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By Brendan Loy

Cult of Mac, 4:17 AM: “Reality Check: The iPhone’s Not Going to T-Mobile or Verizon Anytime Soon”

Cult of Mac, 6:42 AM: “Report: Apple to Ship CDMA iPhone in Fourth Quarter”

At this point, I’m rooting for the first story to be true, because if #2 is correct, I’m going to feel like a complete sucker for buying an AT&T-saddled iPhone 4 — and signing a two-year contract with a $400+ termination fee — when I could have had a Verizon version in like six months. (But I’m not willing to wait, because for all I know, #1 might be true, and I might be waiting years, not months. Ugh.)

Apropos of which: supposing that a Verizon iPhone is indeed coming, does anyone know if there’d be any legal impediment preventing Verizon from offering a “credit” to under-contract AT&T iPhone users, in an amount approximating their termination fee (or at least some substantial portion thereof), in order to encourage them to switch providers? Would this constitute legally actionable interference with contract? What if they offered the incentive to all iPhone users, regardless of whether they’re under contract? I’m a lawyer, of course, but this isn’t an issue I’ve researched or dealt with, and I wonder if any of my techie readers might be familiar with some relevant precedent.

Comments on "iPhone rumor/speculation whiplash alert"

23 Responses to “iPhone rumor/speculation whiplash alert”

  1. Jeff Freeze Says:

    I am not a lawyer so I am not sure about the “incentive”. Seems like they would have been doing that for other phones if it were A) Legal or B) Profitable.

    I think the bigger issue is that you would end up having to buy a CDMA capable phone for the Verizon/Sprint network versus the GSM compatible phone for AT&T/TMobile. SO that means another $199/$299 iPhone in Q4 if you wanted to switch.

    I was thinking of buying the iPhone 4 outright w/o a contract, but I don’t think it will work on Verizon if they start carrying the phone later this year. So ultimately I think I will buy the iPhone 4 on the AT&T network and be stuck for 2 more years. Ugh!

  2. David K. Says:

    I’m not sure Verizon is going to be the magical pill people are thinking. Their network hasn’t had to handle the massive flow of data that the iPhone has put on AT&T’s network so issues like that remain up in the air. Perhaps Verizon is better prepared, but we just don’t know. Further they have a history of doing crappy things to customers too. High termination fees, artificially limiting phone capabilities, etc. Maybe they won’t do it with the iPhone like AT&T has, but we just don’t know. On a technological standpoint CDMA is an inferior technology, no simultaneous data and voice, and I believe that its also not as fast as whatever tech ATT (and most of the rest of the world) uses. Now if you live in an area where ATT covereage is spotty/crappy thats not going to be much of a disencentive.

    So from my understanding the two big advantages Verizon offers are:
    1) It’s not AT&T
    2) It’s 3G coverage is broader

    For 2 though, remember broader physically doesn’t necessarilly mean much when most of the population isn’t actually IN some of those areas. For many people that broader coverage doesn’t offer much, especially if you live in a major metro area (which Denver certainly is).

    In short, don’t fret too much. Despite AT&T’s utter incompetence with the order processing, they HAVE been upgrading their network, which is what will count once you have the phone.

  3. JD Says:

    IIRC, satellite networks were offering discounts for switching from cable when my cable provider was mired in a dispute over retransmission fees for a network affiliate. They did it again next time it happened. But I could be wrong, and there’s a vast difference between cutting a cable subscription and a phone contract.

  4. dcl Says:

    Keep in mind that Verizon and AT&T use completely different network technology. (And it’s actually impossible to use voice and data at the same time on Verizon’s network, so no checking a map while talking to someone on the phone with Verizon). Which means any Verizon iPhone will probably be on the next generation of cellular equipment. Which has not launched yet in any meaningful way. Right now Apple has, basically, one phone that they can sell anywhere in the world. It seems unlikely to me that they will suddenly start making another version for a technology used by, I believe, only two carriers of any significant size world wide and which is being phased out. The short answer is, that’s just not going to happen.

