To 4G or not 4G

Convergence Corner

To 4G or not 4G

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director  |  February 01, 2011

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 2011 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY Magazine.

Last month, I wrote that I didn’t feel the Verizon iPhone – which we now know will be available on February 10 – would be a big deal. Yes, there will be many units sold, and with defectors from AT&T as well as existing Verizon subscribers who have held out for Apple’s modern masterpiece, but I still believe the choice in the market – particularly the variety of Android (News - Alert)-based handsets – will have a limiting effect overall.

However, since last month’s column, I did some basic market research, talking to many of my friends, colleagues, and associates, and found I could, indeed, be mistaken, thanks to the brilliant marketing out of Cupertino. Indeed, I was rather amazed to hear how many people have their sights set on the CDMA version of the iPhone 4.

Still, I can’t help but wonder if the three weeks between now and when the iPhone becomes available at Verizon stores isn’t enough time for at least some of them to reconsider. For one thing, when flat-screen TVs became available, how many of them went out and bought a new tube TV? When high-speed broadband became widely available, how many signed up for dial-up service? And when shopping for a new car, how many of them would opt for a previous model year if they could get the new model, with many enhanced features, for the same price?

At CES in Las Vegas, Verizon announced four LTE devices that would be available in the first half of 2011 – the HTC Thunderbolt, Samsung (News - Alert) SCH-i150, LG Revolution, and DROID BIONIC – in addition to tablets, mobile hotspots, and laptops from several vendors.

With Verizon’s focus now solidly on its LTE (News - Alert) network, which as of December 5, 2010, had been deployed in 32 metro areas and 92 airports nationwide, I ask all the iPhone holdouts, why do you want a 3G phone, unproven on Verizon’s 3G network, when you can get a 4G device a few short weeks after the iPhone release? When 3G phones became available, did you run and get an old 2G handset?

It’s that simple.

We know the future of the mobile market is anything but voice. In fact, the millennial generation is already using IM and SMS to communicate more frequently than voice. Rather, it’s the apps and multimedia services that are driving usage and device innovation to new heights. Knowing that, again I ask, why opt for a slower, more congested network, when a next-gen network is likely available in your area.

For those who live in an area not likely to see 4G for a couple of years – Verizon says it plans to have its LTE network cover its entire 3G service area in three years – I understand this is an irrelevant argument. But even for them, a look at the many Android phones out there is still well worth the effort.

I can hardly wait for my contract to expire so I can dump my dreaded BlackBerry – there are words most of us didn’t expect to hear a few short years ago, and while it will still retain a sizable market share in the corporate world, RIM stands to be the big loser in the current handset war.

I understand the power of marketing, social media, and the influence of friends and family, a factor that Apple (News - Alert) has exploited to its fullest, and I have many colleagues and friends with iPhones. Yet, I’m not particularly inclined to rush out and buy an iPhone. Instead I am looking forward to testing out the 4G handsets that will be on the market by that time, and taking advantage of the latest network technologies and enjoying the capabilities of whatever 4G device I choose to their fullest.

For those out there excited about the Verizon iPhone, consider your options before making your decision. The iPhone, for all its great capabilities and features, isn’t without its flaws, the biggest of which – for the time being, at least – is that it’s a 3G device in a 4G era.

Erik Linask (News - Alert) is Group Editorial Director of TMC, which brings news and compelling feature articles, podcasts, and videos to 2,000,000 visitors each month. To see more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi