Is Verizon finally going on the offensive?

I was a loyal Verizon customer for years.  They always get the best ratings for network, customer service, and have the best Network Maps.  However, their phone selection has always been incredibly poor.  My Razr was one of the best phones they offered and it was locked down.  I couldn’t set a custom Ringtone unless I bought it through the Verizon Store, unlike other carrier’s Razrs.  I couldn’t run .jre apps, only the limited Verizon proprietary game store. I couldn’t customize any of the options other carriers let their Razrs change.  VERIZON WIRELESS was plastered over every screen.

AT&T is their main competitor and the only reason anyone goes with AT&T is the iPhone.  Their Cellular and Customer Service are generally ranked as either low or poor in comparison.  When my Verizon contract expired a year and a half ago, I wanted to stay with the Verizon network; I went to the store and asked: “What do you have that competes with the iPhone?”
They couldn’t answer. They didn’t really have anything.  Thick Windows Mobiles, Blackberries, and even pointed out that the dumb-phones were cheaper, that I didn’t really want those smart-phone features like web browsing, apps, email checking and calendar.(1)

So, I went to another Verizon store to get more opinions.  They reiterated the same opinion.  Apparently, they knew that any features they couldn’t offer were extraneous and that I didn’t really want them.

I went to the Verizon mall kiosk. They just kind of shrugged.

So I walked across from the mall kiosk into the mac store and picked up an iPhone. It’s great.  The service in Madison has been top-notch (even better than Verizon, which has a large Dead Zone in the Villas neighborhood they refuse to acknowledge).  It has poor reception on the highway as you drive north, but that is to be expected from their coverage map.  It’s not a good phone for emergency communication when you are out camping.  It is a great in-the-city phone.  And if you think the iPhone is locked down and limited, it is *liberating* compared to my Verizon dumb-phones. (2)

It has taken Verizon almost 2 years to start this campaign since the iPhone 3g and the App store were available.  It is as if they are just now realizing that the customers they were retaining were all stuck in contract.  I actually think the Android OS shows incredible promise, but is severely hindered by the hardware.  Current hardware is bulky and slow.

The question is: “Even with this new campaign, is Verizon Wireless going to continue their trend of offering awful hardware and hope their superior network will attract customers?”

That strategy hasn’t been working well so far.

An iPhone-like Android could definitely compete with the iPhone.  Google is a well known name and their OS is pretty good.  It won’t have the same brand recognition, but it could be competitive.  It probably could have stopped me from switching 1.5 years ago.  But is Verizon really going to release a well-made phone (one that is competitive with the iPhone), or are they going to half-ass it and release some locked-down, slow, thick piece of crap?

I hope for the former, but I expect the latter.

I really want to see a competitive Android on the Verizon network.  Almost everything I do on my iPhone is about linking it in some way with some workaround to sync to my Google account.  Having a Google phone would be a nice alternative.  I don’t know if it’ll be enough to make me want to switch back, but competitive pricing on a data plan would go a *long* way.  Anyone who hasn’t switch to the iPhone yet is only doing it for ONE reason: “I don’t want to pay for the data plan.”  The rest of us just suck it up and pay the additional $30 bucks.  Which is ironic, because AT&T is bitching their network is over-burdened and can’t offer Skype of 3G on the iPhone (even though they offer it on their other phones).  They say if they allow that feature on all of their iPhones, their network will hit capacity.  Of course, they force us to use Data plans on the iPhone, and a vast majority of their customers would not be on a data plan or using Skype if the Data plan was not contractually required.

In summary, all cell phone companies suck and text messaging should be free.  It doesn’t cost them a dime.

*(1) Email and Calendar on a dumb-phone is painful.  I TRIED on my Razr in an effort to not need to carry around my PDA.  Blackberries can do most of these, but the Web Browser and App selection are poor in comparison.  The WinMo phones can do all of this, but the hardware is generally slow and bulky (especially of the phones available 2 years ago; it is getting better now).

*(2) I don’t include hacking in here.  For every custom firmware, you could also just jailbreak your iPhone to gain tethering, background tasks, etc.  Hacking the iPhone is generally easier than any of the other hacks out there.