Verizon iPhone: Not the dream phone after all

January 11, 2011: 10:53 AM ET

The Verizon iPhone 4. Not all that different-looking from the AT&T version.

Earlier today, Verizon Wireless finally confirmed its worst-kept secret, and most-lusted after gadget, of the last 12 months: an iPhone running on Verizon's service.

Unfortunately, what the mobile carrier revealed was not exactly the dream phone some subscribers had hoped for. Sure, Verizon got the iPhone 4, and no doubt users will benefit from the carrier's arguably better reception, but there were also some unexpected strings attached:

No 4G. Though Verizon handsets don't yet support it, the timing of this announcement seemed primed for speculation. Would this CDMA-friendly version of the iPhone support the new Long Term Evolution (LTE) network? No dice. Looks like subscribers will have to wait a little longer, at least until the iPhone 5 hits later this year.

Potential antenna issue (again). Many tech aficionados likely remember antennagate, the PR nightmare Apple experienced once critics discovered that holding the iPhone 4 left-handed could inhibit reception and call quality. Though the Verizon iPhone 4 has a CMDA-specific antenna, Apple COO Tim Cook implied the change was merely aesthetic, and when asked by a member of the media regarding possible antenna issues, Cook deflected, choosing neither to confirm or deny the possibility that they've solved the problem here.

No simultaneous data and voice. This could be a deal-breaker for all you multitasking smartphone users. Having the iPhone 4 operate according to Verizon's current CMDA specifications means that users won't be able to make phone calls and consume data -- email, text, browse the Internet -- at the same time. For many, this may be a non-issue, but hardcore techies at the event were not pleased to hear Verizon and Apple deflect this issue by saying they'd rather give users what they want -- an iPhone 4 -- sooner rather than later at the expense of features like this one.

Unlimited data plan MIA? This last point will likely be confirmed in the weeks to come, but given all the positive feedback that Verizon iPhone users would be able to sign up for unlimited data, it's rather bizarre that the mobile carrier would delay such great news. We're not saying it won't happen, but if it's that's the case, why not give the media another great bit of news to chomp on right now?

Below is our live blog coverage from the event. Sound off with your own thoughts -- love it? hate it? indifferent? -- in the comments below.

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The day you've all been waiting for, the launch of the Verizon iPhone, has reportedly, finally arrived. We'll be live-blogging from the event at New York's Lincoln Center, which kicks off at 8 AM PST/11 AM EST. Keep refreshing those browsers for the latest news and photos.

10:52: Settling into our seats here in the snazzy auditorium at Jazz at Lincoln Center. It's a surprisingly small, well-organized affair.

10:59 AM: Verizon and COO Lowell McAdam taking the stage. "We won't disppoint you," he says about today's announcement. In other words, people, the Verizon iPhone. Now he's just giving some broadband background.

11:01: McAdam reiterates the strength of the network, alluding to the fact that the number mobile carrier has the capacity and speeds necessary to handle the influx of new Verizon iPhone users, which some analysts predict could be as many as 12 million.

11:04: LTE ups speeds by a factor of 10 when compared at least to the carrier's 3G EDVO network speeds.

Verizon Wireless President and COO Lowell McAdam

11:05: "We're bringing together the fruit of all our work on boosting our networks with a giant partner, and that's Apple." Their relationship started two years ago. In 2008, they had technical discussions, had a year of extensive testing on the CMDA network. "Their team has been terrific to work with."

11:07: "In late 2010, we offered the iPad."

11:07: Early next month, the iPhone 4 will be available for sale.

11:08: Apple COO Tim Cook takes the stage. (No Steve Jobs, folks. Sorry.) "The iPhone has had phenomenal success... Tens of millions of purchased the phone. All of Apple is very excited to bring the iPhone 4 to Verizon's customers." Unfortunately, Cook lacks Jobs' charisma. Dry, dry, dry.

11:10: Cook is rehashing the iPhone 4 features we're all pretty familiar with: Retina display, FaceTime, iOS4, etc.

11:11: Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead takes the stage. "Our merchandising is ready to go, which you'll see in Apple and Verizon stores." Mead is now talking about how robust the network is. "We have designed this network for customers to have the optimum experience. We always keep the customer experience at the forefront of everything we do." They've been drive-testing thousands of units over the network over the last few months. "We could not be more please about where we are and what we're going to be offering."

11:15: Sounds like the iPhone 4 is NOT 4G.

11:16: February 10, the iPhone 4 launches online and in stores and at Apple stores.

11:18: 3G mobile hotspot so you can hook up up to 5 devices.

11:18: Mead and Cook are doing a Q&A session now. The guy next to me: "What? That's it?" [He keeps cursing throughout the rest of the announcement]

11:21: They won't give sales predictions. On why they won't do 4G right now: chipset compromises. Cook: "Also, customers told us they want the iPhone NOW." Copout.

11:21: When asked about antenna issues, Mead deflects saying that he doesn't see that being an issue. However, he also doesn't specify whether they've solved the hardware problem.

Verizon's Dan Mead and Apple's Tim Cook.

11:26: No comment when asked about when a 4G LTE-enabled iPhone may hit. The iPhone 4 will be priced at $199 for the 16 GB and $299 for the 32 GB, same as the AT&T GSM editions.

11:27: Mead says it'll be a matter of weeks before we have broader availability after the launch.

11:28: When asked about the lack of being able for Verizon iPhone 4 users to do voice and data simultaneously, Cook deflects again and just says how he "can't be happier" to give the iPhone 4 to customers. He says customers won't mind the tradeoff. In other words Verizon fans, NO simultaneous voice calls and data consumption.

11:30: Cook and Mead walk offstage to lukewarm applause. Guy next to mee keeps cursing. That's all, folks. So to recap, same pricing as AT&T, unlimited plan option, no 4G, and no Steve Jobs. Thoughts? Reactions?

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About This Author
JP Mangalindan
JP Mangalindan
Writer, Fortune

JP Mangalindan is a San Francisco-based writer at Fortune, covering Silicon Valley. Since joining in 2010, he has written on a wide array of topics, from the turnaround of eBay to the evolution of net neutrality. A graduate of Fordham University, Mangalindan has also written for GQ, Popular Science, and Entertainment Weekly.

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