AT&T or Verizon for my new iPhone? (Updated answer: AT&T)

Updated! – discount on Vz, too!
Update #2 – no voice+data on Vz
Update #3 – done and done

Hi all. Back to the mundane. Apple announced (or rather, confirmed what we’ve all known for several months now) a new iPhone today. The iPhone 5 will be available for pre-order this Friday, to ship a week later. I will be getting one, as will my wife, as we lurve our current iPhones 4, we are out of contract, and we would like faster more capable phones.

There are three carriers available to us: AT&T (our current carrier), Verizon (with whom we carrier-ed for a decade before we got iPhones), and Sprint (actually a hometown company here in KC).

Sprint is out right away for poor coverage and confusing plans that don’t actually come out to anything better than the others. They do have unlimited data, mind you, but we actually use our phones for phones, and their “add a tablet” options are ridiculously expensive should we ever go that route.

Which leaves the other two.

Verizon. We loved Verizon when we were customers, we always had a signal and never had a call drop. Of course, this was in the stone age of cell phones, and the number of phones, the technology of the airwaves, etc. has changed a lot since then. But we hear from the hoi polloi that Verizon doesn’t drop calls. The plan would cost us $150 per month. Adding a tablet, if we should go there, is $10 per month, per tablet.

AT&T. We have AT&T now, and when we first started two years (more, now) ago, we dropped calls like crazy. Not like, cray cray more-often-than-not crazy, but frequently enough that we pined for good ol’ Verizon. But I regularly use voice and data at the same time (looking up my calendar while on a phone call, for example), which you can’t do on Verizon right now. The plan would cost us $150 per month. And adding a tablet is also $10 per month, per tablet.

Research! Root Metrics surveyed KC and compared voice and data reliability for major carriers. The results suggest that AT&T has improved their dropped calls frequency a lot (borne out by our anecdotal experience), but Verizon still has faster overall data speeds (and fewer dropped calls, technically). But mostly, it seems a wash between those two. Here is the link. Apologies to those of my friends in smaller markets. Also: ha ha!

There are two other factors that will weigh on this decision:

LTE. This is the new supa-fast mobile network the iPhone 5 uses, and both V and A support. From what I read, LTE only does data, and cannot be used for voice. Instead, both use the previous 3G networks for voice calls. (This will change sometime, maybe soon?) Therefore, when an AT&T LTE phone tries to do voice and data simultaneously, it actually drops to 3G for both. A lot slower than LTE, but you can do both. A Verizon phone with LTE, currently can do data and voice simultaneously. It continues using LTE for data, but fires up the second radio device for voice, and runs both at the same time. The jury is out on whether the iPhone 5 is equipped with two radios at once (I think Apple made beef about there being one magic-tasking radio in the iPhone 5 that did all things, but I don’t recall).

Research! Someone explained the reasons why simultaneous voice and data are not possible on all networ… zzzz, tl;dr. Basically, what I said up there. If you really need to read it, here is that link.

State of KS Discounts. AT&T offers a discount for service to employees of the State of Kansas, which we are. Our current AT&T plan has this discount applied. I would expect we could get the discount applied to a new plan with AT&T, which would make it cheaper than the equivalent Verizon plan (though I don’t know how much cheaper).

So, what do I need to do?

  1. Find out if the iPhone 5 can do simultaneous voice and data on both AT&T and Verizon.
  2. Find out if there is a discount for State of KS employees for AT&T still, if there is one for Verizon, and how much a discount might be.
  3. Before Friday.

Update. Okay, so Verizon also offers a discount to employees of the State of Kansas. So yay. Also, it appears from the Intarwebs that both carriers will be able to provide simultaneous voice and data when you are on their LTE networks. Also, when not on the LTE network, AT&T will still provide that ability. But we still have no verified verification of iPhone 5’s ability to do this on Verizon once you fall off LTE. Not sure it matters.

Update #2. So, in this article, it unequivocally states that no, the iPhone 5 on Verizon will not be able to do simultaneous voice and data. Apple would have needed to add a third antenna to the phone for that, and they chose not to. The short of it, technically: AT&T does data over LTE, and when you make a phone call, does data and voice over 3G. Verizon does data over LTE, and when you make a phone call, drops to CDMA, but with too few antennas in the phone, they can’t keep working the LTE for data, so presto, no data while talking.

Turns out it does matter to me, so we’re sticking with AT&T. Also, the Future will be awesome, and you can see how by Googling “VoLTE” (Voice-over-LTE), which is coming Real Soon Now. Honest.

Update #3. Ordered two new iPhones. Had to use the Apple site, because AT&T’s was borked, and had to order them one at a time, because the Store’s system can’t handle more than one carrier subsidized phone at a time, so, whatever. They ship in two weeks, and take five days to ship, and may require a signature. That’s… like, October 3rd or something. Arr.

Computer, tell me a story

Last week brought rumors that Apple’s next iOS will be deeply voice-controlled/controllable. I am in favor.

Imagine this: You get up from your work desk to go home. You double tap your earpiece, and ask (sotto voce?) “Is it raining out?” A few seconds later (after conferring with your iPhone in your pocket), a voice in your ear says, “It is not raining. Current conditions are fifty-eight degrees and partly cloudy.”

Or: You’re out in the yard weeding. The lovely day reminds you that you need to buy sunscreen at the store. You tap your earpiece, “Add sunscreen to my shopping list.” A few seconds later, your earpiece replies, “Sunscreen added to your shopping list. You have ten items on the list.” Your spouse gives you that look that means you spend too much time playing with technology.

Finally, a little further out (next summer/five years from now?): You’re in the middle of a game of Parcheesi with the kids. A thought occurs to you. You call out to the WiFi enabled microphones you have placed about the house, “Computer,” and wait for a soft chime indicating it is ready and listening, “Remind me to search for a copy of the board game, Careers, next time I am online.” A few seconds later, a pleasant voice responds, “I’ve added that to your to do list, Danny.”

I think this is all possible now, certainly the hardware aspect of it. Maybe we will see the software side this summer in iOS 5? If anyone can do it, Apple can.

This is the future, kids.