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A Verizon reality check

It’s easy to glorify Verizon as an iPhone owner, because AT&T is so awful. But Verizon sucks, too — just in different ways, for the most part.

I’ve been a Verizon Wireless customer since 2004: phones for the first 4 years, and data via tethering and EVDO modems for the entire time. I recently upgraded to a MiFi 2200 and renewed my data contract for another 2 years. I’ve traveled all over the east coast, mostly in New York, using Verizon voice and data services (data-only in the recent years), and I use their data service every day in Manhattan and the surrounding area.

It’s not that great. Among the problems I’ve had:

So if there’s a Verizon iPhone in the future, there’s no guarantee that it will be significantly better than AT&T’s.

Verizon won’t be generous with plan pricing or terms. Expect to pay about the same rates as AT&T: a voice plan, separate charges for SMS/MMS, and $30/month for data (which will be required). They’ll probably even charge separately for Visual Voicemail.

Everyone criticizes AT&T for indefinitely delaying iPhone tethering, but once we can actually get tethering, many of the protestors will loudly object to the likely $30/month additional cost. Verizon will almost certainly charge the same rate, and is likely to limit it to 5 GB per month and specify terms that prohibit many common uses such as streaming video, streaming audio, and VoIP, just like all of their current data and tethering plans.

There would almost definitely be a Verizon Wireless logo somewhere on the iPhone’s case, probably on both the front and back. There may be separate Verizon music, video, and app store icons that you can’t delete. A built-in feature may be disabled at Verizon’s request because they want to sell you their own version for an additional monthly fee. Verizon may want a cut of any iTunes or App Store revenue from on-device purchases, the cost of which Apple would probably happily pass along to either users or developers. (My guess: Developers.)

This is Verizon we’re talking about. They might “save” us from some of AT&T’s problems, but they’ll bring their own.

It’s easy to think that the grass is always greener away from AT&T, but keep in mind that these are cellular carriers: massive oligopolists that don’t give a shit about us. Their phones are ARPU vending machines, first and foremost, not communication tools. Cellular carriers are only a small step above cable and phone companies in the contempt and disregard they show for their customers.

AT&T and Verizon are much more similar than not.