    That doesn’t mean that Verizon won’t launch their next generation network nation wide some time the fall and have Apple follow that up with a new iPhone just in time for Christmas. But, if you look at the Apple launch schedule, that doesn’t seem likely, just plausible. It doesn’t really fit with Apple’s overall holiday strategy. The Apple line up is basically set heading into September, generally only minor changes are made to things after Apple holds their iPod launch even just in time for Back to School. The next round of changes don’t come until the new year. That changed some when they left Macworld, but not too much.

    Also keep in mind that there is a lot more to the negotiation that just the phone. Verizon screwed the pooch the first time around because they demand branding on the hardware, no way Apple will let that happen. And Verizon demand their get it now crap ware on all phones. Again, no way Apple is letting that happen either. That might well be sorted out, but I kind of doubt it, at least not yet, especially given the mint that Apple is making off the App Store. Verizon is going to want in on the action and Apple is going to want to treat them like a company that is solely providing connectivity.

    So while it is possible, I would not expect to see a Verizon iPhone until around this time next year at the earliest. It’s plausible, but just doesn’t seem likely.

    I would guess Verizon could get away with something if they offered a trade in bounty of some sort for your old phone. But such a set up seems unlikely to be particularly profitable. So it does seem unlikely.

    Just remember with all the Verizon rumors, it’s not just a matter of selling the phone locked to a different network, it is a completely different and incompatible cellular technology. T-Mobile is a different issue, but their network is worse than AT&T’s so you don’t really want that.

  5. Brendan Loy Says:

    dcl, that’s basically the argument that the 4:17 AM article makes. Seemed plausible to me, and was easing my mind, until I saw the contradictory article on the same website 2 1/2 hours later… lol.

    JD, yeah, cable switching incentives are what I was thinking of, but generally those are just month-to-month deals, which is why I was thinking maybe Verizon (or whomever) could do this if they applied it to ALL current iPhone customers, regardless of whether under contract or not. But of course then it would be less profitable because it would apply to more people, and therefore, as dcl says, less likely to happen (or likely only at a lesser amount, like “we’ll give you $100 if you trade in your old iPhone” or whatever — which would really only serve to cover part of the cost of the new phone, and none of the termination fee0.

  6. dcl Says:

    The only thing I will say about David’s comment is basically completely wrong about CDMA. CDMA is actually a superior voice technology, and vastly so actually. It is why Verizon selected it.

    First, CDMA is timecode locked. All that weird random echo stuff, random interference, etc that you get on GSM, yeah, that doesn’t happen on CDMA because it is, again, synced to time code. Broadcasters actually piggy back off the timecode signal that CDMA is always sending out to run their master clocks in many cases. It makes sure your sat truck and your studio are in sync, among other uses. It’s also why if you have signal on a CDMA phone the clock is set, and it is always correct. iPhone and other smart phones on GSM actually need to ping a time server every so often and can be a few seconds off. CDMA phones tend to be pretty much atomic clock accurate. Time code makes a huge difference in audio quality. But it’s only half the reason CDMA is a better voice technology than GSM.

    The other half is that CDMA is not dependent signal strength to achieve optimum bandwidth, GSM is. What this means is that if you barley have a bar of service on a CDMA phone your call will go through and be just as clear as if you had full bars. Ask anyone with a GSM phone, this is simply not true of GSM. Call quality and stability drop off significantly with signal strength.

    GSM is simply ubiquitous and became the standard in Europe and Asia. Basically Nokia started making phones for it and them being the largest phone in Europe and GSM being the best technology at the time Europe and Asia went GSM. Nokia only wanted to make one type of phone so they pushed many US carriers to the standard. At the same time that was going on Verizon selected the, basically, brand new CDMA standard and went with it because it was superior technology, but has always had trouble getting the latest and greatest phones on it because the European and Asian markets are all GSM, so it’s far more cost effective to build just a GSM compatible phone. It’s why most of Verizon’s hardware is by LG, Motorola, and HTC; the companies that make compatible hardware are limited. The hardware investment was way to much to make the CDMA switch cost effective as far as European and Asian carriers were concerned. GSM was good enough because in Europe, Japan, South Korea etc. You can pack the towers close enough together to make up for almost all of GSM’s shortcomings. In the US that’s harder to do. Hence the problems with voice quality on GSM in the US. Hence the number one requested feature for the iPhone is the ability to make phone calls.

