Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A couple more serious iPhone things

Here's the bottom line that I've learned from my year or so as a Verizon Wireless voice customer:

Yes, Verizon has the most complete network, with the fewest dead spots. They even recently seem to have closed the hole in coverage they had for years at the intersection of routes 1 and 97 in Topsfield. But it matters little, because Cingular and other GSM carriers have one key advantage:

SIM cards.

When you use a SIM card, your entire existence as a customer is contained there. Your account info, phone number, and such are dependent on the SIM, rather than on the phone. So you can go out and buy any off-the-shelf unlocked GSM phone and it'll Just Work with your SIM inserted. This is key. Verizon, for instance, has offered the same passel of "smartphones" for months now. The only two Treos they offer are the 700p and 700wx - where other carriers have completely moved on from those models. The 700 dates back over a year - meanwhile, the 680, 750, and now the 755 (for Sprint/CDMA) are out and have been for a while now.

Verizon, on the other hand, really doesn't seem to care too much about the smartphone market. They do have good Blackberry options, and are good in the consumer space, but if I want a new phone I have to go through them to get it and then I'm stuck with it.

If I did buy an iPhone (and I likely will - if not Friday then in the near future), and I decided the device sucked, I could always remove the SIM, sell the phone, and then buy an unlocked phone that I liked better. There's options in GSM, even if some aspects of the technology are inferior (I think voice quality is, in fact, better on CDMA networks).

Bottom line: Verizon is fine for people who want voice. Its great for people who want data, too (they're aggressively moving to EVDO Rev.A and they have the best overall coverage). But if you want a Wonder Phone that does it all, then it's not so much. Which may be iPhone's market opportunity in a nutshell.

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