Ask Maggie: How the iPhone might affect Verizon; sharing e-books

This week's Ask Maggie answers reader questions about whether Verizon Wireless customers should expect the same network woes that have plagued AT&T subscribers.

Disgruntled AT&T iPhone subscribers may be waiting to jump ship once AT&T's exclusivity on the iPhone ends, but will Verizon Wireless' network be any better? And what about the AT&T iPhone users that stick with the carrier if everyone else leaves--would a mass exodus be good news for them?

Ask Maggie

In this week's Ask Maggie, I offer my predictions and advice for what I think might happen if and when the iPhone is introduced on Verizon's network. I also tell another reader how she can share her e-books bought for her Amazon Kindle with her husband, who also has a Kindle. And finally, I explain to one Verizon Android subscriber how he can use the Skype mobile application over Wi-Fi.

Ask Maggie is a weekly advice column that answers readers' wireless and broadband questions. If you've got a question, please send me an e-mail at maggie dot reardon at cbs dot com. And please put "Ask Maggie" in the subject header.

Light at the end of the tunnel for AT&T iPhone subs

Hi Maggie,

My wireless contract with Sprint is now over, and I'm looking around at which carrier to move to. Verizon is at the top of my list, but I am curious how the new iPhone might affect Verizon's quality of service.

With so many people saying they plan to move from AT&T to Verizon when the new iPhone becomes available there, what are the chances that Verizon's network will suffer the way AT&T's has? By the same token, what are the odds that AT&T's network will improve if a mass exodus of iPhone users does happen?

Thanks for your input!

Jen

Dear Jen,

It's difficult to say for sure whether Verizon will suffer from the same network problems that AT&T experienced after it launched the iPhone. Presumably, Verizon has had three years to get its network in good shape in anticipation for the heavy traffic loads from the iPhone. The company has also been selling Google Android phones for more than a year . And subscribers using these devices tend to consume data in a similar fashion as iPhone users on AT&T's network. And in some cases, Android users actually use more network resources.

So my gut feeling is that Verizon's network is in good shape. Verizon's network has held up very well to the rigors of the Android smartphones. Another advantage the company has is that it will soon be dumping more data traffic from new 4G devices onto its faster LTE network. Verizon is expected to announce a bunch of 4G handsets at CES in January .

As for AT&T, it will be interesting to see what happens once the iPhone is offered on another provider, such as Verizon. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said in a research note earlier this week that the bulk of Verizon iPhone subscribers will likely come from AT&T . AT&T's network was recently voted the worst in the U.S. in terms of customer satisfaction in a Consumer Reports survey .

If there is a mass exodus from AT&T to Verizon for the iPhone, this would be very bad news for AT&T. But it could also be good news for AT&T iPhone customers who don't jump ship for Verizon. If enough people leave the network and go somewhere else, it will alleviate congestion on the network.

Even if that doesn't happen, AT&T has made significant strides in the last year and a half upgrading its network. It's added more network backhaul in high-volume areas such as New York City and San Francisco. It's switched over to the 850MHz spectrum for 3G service, in some places which should help alleviate congestion. Previously, most of its 3G service was on 1900MHz spectrum.

I guess the short answer to your question is that hopefully iPhone users all around, whether they subscribe to Verizon or AT&T, will get better service than many have experienced so far strictly on AT&T's network.

Of course, some of the issues that iPhone users encounter may be problems with the Apple hardware and software and not problems associated with AT&T's network. But that's a topic for another question.

Sharing Amazon Kindle e-books

Dear Maggie,

I am thinking about getting an Amazon Kindle for both my husband myself for Christmas. But before I decide on getting us each a Kindle, I want to make sure that if I buy a book we can each download it onto our individual readers for one purchase price (as you would a real book).

Thank you...all the information has been extremely helpful.

Barbara

Dear Barbara,

As long as you and your husband are on the same Amazon account using the same credit card, you will be able to share all books that you download onto your Kindle. In fact, you can have up to six Kindles registered to the same account. So if you have children, you could buy them Kindles, and the entire family will be able to share e-books.

One thing to keep in mind is that Amazon Kindle books use DRM protection or digitial rights management software, which means you can only download the book a set number of rimes. It's similar to how iTunes works. Once this limit is reached for each book, you can't download it anymore without repurchasing it. Typically, books can be downloaded five or six times before it can no longer be downloaded.

Sharing your Kindle books with people not on the same account is a little trickier, unless you are willing to add people to your account. Amazon just introduced a new capability that allows you to share a book once with another Kindle user for a period of 14 days. Sharing the Amazon e-books works with Kindle device as well as Kindle apps on devices, such as the iPad and iPhone. And when the book is being borrowed by a friend, you cannot access it.

One big catch is that not all of Amazon's 720,000 e-books will be lendable. Each book publisher decides if they will allow this practice. The Kindle competitor Barnes & Noble's Nook also allows a similar sharing feature.

There are ways to get around the sharing barrier and allow friends to keep the Amazon Kindle e-book longer than 14 days. The way you can do it is that you can de-register your Amazon Kindle from your own account and reregister it on a friend's account. Then you can download the book you want onto your Kindle. And voila! You've got a book from your friend's collection.

Once you've downloaded the book, you can de-register your Kindle from your friend's account and register it again with your own account.

If you do this, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, if you allow someone to use your account, that person can purchase items on that account using the registered credit card. Also, once you reauthorize your own account, the book you downloaded from your friend will be on your Kindle, but it will not appear in your list of purchased books in your Amazon account. This means that if you erase it from your Kindle, you can't download it again from your account. You'd have to go through the process you just went through to get the book back.

Skype Mobile and Wi-Fi?

Dear Maggie,

Do you have any idea if Verizon Wireless will lift the restriction that you cannot use Skype over Wi-Fi on its wireless network?

Thanks,

Chris

Dear Chris,

The Verizon Wireless Skype application, which is now available on more than 20 handsets from LG, Motorola, Samsung and RIM, only works over Verizon's cellular voice network. It's designed differently than the Skype Mobile application that users can download for the Apple iPhone or Google Android phones.

So with that in mind, it's unlikely that Verizon will enable Skype to operate over a Wi-Fi connection in this particular application. But that doesn't mean that you cannot use Skype over Wi-Fi on a Verizon Android phone.

In October, Skype launched a full-fledged mobile app in the Android market. This app was launched primarily for Android users overseas and for Android subscribers on other U.S. carriers other than Verizon. Overseas the application works on 3G networks and Wi-Fi. In the U.S. this app only works on Wi-Fi.

If you are a Verizon Wireless Android customer and you want Skype for Wi-Fi on your phone, you can also download this free app from the Android Market. When you want to use Skype on the cellular network you can use the Verizon Skype App and if you want to use it over Wi-Fi, you can use the other Android Market app.

It's not the ideal solution, but it works.

The benefit of using Skype over Wi-Fi is that it enables you to bypass the wireless phone network when making phone calls. For example, if you are traveling overseas you can make Skype-to-Skype calls or Skype Out calls using the Wi-Fi network. The Verizon Skype app doesn't work overseas, since you need to be on Verizon's network for it to work. Using a Wi-Fi hot spot instead of the voice network, prevents you from racking up hefty roaming charges.

But even over the cellular network there are advantages to using the Skype application. For instance, using the Verizon Skype app, you can make Skype-to-Skype calls without deducting minutes from your voice service plan. And you can still make inexpensive international Skype Out calls with rates starting around 2 cents a minute.

Hope this helps!

 

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