The long awaited launch of the iPhone on Verizon Wireless is upon us.
Verizon’s version of Apple’s iPhone4 was available for pre-order last Monday and will hit Verizon and Apple retail stores Feb. 10, exciting some area Verizon managers who expect increases in sales.
George Williams, a district manager who oversees Verizon dealers in Riverhead, Medford and Coram, foresees the return of customers who flocked to AT&T to purchase the pinnacle of cool, modern cellular technology.
He said AT&T customers who bought the iPhone have already come to his store after being dissatisfied with dropped calls and other service flaws.
“There will be a lot more people who will come to Verizon,” he said. “We’ll get a lot of AT&T customers.”
Only time will tell, but according to a January survey by the Maryland firm ChangeWave Research, the majority of AT&T customers will stay put. The survey, given to 4,050 AT&T customers, reported that 16 percent said they plan to switch to the Verizon iPhone, while 60 percent said they’ll remain loyal to AT&T. Twenty-three percent were unsure.
When asked if they were satisfied with reception under AT&T’s network, 42 percent of customers said no.
Billy Gerweck, one of Mr. Williams’ store managers, said there are two main reasons Verizon customers get better cell phone reception. AT&T provides cell phones with service through GSM, a satellite-based technology, he said, which means that sound quality can become impaired and calls are more likely to be dropped when the weather is overcast.
AT&T also uses a high-frequency wavelength that is sent to cell phones from cell towers, while Verizon uses a more expensive low-frequency wavelength, he said. The high-frequency wave cannot penetrate buildings, so cell phone reception is spotty in New York City and other areas with many buildings.
AT&T spokesperson Jennifer Clark insisted that AT&T has superior service.
“For iPhone users who want the fastest speeds, the ability to talk and use apps at the same time and unsurpassed global coverage, the only choice is AT&T,” Ms. Clark said in a statement.
The iPhone4, which has 300,000 apps — short for software applications — will have a new video-calling capability. The phone has a camera in front and back, allowing users to see each other on their screens during phone calls.
Managers at some Verizon stores anticipate the iPhone to increase foot traffic in their stores, adding to overall sales. Mr. Gerweck said he’s already seen an influx of customers who come to inquire about the iPhone and end up purchasing another smartphone.
“A lot of people are sold on the idea of the iPhone rather than the iPhone itself,” he said. “What people like about it is e-mail and Internet, which many other smartphones have.”
Many managers said they’re not worried the iPhone will eat into sales of their less glamorous phones.
“We still have users that want basic phones, like the older crowd,” Mr. Williams said.
Even some younger users seem satisfied with their less high-tech phones.
Ray Swartz, 22, of Riverhead, outside the Verizon Store at the Tanger Outlets, said he wouldn’t be trading in his Verizon Motorola for an iPhone any time soon.
“I don’t have any need for it,” he said.
He wasn’t alone in not buying into the iPhone hoopla.
Roy Christensen, 59, has been a lifelong AT&T customer. He said he’ll stay with AT&T when it’s time to upgrade to a new phone, but he probably won’t choose the iPhone since he doesn’t send text messages or use most of the iPhone’s features.
Verizon’s iPhone will cost the same as AT&T’s — $199 for the 16 gigabyte model and $299 for the 32 gigabyte model. Verizon also charges a $35 activation fee.
But AT&T customers who want the Verizon iPhone will have to pay a little more. AT&T’s termination fees depend on whether customers began their contract before or after June 1, 2010, and when they purchased the iPhone.
For example, if your contract began after June 1, 2010, and you purchased your iPhone in December, you’d be charged a maximum termination fee of $315. If you bought the iPhone before December, the fee would be reduced by $10 for each month you’ve owned it. If your contract began before June 1, 2010, and you bought your iPhone in December, the termination fee would be $170 and would decrease by $5 for each month of ownership.
Eric Marx, 24, of Ridge, who has a Verizon Blackberry, never bought the iPhone through AT&T after hearing friends complain about service issues.
“A bunch of my friends have the AT&T iPhone and they all have problems with it,” he said.
He said that if he decides to buy the iPhone, “obviously I would stick with Verizon.”