1st: iPhone Verizon
Best network in the US

2ns: iPhone AT&T
struggles in major cities


Probably the biggest reason you'll want to switch from AT&T to Verizon for your iPhone is Verizon's network coverage, which is widely regarded as one of the best in the US. Ask any Verizon customer whether they're phone has any drop call issues and it's virtually always a "no". Add that Verizon's confirmation that it's putting in more masts in major cities to cope with the new demand and you'll have a phone that doesn't suffer from any death grip problems. In fact you most certainly won't need that free bumper or case.

 

Using the iPhone abroad

1st: iPhone 4 AT&T
GSM chipset

2nd: iPhone 4 Verizon
CDMA chipset


AT&T wins this one for any American looking to travel outside the US. Because the Verizon iPhone only features a CDMA antenna you can't roam on a network that isn't CDMA. Unfortunately for Verizon, while a CDMA network means great call coverage (see above) it means that when you visit places like the UK or Europe you won't be able to make or receive calls - a full list of supporting companies can be found here. AT&T customers however, are free to run up huge bills virtually anywhere in the world. 

Battery Life

1st: iPhone 4 AT&T
Up to 10 hours video

2nd: iPhone 4 Verizon
Up to 10 hours video


Surely a draw? Both phones with up to 10 hours of video playback or 40 hours of audio or all sorts of combinations in between? Well, yes, but there is one extra battery drain on the Verizon model worth mentioning. That Wi-Fi hotspot creation we just talked about, ask anyone using the feature on an Android 2.2 device and they’ll tell you just how quickly that will rip though your battery life. So, while all things may look equal, it should be noted that those on AT&T will probably end up with their phones going longer between charges. Let's face it though, the personal hotspot creation is probably worth it.

Display

Tie: iPhone 4 AT&T
3.5-inch, 960x640px, LCD with IPS

Tie: iPhone 4 Verizon
3.5-inch, 960x640px, LCD with IPS


Um, no. No tricks here. Exactly the same. Both excellent Retina displays.

Apps

Tie: iPhone 4 AT&T
Angry Birds and the rest

Tie: iPhone 4 Verizon
Angry Birds and the rest


Er, yep. All the same here too, and better still if you aren't a fan of Verizon's added extra apps you won't be bothered with them here either as Apple hasn't let them pre-install anything like they normally do on their handsets. 

Storage

Tie: iPhone 4 AT&T
16/32GB

Tie: iPhone 4 Verizon
16/32GB


Okay, so you’re getting the picture now. Other than form factor, connectivity and, to an extent, battery life, these iPhone 4s are otherwise identical. It really doesn’t matter, apart from that, who you go with. In fact, they’re even identical when it comes to...

Price

Tie: iPhone 4 AT&T
$199/$299 on contract

Tie: iPhone 4 Verizon
$199/$299 on contract


...so don’t expect a ticket tag war. That’s the iPhone for you. No such thing as a bargain. That said, you could always try a reconditioned one.

Conclusions

So who wins out of AT&T and Verizon? Well, oddly enough, despite all the years of ranting from people on Twitter over the last few years, based on the specs detailed above we’d rather go with AT&T.

That sounds simple enough, but that doesn't take into account Verizon's killer USP - that network coverage. Experience with other handsets on Verizon in the US has always been very good (you can always get a reception in the depths of the steel Port Authority building in New York City, for example) and so if you're not looking to travel outside of the US and you don't care about surfing and calling someone at the same time the Verizon iPhone is the one to get. 

However, until the CDMA networks can sort out the simultaneous voice and data issue, and you can use it in more countries abroad, the restrictions would just get "our" goat too much, but then, if you’re already on a Verizon smartphone and are used to it, perhaps it doesn’t feel like too much of a problem.

Will you make the switch now there's an iPhone 4 network choice? Let us know in the comments.



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