Verizon customers may have rejoiced when their cell phone carrier announced on Tuesday after months of speculation that it will start selling Apple's iPhone 4 in February, but some in the tech industry think consumers might want to wait a little bit more.
In a highly anticipated press event in New York, Verizon Wireless said it would begin selling the iPhone 4 on Feb. 10, ending AT&T's nearly three-year exclusive hold on the popular device.
Given longtime complaints about dropped calls and performance issues with AT&T's network, the announcement delighted both iPhone hopefuls and current owners.
On Comedy Central's "The Daily Show", comedian Jon Stewart quipped, "Our long national nightmare may soon be over."
Summing up the sentiments of iPhone owners familiar with spotty coverage, he hollered, "Freedom!"
But though Verizon's move means customers finally have the freedom to choose a new network, tech insiders suggest caution might be in order.
"If this phone does what you want it to do, then buy it because there will always be something better coming out six months from now," said Sascha Segan, lead analyst for PCMag Mobile. "One thing you should think about, though, is that there are other great smartphones on Verizon that do things the iPhone doesn't do."
Even if you are hot on the iPhone, Segan encourages consumers to wait for mobile experts to get their hands-on time with the new phone and publish their reviews. But even then, he said, the iPhone 4 lacks features some customers might find attractive.
For example, while a few new Verizon phones launched at the Consumer Electronics Show last week will run on Verizon's high-speed 4G network, the iPhone 4 will only run on its 3G network. Apple isn't expected to release a 4G-compatible iPhone until next year, Segan said.
"Apple has said the reason they didn't go with 4G is the first-generation 4G chips created phones that were too large," he said. "4G is definitely coming to the iPhone, Apple is just waiting until the chips get refined enough so they can produce the look they want."
Verizon's iPhone also uses CDMA (code division multiple access) technology, while AT&T's uses GSM (global system for mobile communications). That means that unlike AT&T's iPhone 4, Verizon's current CDMA version will not allow a user to simultaneously use voice and data service and it will not enable global roaming.
Analysts say an upgrade is on the way that would enable simultaneous service on the Verizon network, but until then the Verizon iPhone will go without.
Segan said Apple and Verizon could have chosen to enable global roaming and simultaneous data and voice but opted against it. "That's more about will than about availability," he said.
And if Apple loyalists want to get their hands on the company's latest and greatest, they may have to wait longer if they want it on Verizon's network.
Apple traditionally introduces a new iPhone each June, but Segan said the Verizon partnership may change things up.
"There is a possibility that Verizon may be set off by the AT&T iPhone by six months," he said, meaning that while AT&T customers could get an iPhone 5 in June, the newest version wouldn't reach Verizon customers until January 2012. "I'm not saying I know, but this is a plausible theory."
Segan also emphasized that while the iPhone is a solid smartphone option, there are several Android options that offer alluring features.
For example, he said, the Motorola Droid Bionic, which Verizon introduced at CES, is a 4G-compatible phone that not only delivers superfast Internet access, but also lets users access Flash websites (which the iPhone infamously does not). The HTC Thunderbolt is another Android phone that runs on Verizon's 4G network and facilitates mobile movie-watching with a surround-sound speaker and kickstand.
"The iPhone is a really good phone, but it's not the end of the decision process," Segan said.