The iPhone 4 will be available on Verizon Wireless within weeks, but what does that mean for media companies?
With many newsrooms using smart phones to gather news and report live from the field, the iPhone’s availability on Verizon may make it a more attractive choice than in the past. But, a few variables need to be factored into that decision.
In terms of technology, the two phones — on AT&T and Verizon — are almost identical. Verizon uses a different cellular technology, CDMA, which is probably of little note to the average consumer but of importance to journalists (more on that in a bit).
Cost is always an issue, and the phone itself starts at $199 with a two-year contract on either carrier. Individual voice plans are also identical at $70 a month for unlimited calling. However, for data, Verizon is offering an unlimited plan for $30, while AT&T’s top package allows 2GB of data for $25.
And the data plan is especially of interest to journalists, as Verizon has announced its iPhone can be used as a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot for an additional fee. AT&T allows physical tethering — connecting the phone to a laptop for Internet connectivity — but Verizon’s solution will allow five devices to connect via the phone wirelessly.
This is similar to the MiFi technology already in use by many journalists. However, due to the limitations of CDMA, the Verizon iPhone cannot allow concurrent voice and data connections. So, if you have two laptops connected to the Internet via your phone, the Web connection will be cut if the phone rings.
For the average consumer, that may not be a major concern. But it certainly is for journalists in the field. It is difficult to imagine a photographer on deadline being unable to make or receive phone calls while her images are being transmitted. A fix for this problem is in the works, but no official timetable has been announced by Verizon.
The CDMA issue is not necessarily a deal breaker for newsrooms; any smart phone sold by Verizon has the same limitation. But, until the problem is resolved, it does limit the usefulness of the device as a full-fledged reporting tool.