What does the new Verizon iPhone mean for Global Travelers?

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The big news in the mobile world yesterday was the long-awaited, anticipated and not-so-much-of-a-surprise announcement that Verizon will get the iPhone 4.  Of course, I shouldn’t say “the” iPhone, for the one that Verizon will sell, heavily subsidized to the tune of approximately $400/unit, is different from AT&T’s iPhone 4.

This is the big difference:

Verizon’s CDMA network is not as widely used in some parts of the world, most notably, Europe.  Check out Wikipedia’s table of mobile network operators to get a sense of CDMA versus GSM (AT&T’s technology) country coverage.  CDMA only seems to be in Brazil, China, India and the United States.  This might not be truly accurate, but it is true to say that GSM phones are supported much more broadly worldwide.  This is a big problem for international travelers that want to use their own phone (many rent locally not only for convenience but also to save on high roaming rates).

Some of the differences aren’t huge, in my opinion:

  • The antenna has been redesigned to stop the death-grip problems that some reported on the AT&T version.
  • The buttons have been moved ever so slightly – big consequence of this?  a whole new slew of iPhone 4 cases just for the Verizon version.
  • Verizon’s network (CDMA) doesn’t support voice and data at the same time.  I have an iPhone, and, at least for me, this is not such a big deal.  For some, however, it might be a little annoying.
  • Verizon’s iPhone allows a user to set it up as a WiFi personal hotspot to support up to 5 devices.  One can tether an AT&T iPhone, but that only works via Bluetooth or USB with one device at a time.  AT&T charges an extra $20/month for tethering.  It is unclear what the hotspot functionality will cost with Verizon.  While this is a cool feature, there are rumors that this will be available on all iPhones in the future.  It is an open question as to whether AT&T will support it.

On the whole, I can’t recommend Verizon’s iPhone for international travelers, unless they just want to use it for downloaded apps when outside of where CDMA is supported.

Photo by theOOBE.

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One Response

  1. Robert Frederickson

    November 18, 2011 1:19 pm

    Despite having a global data plan, I was charged by Verizon $20 / MB for tethering my pc through my i-phone in China. No where was I told that tethered data was not included in the plan allowance.

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