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Want Verizon's iPhone? Here's how to switch over

If you're saying sayonara to your current carrier in search of iPhone pastures at Verizon, here's the right way to make the switch.

Verizon iPhone

So you're thinking of switching to the Verizon iPhone next month from another carrier? Assuming you'd like to keep your current phone number, there are some clear-cut dos-and-don'ts when it comes to porting numbers. Here's a refresher in case it's been a while. Read up on everything else you need to know about the iPhone 4 here.

Do I cancel my current contract?
Don't even think about it! The best way to lose your cell phone number forever is to cancel your contract with your current carrier (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or others) before signing on to a new one. Instead, walk into any retail store with your current phone in hand and sign up for a new contract. Verizon reps will do all the heavy lifting for you, essentially canceling your contract on your behalf.

Will I need to sign a new contract?
Yes, unless you wish to buy the iPhone 4 at the off-contract price, which typically costs much more up front. The 16GB model will cost $199.99 with a two-year contract; the 32GB model will sell for $299.99.

How long will it take to port my number?
The timing varies, but you could get use of your number on your new phone in as few as 3 hours, or up to a day. If the volume of requests is too high, the port could take as many as four days. Patience is a must.

What do I do to activate the porting?
You won't have to do a thing. When the porting is complete, you'll receive a text to your new phone.

Does it matter which carrier I'm switching from?
No, the porting process is identical from all carriers.

Will I be charged extra fees?
There is typically an activation fee for new, two-year contracts. In addition, you're responsible for paying your previous carrier for the final service charge before you cancel. If you duck out of a contract, you'll also face an early termination fee (ETF). The exact ETF differs by carrier--some pro-rate based on how many months of the contract you've already fulfilled, while others may have a fixed bail-out penalty. For instance, AT&T has boosted its ETF in anticipation of losing its exclusive control over U.S. iPhone sales.