Apple’s iPhone 4s was their first handset built to work on all US carriers, supporting CDMA (Verizon, Sprint) and GSM (AT&T, TMobile). In the US, customers typically “buy” phones with 2-year contracts, the wireless carrier subsidizes the cost of the phone (e.g. $649 unlocked vs. $199 carrier-locked), and charges an early termination fee if the customer does not fulfill their 2-year commitment:
I purchased my iPhone 5 unlocked, but currently use Verizon wireless. I divorced AT&T over issues providing coverage to my iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4, and wanted to share is my brief reconsideration of their network — which, I admit, is an apples vs oranges comparison (no pun intended). Others have written more detailed analysis of the technologies, transition, and how to switch SIM cards, so I won’t repeat that.
This week, Verizon announced a faster Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network, called XLTE. While both AT&T and Verizon support LTE, they use different frequencies; a Verizon iPhone that supports LTE will not work on AT&T’s LTE network, but will work on AT&T’s HSPA+ network.
My Verizon iPhone 5 has and uses a SIM card, when it’s installed my Settings -> About looks like this:
Using the Speedtest app for iOS at my home in San Diego, I got the following results:
35ms ping, 14.06 mbps download, 4.27 mbps upload — pretty respectable.
How does one test a Verizon iPhone 5 on AT&T? I went to a corporate AT&T store, and purchased a prepaid SIM with 1 month of unlimited voice, text, and 2.5GB of data for $60. A Verizon iPhone with an AT&T SIM card:
So despite naming it “Verizon iPhone”, my iPhone 5 is using the AT&T HSPA+ 4G network, and the latest baseband firmware. When I first purchased the SIM card, I ran a quick Speedtest from the parking lot:
117 ms ping time, 6.66 Mbps download, 1.08 Mbps upload. I tried again a few minutes after running the Verizon Speedtest above, and here were my results:
97 ms ping time, 9.02 Mbps download, 1.18 Mbps upload. Better, but not great.
This is a very unscientific test, not intended to compare AT&T and Verizon’s network overall, but to compare the experience using an unlocked Verizon iPhone 5 on the AT&T network. Given the changes in both carrier’s family plan pricing, we briefly considered keeping our phones but switching carriers. Even if there is a slight cost savings, I’ll gladly pay more for 1/3 the latency, 2x the download speed, and 4x the download speed.