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.

3 thoughts on “Is Verizon finally going on the offensive?

  1. I’ve been reading about Android constantly for the last few months while trying to figure out what to do when my current AT&T contract ends this December. I currently have a Blackberry that I’m happy with, but will be switching to an Android device. My current choice would be Sprint’s Hero, but there are a lot of Android phones coming out in the next few months, spread across multiple carriers.

    The device that Verizon is teasing in the iDon’t commercials is this one:

    It has a beefier processor than any previously released Android device, a 16:9 capacitive touch screen, and will run Android 2.0 out of the box.

    I don’t think that this phone will do much to upset the iPhone market, but I do think that it will at least get people talking about Android. Since not much has been released about Android 2.0 yet, I’m still sticking with the Hero if only for HTC’s amazing Sense UI which not only looks great, but adds a lot of really smart functionality on top of the standard Android OS.

    If you want to at least play around with Android a bit, the Sprint store in Greenway Station has a Hero on display that I went and toyed around with for about an hour last week. I suggest checking it out, even if you’re not going to switch any time soon.

  2. I disagree with a few of your points.

    1). The reason I haven’t switched to an iPhone isn’t the data plan cost… I prefer CDMA technology (since I live in the states), and I prefer Windows Mobile, where I can get almost anything for free, and if I wanted to, I could write my own apps, and tinker to my heart’s delight.

    2). In markets where Alltel users were of sufficient numbers to survey, Consumer Reports reported a higher customer satisfaction of wireless network, and customer service than the other companies (I seem to remember it was a pretty significant difference, say as much as 10% higher, but I could be wrong, while VZW and AT&T were neck and neck…).

    Also keep in mind, bars mean nothing, so unless you’re judging by your own ear as a means for quality of network coverage you’ve got no proof… (Since you haven’t unlocked your iPhone, I doubt you can get into the diagnostics to see the actual signal strengths — bars are misrepresentative measures because manufacturers don’t use standards for depicting signal strength, if you want facts you’ve got to read the signal strength and error-ratio/interference off the radio, usually in a phone’s diagnostic mode).

    It hasn’t just taken Verizon that long to launch some sort of rebuttal to the iPhone… it’s taken a lot of companies that long… Microsoft, HTC (and the other WM handset companies), and the other carriers.

    I think you’re exaggerating about the size of WM phones from the time you were up for renewal — as I recall, my HTC Touch is slightly thicker than your iPhone, slightly shorter, and the same width.

    Hacking a WM phone is pretty easy, building your own firmware is pretty easy, there IS a risk of bricking your device, but that risk is present on any device when flashing firmware. Granted, I might be more impressed with the iPhone if I saw one unlocked.

    As for the future?

    WM 6.5 has not impressed me greatly thus far (admittedly, my phone was not designed for it, and the ROM I am using is a poor implementation where everything works, but somethings do not work as I like).

    Android hasn’t impressed me much either – again, running android on my old HTC which isn’t likewise wasn’t designed for android, and the implementation isn’t the greatest either.

    I anticipate evaluating both platforms more fully when my contract runs up in March (I think).

    Leaning towards a Touch Pro2 (or better) or some sort of Android phone similar (or better) in specs to the Hero but with a keyboard built in. It will likely be an HTC phone though.

  3. I must admit that I really like their advertisement on “”



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