    Oddly Sprint was the first US carrier to use GSM phones, in the first wave move to digital. At about that time Verizon decided to switch from TDMA to CDMA for their digital technology; Europe had already had digital for a few years. Quite some time later Sprint jumped ship from GSM to CDMA with Verizon while T-Mobile and AT&T went GSM (T-Mobile, if I recall correctly, actually purchased all of Sprint’s GSM hardware when Sprint decided to make the switch.)

    CDMA and GSM are, at this point, basically ancient technology. Be that as it may, 4G is base on new, and better standards. Which is a whole different kettle of fish. But it’s also why I wouldn’t expect a Verizon iPhone until we transition to 4G. Because this time around Verizon is going with the same transport standards as just about everyone else. And they are a lot better than both CDMA and GSM… Though for those scoring at home, 4G is more of an evolution of CDMA than GSM. Though that’s not particularly relevant as it is incompatible with either of those standards.

  7. David K. Says:

    CDMA offers non-simultaneous voice and data and slower data speeds. How is that technologically superior dcl?

  8. David K. Says:

    Also, more fun reading on the Evo 4G (which isn’t really 4G, no one actually has 4G yet)

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/17/technology/personaltech/17pogue.html?pagewanted=1

  9. dcl Says:

    Quick upshot on all of this. The iPhone is probably not coming to Verizon until 4G. 4G is probably not going to be ubiquitous enough to be worth having as the only band on your phone for another 2 years. When your contract with AT&T will expire. So there is nothing to worry about. Of course, the land scape of who the best provider is could well have changed by then. After all the move to 4G seems poised to upset a lot of apple carts.

  10. dcl Says:

    As a voice technology, CDMA blows GSM out of the water, completely.

    As for data speeds, CDMA’s speed is signal strength independent, GSM is faster only under optimal conditions, which are about as likely as people commuting via pogo stick in the US. In Europe it’s different because the cell towers are closer together.

    Seriously though, call quality of GSM is complete shit compared to CDMA. It’s acceptable on GSM most of the time, but unless the GSM phone is experiencing optimal conditions, it really doesn’t even approach CDMA.

  11. David K. Says:

    Whoopty freaking do. As long as I can understand the person on the other side of the phone call (something I pretty much have no problem with on my current phone as long as there is a signal) I don’t need it to sound like the person is in the next room.

    Like I said, slower data and no simultaneous voice and data is not technologically superior.

  12. AMLTrojan Says:

    David, CDMA is a better technology than GSM. That was true 10 years ago and it’s still true today. dcl’s explanation is sufficient to detail why, but for the technical underpinnings, that’s not even half of it.

    You’re really hanging your hat on the simultaneous voice-data capability? That feature was not necessarily inherent in GSM, that capability was just developed for GSM first — due to the economic implications as alluded to above by dcl (i.e., GSM is ubiquitous across the globe; CDMA is not). Simultaneous voice-data has already been developed for CDMA — it just needs to be rolled out. And I strongly suspect that Verizon is implementing this upgrade as we speak in preparation for the iPhone.

  13. dcl Says:

    Okay, David, you are still wrong.

    Something is not technologically superior if it requires optimal conditions for it to work reliably and properly. CDMA does not. The data speeds you allude to can only be achieved in optimal network conditions. In the US that is exceptionally rare. Which means most of the time CDMA data is faster. Overloaded cell towers also cause greater problems for GSM than CDMA. Also, calls tend not to connect at the lowest levels of signal strength for GSM phones. This is not true of CDMA. In sub optimal conditions data might not transfer at all on a GSM phone. Again, not true of CDMA.

