iPhone to Verizon: Much desired, so impossible

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Is it too much to ask for tech writers to be familiar with basic wireless technology?

TechCrunch's MG Siegler just savaged AT&T's service in a blog post this weekend; let me just say that, at least peripherally, I feel his pain. While my service has for the most part been decent, I've gone through periods where, for an hour or more, I simply couldn't dial out on my phone, and incoming calls rolled right on into voicemail, with no indication that I had missed a call and received a message until hours later. If these instances had recurred regularly for more than a few days, I probably would have hit the roof; as it is, they were just a reminder that, if I wanted to use the iPhone (which I do!), I had to settle for what's not the best network in the U.S.

Siegler's problem was a lot more serious: his visual voicemail wasn't working for two weeks, and while he could have held down the "1" key on his keypad to get his messages the old-fashioned way, it never occurred to him to do so because he didn't get any indication that the service was out. It's difficult to get a sense of how widespread this sort of problem is -- Siegler's method, scouring Twitter for complaints, has so many methodological problems that I don't even know how to start with it -- but if it happened to him, it can happen to me, so it obviously makes me nervous. But then I get to Siegler's call to action and I have to shake my head, sadly:


The iPhone will eventually be on Verizon, on Apple's terms. It's just a question of when. If that's by the end of next year, many of us will be happy campers. I don't care what I have to pay to break an AT&T contract, I will do so in a heartbeat. If it's not next year, will I consider switching carriers and getting another phone? Yes.

Yes, well, you can lay down your ultimata all you want, but they will not magically transform Verizon's network into one compatible with the iPhone. The iPhone is a GSM phone, Verizon runs a CDMA network, and never the twain shall meet. With most phone manufacturers, this hasn't been much of a consideration: they just churn out both CDMA and GSM versions of their phones so that they can run on all the major US carriers. Apple has specifically chosen not to do this -- in Apple's March earnings call, Tim Cook said that he sees CDMA as a dead end -- it's outdated, and it only exists in the U.S. anyway, which doesn't fit in with the phone's global strategy. It's true that Verizon will be moving to a 4G network next year that might be compatible with 3G phones -- but it won't roll out everywhere for some time, which means that the new phones Verizon sells will probably be dual-mode for a while. And on the very off chance that Apple gets sick of AT&T's shenanigans and releases a CDMA phone for Verizon, Mr. Siegler won't be able to take his current phone with him if he defects.

My point is not to minimize Siegler's frustration; it's just that, if you're a writer for a prominent tech blog like TechCrunch (even if it is a tech business blog), you can't write a diatribe about how you want the iPhone to move to Verizon without once using the letter combinations "GSM" and "CDMA." You just can't. And if you're the editor in chief of ZDNet, following up with your own speculation on the subject, you are even less forgiven for leaving out those crucial terms.

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