Verizon iPhone: The phone to buy when all else fails?

After more than three years since AT&T got the iPhone, Verizon started carrying the Apple device on Thursday. For some, a Verizon iPhone is a dream come true. But some new iPhone owners admit that this was a purchase of last resort.

Joe Skipper / Reuters
Customers in Boca Raton, Fla., purchase the iPhone 4 shortly after the phone went on sale with the Verizon Wireless network February 10, 2011. Verizon Wireless began selling the Apple iPhone at long last on Thursday, ending AT&T's more than three-year stranglehold on the device in the US.

Standing outside a Verizon store in downtown Boston, new iPhone owners seem to share a common message: You don’t buy a Verizon iPhone to be on the cutting edge. You buy it because your toddler picked off the keys from your BlackBerry, or you’ve seen your spouse stand on one foot and lean out the window just to hold a couple bars of AT&T service. Your old phone has failed you. It's time for a change.

At least those are the reasons Sarah Kuper gave shortly after purchasing a Verizon iPhone on the day of its release.

What happened to her old phone? Ever since her 1 year old got a hold of the BlackBerry, she's had to do without question marks and or the V key. Maybe it's time to own a phone without a physical keyboard – one safe from little, prying fingers. But she's been hesitant to buy the touchscreen iPhone from AT&T. On too many occasions, she's watched her husband's acrobatic performances when trying to get an AT&T signal in their home.

“I’ve been a stubborn mule,” says Ms. Kuper. “I was basically waiting for it to come to Verizon.”

After more than three years of exclusivity with AT&T, the Apple iPhone 4 went on sale through Verizon Thursday morning. The handset is available online and at Apple stores, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, and some Verizon outlets. The 16 GB device sells for $199.99 and the 32 GB version costs $299.99. Both require a two-year contract.

But even these early-bird shoppers are a little behind the times, something even Verizon can admit. Its campaign slogan refers to the iPhone in the past tense: “iPhone 4. The phone that changed everything.”

For four years now, Apple has released a new iPhone model each summer. So, with a February release, Verizon customers find themselves smack dab in the middle of last year’s release of the iPhone 4 and the anticipated release of the iPhone 5 next summer.

New iPhone owner Doug Grumet, who works in advertising, was already a Verizon customer and says he could have held out until this summer before upgrading his LG Dare to an iPhone 5 – or whatever Apple decides to call it. But, like Kuper, his phone recently broke, so he bought an iPhone 4.

“I wanted an iPhone,” he says, but “I wanted to wait.”

Mark Schmid, an architect in Boston, also bought an iPhone opening day because he wanted an update from his previous Verizon phone, which was “some Samsung piece of junk.” Plus, his family was giving him a nudge.

“My other phone is a piece of junk, my partner has [an iPhone], and my family is trying to drag me into the 21st century,” Mr. Schmid says.

While some Verizon customers are dragging their feet, others are literally running to the store.

“I jumped right off the treadmill this morning, I didn’t even shower yet,” says Deb Mckinnon, who was dressed in athletic clothes and works at Boston Medical Center.

Ms. Mckinnon bought an iPhone because she liked “the touch of the screen” and the apps. She bought it from Verizon instead of AT&T because she says Verizon has better coverage. (Check out the Winter 2010 Consumer Reports survey about which carrier has the best coverage in your city.)

But not everybody who went into the Verizon store on opening morning left with an iPhone. Thomas Marcos, who works in real estate, walked out of the store disappointed. He says he had been planning to buy a phone with faster 4G service, which he was told would be released by Valentine’s Day. Mr. Marcos says the phone he had his eye on still isn’t out yet.

He had been toying with the idea of getting an iPhone from Verizon, until he realized that the data plan would be more expensive than it is for his Blackberry. Besides, he says he doesn’t like how often Apple comes out with new versions.

“I would get an iPhone,” he says, but he suspected there would be an iPhone 6 and iPhone 7 out before too long.

Verizon iPhone review roundup

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