On Call: About that Verizon iPhone

As we inch closer to the Verizon iPhone's February 10 release date, questions from CNET readers about the device keep on coming. We answer a few of them here.

Kent German Former senior managing editor / features
Kent was a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and worked in both the London and San Francisco offices. When not working, he's planning his next vacation, walking his dog or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).
Kent German
5 min read

On Call runs every two weeks, alternating between answering reader questions and discussing hot topics in the cell phone world.

Two weeks ago, Verizon Wireless finally unveiled its long-rumored iPhone. The announcement, which came only days after Big Red staged a big presence at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, put an end to not only years of speculation, but also AT&T's exclusive hold on Apple's device.

Judging from my e-mail inbox, CNET readers are pretty excited about the Verizon iPhone, which is why I wanted to dedicate this edition of On Call to your questions. CNET news reporters Erica Ogg and Maggie Reardon already answered many questions in their Verizon iPhone FAQ, and Maggie tackled more queries in her Ask Maggie columns from January 14 and January 21, so I invite you to check out their posts as well. And don't forget CNET's official Verizon iPhone 4 First Take. As a reminder, the handset will arrive in stores February 10.

An iPhone 5?

Q: Is it worth buying the iPhone 4 now or will Apple introduce an upgraded model in June or July? I think the iPhone 5 won't be out for Verizon for at least a year, which would give AT&T a six-month cushion for signing up new contracts. Also, Apple would avoid upsetting multitudes of new Verizon iPhone 4 buyers. Would you agree? I just don't know if I should wait.
- John

A: Unfortunately, neither Apple nor Verizon has said when their next model, which very well could be an "iPhone 5," will go on sale. And if Apple sticks to its usual pattern, we won't know anything official until the company decides to announce it. There will be the occasional leak, of course, but Apple keeps its secrets close. And it makes sure that its partners do the same.

Now unofficially, I've heard rumors that suggest both scenarios. My gut tells me, though, that Verizon will not get a new iPhone this summer. AT&T certainly will get one in June or July, but I suspect that Verizon will wait a few months to get customers on board and assess how its network is handling iPhone use. Also, Apple will wait until Verizon's LTE network is really nationwide and it can deliver the customer experience Apple wants (remember that Apple waited a year before it adopted 3G). True, Apple rarely passes up a chance to get its customers to upgrade, but I think a six-month window is too short even for it. Anything could happen, of course, but I'm counting on a new Verizon iPhone somewhere around the first part of next year.

So should you wait? That's never an easy question to answer, so let me put it this way. I always compare buying a phone to buying an airline ticket. Both markets change quickly--airfares can vary by the minute and new phones come out almost every week--and you never really know what's coming next. If you see a phone you really like now (just like when you find a cheap fare), then I would buy it and hope for the best. You can wait, but you may wait a long time for something better. And sometimes, something better may never come. So what does that mean for you? Well, if you've been waiting for a long time for a Verizon iPhone, then I encourage you to buy this model. If not, your six-month wait could keep you on hold for a full year.

Buy now or wait?

Q: I'm very excited to buy the Verizon iPhone, but I'd prefer a version that will support Verizon's 4G network. Do you think that will happen? Also, if the CDMA Development Group (CDG) introduces simultaneous voice and data this spring, will the next Verizon iPhone have that feature as well?
- Adam

A: Yes, the CDG has said it will introduce the simultaneous voice and data sometime this spring (it hasn't announced a specific date). It's important to remember, though, that just because the new technology is out there, it doesn't mean that Verizon will start using it right away. As of now, no CDMA carrier, Verizon included, has said that it will adopt simultaneous voice and data. And even if Verizon does pick up the technology change, its iPhone 4 won't be able to support it without the necessary hardware changes.

For more on simultaneous voice and data, check out Maggie's Ask Maggie column from earlier this month.

There is good news, however. When Verizon introduces its next-generation iPhone model (see the above question for when that might be), it should support the carrier's 4G LTE network. Unlike CDMA as it currently exists, LTE isn't bound by the voice/data limitation. As such, an LTE handset would render the CDMA fix irrelevant.


Q: Will the Verizon iPhone have FaceTime? And if so, will Verizon offer it over their voice link or does it have to go over Wi-Fi like on the AT&T iPhone?
- Jay

Verizon's iPhone will offer FaceTime just as the AT&T handset does. You can't use it over the cellular network, but you can use it if you're connected to Wi-Fi. On a similar note, keep in mind that simultaneous voice and date will be possible when you're on Wi-Fi.

Using apps

Q: I assume the answer is yes, but if I am on a call will I be able to use my apps on my iPhone on a CDMA network?
- Robert

A: If the app doesn't require data use, then you will be able to use it when on a call. If it requires data use, however, and you're not using Wi-Fi, then the answer is no (at least for now).

What about Sprint?

Q: Now that Verizon has a CDMA version of the iPhone, what do you think are the odds that Sprint will eventually get the iPhone?
- Will

A: Honestly, the best part of Verizon's announcement was that we could finally stop discussing rumors of the iPhone on Verizon. The worst part, though, is that now that speculation will center on T-Mobile and Sprint. To answer your question, though, I expect that Apple's device will eventually jump to Sprint, T-Mobile, or other U.S. carriers. My money is on T-Mobile as the first stop--it's possible that Verizon has an exclusive on a CDMA iPhone for a set time--but anything is possible with Apple.