Which iPhone Wins: AT&T or Verizon?

Further complicating things: A new iPhone model may be introduced as soon as summer

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With the Verizon iPhone 4 finally arriving on February 10th, AT&T users who may have experienced poor reception and dropped calls are eagerly pondering a change of wireless cell phone service. But before switching carriers to enjoy clearer calls and more stable online connections, it’s important to know certain facts about the device and upgrading your service.

Verizon’s version of the iPhone 4, which can be preordered in 16GB ($199.99 with two-year contract) and 32GB ($299.99) units, offers upsides including a temporary $30 unlimited data plan for Internet users. Verizon iPhone 4 users also get the exclusive benefit for now of being able, for $20/month for up to 2GB of data, to use the handset as a portable WiFi hotspot for up to five wireless ready devices.

Features are largely the same as AT&T’s edition, though, and the handsets’ look and battery life is similar. Both units additional offer the same key features such as speedy software processing, a high-resolution display, dual front-/rear-facing cameras for videoconferencing, high-definition video recording and compatibility with thousands of apps.

However, the same device cannot be used with both providers, due to network incompatibilities. (AT&T uses a GSM network that offers greater roaming coverage and faster data processing vs. Verizon’s CDMA network, though speeds can vary by user and location.) Verizon users also won’t be able to surf the Internet or download data while talking, as they can on the AT&T iPhone.

Wise shoppers will note that a new iPhone model may be introduced as soon as summer. Voiding AT&T service while under contract also invokes penalties in the form of an early termination fee, with charges amounting to $325 less $10 for each month of contracted service you complete.

Still, if you’re one of the millions who’ve ever experienced endless outages and dropped calls and steep penalties, two years of indentured servitude with Verizon may be a small price to pay for reliable connectivity.