Verizon iPhone release: Five reasons why you might want to hold off on buying one.

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Jan. 11 2011 12:03 PM

Should I Buy a Verizon iPhone?

Five reasons why you might want to hold off.

(Continued from Page 1)

There's one more small hitch with Verizon's network: It won't let you make calls and download data (i.e., surf the Web) at the same time. AT&T's version will let you do that.

Today's iPhone will soon be obsolete anyway. Apple has released a new iPhone every summer since 2007, and there's no doubt it will do so again this year, too. Nobody knows what features that new phone will include, but Sharma and other analysts expect that it will almost certainly include support for LTE, a next-generation networking protocol that will allow download speeds of more than 10 megabits per second. Both Verizon and AT&T have been upgrading their networks to support LTE service (also known as 4G). Verizon offers LTE in 38 major markets, and AT&T plans to begin its rollout sometime this year. But taking advantage of these faster networks requires specific hardware; you won't get those faster speeds on today's iPhones. The upshot: If you wait until the summer, you'll be able to buy an iPhone from either AT&T or Verizon that's faster than today's version.

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Should you wait for the 4G iPhone? It depends. LTE's availability is still limited, and the speed increases you'll see won't likely make a big difference for everyday Web surfing. But if you do live in an area where AT&T or Verizon will be offering 4G speeds and you're a big data user—you watch Netflix on the bus every day, say—then you might consider waiting. Plus, people who've held out for three years in order to get the iPhone on Verizon clearly know how to bide their time—what's a few more months for a brand-new phone?

Verizon's iPhone isn't as friendly to international travelers. If you do a lot of traveling abroad, you shouldn't buy the Verizon iPhone. That's because its voice protocol, CDMA, isn't widely used overseas. While the AT&T iPhone can roam on lots of international networks—for a fee, of course—the Verizon version will more or less stop working at our borders.

You might as well wait for AT&T's counter-offer. As my colleague Annie Lowrey points out, AT&T needs the iPhone far more than Verizon does. Apple's device is AT&T's primary source of new and lucrative customers, and analysts predict that losing its exclusive deal with Apple will punish AT&T's bottom line. So far, AT&T has said only that it plans to compete with Verizon's iPhone by running ads touting its faster network speeds. But if lots of people defect, the company could do something even better—lower its prices.

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Farhad Manjoo is a technology columnist for the New York Times and the author of True Enough.

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