    If I recall correctly, GSM supporting voice and data at the same time is actually a hack. The phone will use both radios (it’s why it only works in 3g coverage areas). CDMA only requires one radio (less power drain) to access the CDMA network regardless of speed. I would imagine that means you would need to switch to a VOIP based voice system for voice and data to work together on CDMA, but that’s not a particularly hard problem to solve. It just requires the economic imperative to do it.

    When Verizon first selected CDMA voice was all you did with cell phones and they picked the best available tech for that. And it is still, by far the best tech for it.

    Further, David, what you seem to miss is understanding the person on the other end of the line in edge cases can be difficult, impossible, or the call just doesn’t go through. This is not the case on GSM. Noisy situations etc. Are all serious problems on a GSM phone. They are not so difficult with CDMA because you don’t need to contend with call noise and things dropping in and out. (This is a problem for me because while I have very good hearing, I don’t filter out extraneous noise well. Understanding someone on a GSM to GSM phone call can be a bit of a challenge for me. I never once had trouble with it when I had a CDMA based phone.)

    CDMA is a better voice technology (like I’ve said from the begging) full stop. and 4g is a better data technology by far that GSM. If I were to have a two radio device I’d go for CDMA and 4G.

  14. dcl Says:

    Also, I’m sorry, but I really don’t like listening to buzzing, popping, hissing, digital audio interference, etc while I’m trying to talk to someone on the phone. It’s annoying. It’s like trying to watch the world cup with those fucking horns… All of those issues are non-existant on CDMA. The only people that would think GSM in better than CDMA are those that have never used a CDMA phone.

    Verizon has a lot of problems. But call quality is not one of them. The same is simply not true of AT&T.

    My feeling is simply that the quality of the iPhone simply overcomes the massive shortcoming of GSM and AT&T. But given the opportunity to switch to a carrier where phone calls just work, and you can understand the person on the other end of the line. Well that would be quite nice indeed.

  15. David K. Says:

    You can continue ranting all you want dcl about voice quality, but that doesn’t change the fact that CDMA is slower and less technically capable. When talking about smart phones data is just as much, if not more a part of the picture than voice.

    As for 4G, not only is it not part of this comparison, despite what Sprints marketing department is telling you, no one has deployed it yet.

  16. Brendan Loy Says:

    CDMA is slower and less technically capable.

    David, I don’t have a dog in this fight, but you seriously need to stop just repeating yourself — and, for no discernable reason, insulting dcl in the process (by saying he’s “ranting”) — and either substantively respond to the rebuttals that have been repeatedly made to the talking points you’re repeating, or else just stop talking altogether. It’s really annoying to see you keep repeating “but it’s slower!!!” when dcl has already addressed that very point — several times — and you haven’t even attempted to respond to his rebuttals. Specifically:

    “CDMA is not dependent signal strength to achieve optimum bandwidth, GSM is.”

    “As for data speeds, CDMA’s speed is signal strength independent, GSM is faster only under optimal conditions, which are about as likely as people commuting via pogo stick in the US.”

    “Something is not technologically superior if it requires optimal conditions for it to work reliably and properly. CDMA does not. The data speeds you allude to can only be achieved in optimal network conditions. In the US that is exceptionally rare.”

    Again — I’m not saying dcl is right, I’m just saying you haven’t responded to this point at all. Now, maybe there’s a good rebuttal to what he’s saying, I don’t know, but if you think there is, it would behoove you to make it, instead of just completely ignoring what dcl is saying, calling his detailed and factually supported comments “rants” (which they manifestly aren’t), and repeating yourself about how “CDMA is slower” (and “less technically capable,” an apparent reference to the “simultaneous voice & data” argument that has ALSO been rebutted already, with no response to those rebuttals), as if you’re sticking your fingers in your ears and saying “nananananana.”

