With all the excitement surrounding the debut of the iPhone on Verizon, many AT&T customers may be planning to switch right away. But the decision to switch may not be as simple as it seems. While Verizon has some things in its favor, there may be more reasons to stick with AT&T than you'd expect. The choice you make will depend on many factors, of course, but here are three in favor of Verizon, and four in favor of AT&T, to consider.
1. Switch to Verizon: Better Coverage
One of the major complaints many people have with AT&T is that its network coverage is spotty, leading to dropped calls and poor call quality, as well as difficulty accessing its 3G network. How often you encounter these problems will depend on where you live (AT&T's coverage is better in some areas than others).
Verizon is known for having more-comprehensive network coverage and 3G access, so if you've been frustrated with AT&T's service where you live, Verizon may be the solution to your problems. To make sure, check Verizon's coverage map for your area.
2. Switch to Verizon: Better Customer Service
You don't have to look too far online to find people frustrated by AT&T's customer service (witness Consumer Reports users calling AT&T the worst U.S. carrier in that link). On the other hand, it's not hard to find people happy with Verizon's service. I don't have direct experience of either company's customer service, but the prevailing feeling is certainly that customers are happier with Verizon than with AT&T--and if you're fed up with AT&T, I'm sure you know it.
3. Stay with AT&T: Cheaper Data
When Verizon initially began offering the iPhone, it offered customers unlimited data for $30/month (just as AT&T had done, until it ended unlimited plans in summer 2010). As of July 2011, though, Verizon matched its competitor by switching to a capped data plan. Both companies offer users 2GB/month of data, but Verizon charges $30, while AT&T is a bit cheaper at $25.
AT&T also offers a low-end plan: $15 for 250MB. While Verizon has a low-end plan--$10 for 75MB--it's apparently only available for feature phones, not smartphones.
Either way you slice it, though, AT&T offers the better deal on data plans.
4. Stay with AT&T: Early Temination Fee
If you're still under contract with AT&T, you'll want to think twice about canceling your contract early to switch to Verizon. That's because of AT&T's Early Termination Fee (ETF), a penalty for canceling your contract before it's over. AT&T's ETF is US$325, reduced by $10 for each month you've been under contract. So, if you've been under contract for two months, your ETF is reduced by $20 to $305. If you've been under contract a year, your ETF is cut by $120, to $205.
Thanks to the ETF, switching to Verizon can be an expensive proposition--until your AT&T contract runs out, at least.
5. Stay with AT&T: Have to Buy a New iPhone
Because AT&T and Verizon built their wireless networks using different technologies (HSPA for AT&T, CDMA for Verizon), iPhones that work on AT&T's network don't work on Verizon's, and vice versa. This means that to switch to Verizon, you'll need to buy a new iPhone. As a new Verizon customer, you'll get the subsidized price of US$199 for the 16GB model and $299 for the 32GB model. Those are the standard iPhone prices, but between needing to buy a new phone and AT&T's ETF, switching to Verizon can get be expensive.
6. Stay with AT&T: Voice and Data at the Same Time
AT&T users will notice the change immediately if they switch to Verizon: with Verizon you can't talk and browse the web on your iPhone at the same time. This has been possible on the iPhone with AT&T since its launch, but isn't possible with Verizon due to how its wireless network works. So, if you switch to the Verizon iPhone, forget talking on the phone and looking up an address in Google or getting directions via the Maps app.
7. Stay with AT&T: No One Is Perfect
We all know the expression about the grass being greener on the other side of the fence. Sometimes, as with Verizon's reportedly superior customer service, the grass really may be greener. But it's worth remembering, too, that no company is perfect. Moving to Verizon may solve the problems you have with your iPhone service, but it may not. Switching is fine, but don't assume it's going to be a panacea. If you do, you could be disappointed.