The Verizon iPhone
The biggest news in AppleLand, of course, relates to the iPhone. By the time you read this column, AT&T’s death grip on the iPhone will have ended, and the Verizon iPhone era will have begun. Verizon made the announcement and currently has busied itself taking orders in advance of the ship date. For those of you who have refused to get the iPhone because you did not want to deal with (or could not deal with) AT&T, your patience now gets its reward; you can rush out and buy an iPhone 4 from Verizon. The real question now: Should you? Even more significantly, should unhappy AT&T customers start the shift to Verizon service?
While I dearly enjoy my iPhone and would not trade it for any other phone on the market (notwithstanding AT&T hanging around its neck like an albatross), I have decided not to shift to Verizon just yet. Let me explain my logic.
First, Verizon will have only the iPhone 4 for now. Like AT&T, Verizon will want a long-term commitment to give you a healthy discount on the phone. Most of us believe that Apple will likely come out with the iPhone 5 by the end of the year. What, you ask, will the iPhone 5 bring to the party that the iPhone 4 does not have? Of course nobody outside of a limited number of people working for Apple and sworn to secrecy know for sure, but good bets include more memory (hooray!) a faster, dual core mobile processor, such as some of the new Android phones now have, and connectivity with what the networks misleadingly refer to as 4G systems. Note that none of the networks offer true 4G speeds at the present time. What they call 4G really represents 3G on steroids. A more accurate description: 3G Plus or High Speed 3G. At any rate, it beats the heck out of the existing 3G systems. Verizon has announced its shift to 4G and sells several Android phones that take advantage of the 4G network. While the 3G network offers better coverage and works fine for voice communications, the 4G network will handle data and video much more quickly than the 3G network.
If AT&T has the iPhone 5 late this summer, when will Verizon get it? On the other hand, Verizon has a big jump on AT&T with respect to getting its 4G network up and running. Even when AT&T brings out the iPhone 5, it will not have 4G available to it in most markets for some time to come. When Verizon brings it out, it should have a much broader availability for the near term.
The Verizon iPhone will have most of the same features and physical characteristics as the AT&T version. Size, weight, memory, display, and processor should not differ. The location of buttons and controls will not match identically, so verify that you get the right case for your phone. The major difference relates to the connectivity. The Verizon version works on Verizon’s CDMA network only, and the AT&T version works on AT&T’s GSM network only (assuming that you have not jumped the reservation and unlocked your phone). Both have some international utility, but here AT&T excels. Verizon gives you about 40 countries worth of connectivity, while AT&T, using the more popular GSM system, gives you about 225 countries worth of connectivity.
The Verizon version allows you to use the iPhone as a mobile hotspot at a fee of $20/month for up to 2GB of transfer. AT&T does not yet allow that, but we expect the release of an app that will allow it and a fee of around $45 for up to 4GB of transfer. We do not know when the app will come out. Otherwise, you can do it by jail-breaking your iPhone and getting a third-party app not available in the App Store.
Initially, Verizon will offer an unlimited-use price plan for data at $29.99 per month. AT&T started out with such an arrangement and shortly after it changed to a tiered and capped plan. We expect Verizon to do the same thing after it gets enough iPhone users in place.
One major difference between the two iPhones relates to the simultaneous ability to talk and transfer data. Verizon’s version won’t let you do it; AT&T’s will.
So, the bottom line: if you really want an iPhone 4 and cannot or will not deal with AT&T, get the Verizon version.
If you do not have an iPhone 4 and will have relatively low data use, opt for the Verizon version, unless you will use it in an area where Verizon service does not perform well. If you will use your iPhone 4 in an area where AT&T service out-performs Verizon, go with the AT&T version. If you will want to use it in world travels, go with the AT&T version.
If you already have an AT&T iPhone 4, consider waiting until the iPhone 5 comes out before changing. See if Verizon gets it shortly after its release. See what AT&T does in terms of building a 4G network. Then make your decision. FYI, I talked to the Verizon people at Legal Tech in New York recently, and they told me that they thought Verizon may get the iPhone 5 on the market before AT&T due to their more advanced position respecting their 4G network. I have some doubts about that given the history of the two companies, but time will tell.
New MacBook Air
Apple recently refreshed the MacBook Air line, bringing out an 11" and a 13" version. I looked at the newly released MacBook Air laptops and decided to get a 13" version to replace my second generation MacBook Air. See my review of the MacBook Air in this edition of the eReport for more details, but for a bottom line, I love the 13" MacBook Air. It travels just as easily as its predecessor, has much more power, twice the memory, and as a result can function as a full-fledged laptop computer, rather than a glorified netbook. I have no problem recommending it to you for travel, home, or general purpose use. I strongly prefer it as a secondary computer and do not use it as a primary computer myself.
New App Store
Wait a minute, you say, what do you mean “new App Store”? The App Store still comes up through iTunes and it doesn’t look significantly different to me. Well, while Apple continues to upgrade the iTunes Store’s App Store (more about that later), I refer to the new App Store that Apple opened up last month to sell applications for Macintosh computers, not iOS devices such as the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. To get into the new App Store, you need to upgrade your computer to OS 10.6.6. Once you complete that process, you will have a new App Store app in your system and an alias for it in your dock, with an icon that looks like a fancy “A” in a blue circle.
Double click on the alias (it requires an active Internet connection to work), and it opens up the new App Store where you can acquire and download more than 1,000 programs for your computer. Some of the programs come without charge. Many (most) require payment of varying amounts to acquire. The new App Store has most of the same features as the iTunes App Store. If you have used one, you will find the other very familiar. One of the best features of the new App Store, the Update feature, tells you which of your programs have updates available and lets you update all the programs you have downloaded from the App Store at once.
iTunes App Store
The iTunes App Store continues to evolve. The newest development relates to the sale of newspapers and magazine subscriptions. A company called News Corp. has launched a daily news publication for the iPad. You can get it free right now, but the anticipated subscription pricing should ultimately cost $.99 per week or $39.99 per year. The App ad says it will publish 365 days per year and provide 100+ pages of daily content as well as HD pictures, video, and audio. You probably want to check it out for a week before committing to a longer-term subscription; but it appears quite impressive, and I think you may like it. Expect to see more publications offered on a subscription basis through the iPad in the near future.
Last and Least
I attended the second annual Apple-less MacWorld Expo in San Francisco last month. You may recall that after attending the much-diminished first annual Apple-less MacWorld Expo in San Francisco last year, I expressed concern that the expo might follow the New York/Boston version of the expo into extinction. For those of you who do not remember this bit of history, MacWorld moved from Boston to New York and then several years later decided to move back to Boston. Apple did not want them to move back to Boston and said it would not attend a Boston show. When the show moved back to Boston anyway, Apple did not attend. As a result, the show participation and attendance dramatically dropped and, after a few years, the show died.
MacWorld 2011 offered a lot less than MacWorld 2010. Unless something dramatic happens, I do not expect MacWorld 2012 to improve on the 2011 version. If that happens, I think that, for all practical purposes, the show dies. This year, traditionally present companies like Adobe and Microsoft had no presence. Mostly a lot of iPhone and iPad case and accessory makers came to the show. A few software companies attended, but mostly small ones. I do not have attendance information, but it appeared less well-attended than last year, at least on the day I went. I always enjoyed MacWorld and will miss the expo if/when it dies. Apparently, however, Apple will not. Apple has apparently decided that in its current marketing model it has no need to appear at such events, most likely due to the significant number of bricks and mortar Apple Stores where people can go almost any day during the year (including weekends and many holidays) and try out Apple’s newest and greatest hardware. Times change.