  17. Brendan Loy Says:

    Addendum: as someone who doesn’t know much at all about cell phone technologies, I’ve found this thread very interesting, which is part of the reason I find it frustrating that it’s now breaking down into dcl and AML making points, and David refusing to address those points and just repeating his earlier points. I’d love to see the conversation and debate continue in a meaningful and edifying way, but that can’t happen if you’re talking past each other.

  18. dcl Says:

    Well, like I said earlier, I think the iPhone, as a device, is enough better than anything Verizon or Sprint have to make it worth while to deal with the inferior voice and connectivity of AT&T. For AML, we know it isn’t. Which is fine, and the point of free markets. Part of the reason the devices on AT&T and T-Mobile tend to be better is because the GSM device market is significantly larger than the CDMA market. GSM devices tend to be superior to CDMA devices. But as a technological spec matter, the opposite is true. Especially for the primary purpose of a phone. Making bloody phone calls. I don’t think I’m ranting so much as trying to explain something so someone that doesn’t seem to want to understand it.

    I think for most people GSM is sufficient. But it isn’t better. The supposed or theoretical maximum doesn’t matter if you can’t connect or if you’ll never see those speeds. It’s irrelevant to the question.

    But just to again address David’s point on AT&T’s superior data. I was at lunch today, had full signal in 3G and the phone simply could not download anything at any speed at all. That happens some time with GSM. The connection some times just doesn’t establish correctly, and it will start behaving again soon. Sorry David, but reliability really is important and is a technical factor. And GSM flat out lacks that. CDMA is superior to GSM in large part because it is not just a little more reliable but massively more reliable than GSM. The degree to which Verizon’s 3G network is slower than AT&T’s is marginal at best and in real life use no-existant, or actually in Verizon’s favor. But unlike AT&T that connection will reliably hold that speed. And the reason for that is, in large part, the CDMA spec.

  19. David K. Says:

    Speculation and theoretical arguments are all fine and dandy but if you want something more substantial then here ya go, hard data.

    http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2364263,00.asp

    ATT is consistently faster than anyone else. Reliability is a mixed bag, sometimes they are above, sometimes below, and sometimes its close in the PCMag tests.

    Here’s some more real world data from PCWorld:

    http://www.pcworld.com/article/189592/atandt_roars_back_in_pcworlds_second_3g_wireless_performance_test.html

    Again ATT is faster, and in these tests more reliable.

    Not just slightly faster, faster by factor of 2! (Except in Denever, sorry Brendan)

    So no, DCL, its not marginally slower, or real life non-existant, its quite faster and real world faster.

    Annecdotally sure, dcl may have had bad experience with GSM, but i’m sure i could find annecdotal situations where Verizon’s service sucked and ATT’s worked.

    If you don’t CARE about data and only about voice, then fine, CDMA is better. But this was a smart phone argument and face it smart phones are primarily data devices. Voice is almost an add on (some phones abysmal phone interfaces make this even more true).

    And no matter how good CDMA voice calling is you STILL can’t use it while using the data, with GSM you can.

  20. AMLTrojan Says:

    David, I don’t know if you’re reading these articles carefully, but it is clear from them that AT&T’s performance is ahead of the others because of a recent recapitalization of their network. That does not mean that the core technology of GSM is better than CDMA. In fact, these articles even mention previous years’ results, that AT&T lagged its competitors.

    If I am using Windows 7 on a 2009 PC, and you’re using Mac OS on a 2004 Mac, and I get better processing, upload, and download speeds, are you going to conclude from that that PC / Windows is a better technology than Mac?

    That’s essentially where your logic is taking you.

  21. David K. Says:

    How is that true Andrew? What ATT is deploying IS GSM. The argument was which is a better technology GSM or CDMA. Dane was pointing to CDMA’s strengths and how it was technologically superior, I pointed out that GSM is quite capable of more than he was giving it credit for as a technology in use. What matters to people in the real world IS what is deployed now, so the question at hand is, are you better served by GSM as it is now, or CDMA as it is now. GSM as it is now has the advantages of speed and flexibility, CDMA has voice quality. Reliability, based on this data, is a toss up.

    Your analogy is akin to dcl’s, its annecdotal. It answers the question of in the specific case of two people who has the better experience. But its not a question of two specific people, its the question of the technology in general. If you were to say “whats better today a Mac or a Windows PC” you’d test on the relavent recent releases in multiple scenarios. Just as I pointed out with the links above, the question isn’t “For Fred and Bob who has the better phone experience”, its “Overall, who has the better technology today”.

  22. Jim Kelly Says:

    Far be it from me to defend David K, but I think the case for CDMA is being *way* overstated here. Perhaps that’s just a reaction to David’s style of argument which tends to be very extreme, but if we were to believe dcl we’re all barely able to make GSM calls here in the United States. This simply isn’t the case. I enjoy excellent call quality on my GSM phone. Are there occasionally echos, sure, I’ve heard them before, but it’s so infrequent I couldn’t remember the last time. Do calls occasionally drop? Yes (that’s another “feature” of GSM, the hard handoff. But again, it’s pretty rare. Granted I live near a large city.

    [caveat for what I'm saying below, I'm certainly no expert in any of this]

    I would say it’s not really clear which technology is better, both have strengths and weaknesses. For example a plus for GSM is that phones uses less battery power, while a negative for CDMA is that tower coverage can actually shrink under load.

    So yeah, each have strengths and weaknesses, like most things.

  23. AMLTrojan Says:

    What ATT is deploying IS GSM.

    What AT&T is deploying is an updated version of GSM. GSM has been deployed across the country since the ’90s. So what’s your point?

    If you were to say “whats better today a Mac or a Windows PC” you’d test on the relavent recent releases in multiple scenarios.

    That makes sense for computers, which are updated month-to-month and sold as commodities to consumers, but it makes no sense whatsoever for network architecture and technology, which is deployed and supposed to last for years and years before being recapped. You simply can’t compare an AT&T system recapped within the last two years to a Verizon and Sprint system recapped 5+ years ago. If you did that, you’d have to compare AT&T’s GSM system to Sprint’s CDMA 4G network, in which case Sprint has the better network hands-down. And as dcl and I have tried to point out, the simultaneous voice-data thing is a hacked feature added because of the advent of smart phone devices, it’s not inherent to GSM — and CDMA will have that feature at some point too.

    The bottom line is, you have to look at the inherent technology being deployed on equal hardware, in which case CDMA has some clear benefits over GSM as dcl has repeatedly tried to explain to you.

    I have had every major cell phone carrier. Back in 2001 to 2003, when I had T-Mobile, that ran on GSM (and I guarantee you that the voice-data feature did not exist back then). From 2003 to 2009, I had Sprint (personal cell), from 2008 to 2009 I had Verizon (work blackberry), and from 2009 to 2010, I have had AT&T (work blackberry — I dropped the personal cell plan, while my wife got an iPhone w/ AT&T).

    When I first had T-Mobile (GSM), they were a good choice for me when I had them in DC, but when I moved back to LA, their coverage was awful. Since CIngular / AT&T ran on the same GSM network, I refused to get them, and I went to Sprint (anecdotally, most people I talked to at the time said Verizon and Sprint were roughly equal in coverage quality, but I was able to get a better deal through Sprint). When I came back to DC / NOVA, my work had Verizon service for blackberry, so I picked that up, while keeping my personal cell phone. But since my company was doing an enterprise switch to AT&T, once that happened, my wife and I dropped our Sprint plans and I bought her an iPhone for her birthday.

    In sum, I had had all four major carriers, I have had pluses and minuses with each, and I have no reason to intrisically favor one over another. This is not about carriers, it’s about technologies, and CDMA is intrinsically a better technology. So why do I have AT&T? So my wife can have an iPhone, and because my blackberry from work is free to me. Inferior technology + cool gadget the wifey likes + free for me = no point in going back to a CDMA carrier just because it’s a better technology.



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