iPhone 4 on AT&T vs. iPhone 4S on Verizon

This past week my wife and I switched from AT&T to Verizon. She works at a fairly large company in Rhode Island which happens to offer benefits at a lot of national companies, including a 20% discount at Verizon Wireless. While my contract with AT&T wasn’t quite up yet, it was still an easy decision to switch – not only would the savings pay for the early termination fee in a short amount of time, we’d also be back on a network where 1 in 5 calls weren’t being dropped. AT&T might have great coverage in some parts of the country, but in Rhode Island at least we were not having very good luck at all.

Anyway, now that I’ve been using the new phone for a few days, I thought I would comment on some of the things I’ve observed.

It’s faster

Now, this could be solely because of the new processor, but I suspect I owe some of it to some housecleaning I did. When syncing, I unchecked a lot of apps that I wasn’t using anymore, and of course my camera roll is now virtually empty. But the faster processor is certainly noticeable.

The camera is way better

I haven’t tried any of the fancy red-eye reduction techniques, as I typically post-process my images in Photoshop anyway. But that is usually with a “real” camera. Even at 5MP, with a limited set of options the iPhone camera was not my go-to-device, but with the new 4S – at 8MP – it might be sufficient for some trips. Here I tried to take the same picture of a dopey Tom Brady from my DVR. The iPhone 4S is on the left, the iPhone 4 on the right.

(click for larger)

I resized the pictures to match, but based on specs alone you could guess that, in addition to the clearly superior color, the number of pixels in the picture on the left was substantially larger before modification. Of course this quality comes at a price – a typical picture on the iPhone 4 was 1.3MB, while it is over 2.3MB on the 4S. So if you’re going to be taking a lot of pictures, I’d stay away from the 16GB model and go for the 32GB or 64GB. Or be prepared to offload/purge often.

As an aside, who dressed Brady this morning? That hat makes him look like he’s hiding the fact that he’s auditioning for Coneheads 2.

Physical differences

Supposedly the antenna on the Verizon device is more reliable, though I never experienced the death grip issue with the AT&T device either. Size is identical, and weight seems relatively the same. Wasn’t expecting any surprises there. However, the mute and volume buttons are slightly offset due to the changed design of the antenna. This is something that was not a shock to me, as I had read about it long before I  And for the case I use (the Mophie Juice Pack Plus), the difference is more cosmetic than functional. I can still access the mute button, and the volume buttons work perfectly fine, but the cap exposes the mute button at a weird offset. I do hope that Mophie introduces provider-specific caps (they currently offer replacement caps for $9.95, but I’m not sure if these still adhere to the original AT&T design). Here are a couple of shots showing the difference:

(AT&T on top, Verizon on bottom)

And here is how the cap for the Mophie case looks:

Above, on the AT&T phone, the placement of the mute button window is perfectly centered. While below, you can see that while the window exposes the full mute button, it’s off-center (especially cumbersome if you have fat fingers) and also exposes one of the antenna seams. Maybe a good thing for reception, I’m not sure.

UPDATE 2011-12-05: According to @mophie, their current set of replacement caps are a universal design and should expose the mute button appropriately whether you have the old or new iPhone 4 and regardless of network. I’ll order one and let you know.

Provider issues

When we committed to Verizon a couple of weeks ago, the 4S phones were out of stock. Unless we wanted white, which we didn’t. Of course the phones arrived out of sequence; I received mine before we left for Jamaica, but Nicole did not get hers until we returned.I’m not complaining about this, in case it sounds like I am: we actually weren’t scheduled to receive them until December 9th. I guess the sooner they get us the phones, the sooner they get to issue the first bill.

While Verizon was pretty good about setting up our account and merging us into a family plan, the transition was far from flawless. For one, the Verizon Wireless store in Woonsocket is not actually a Verizon Wireless store, even though the storefront and all the branding make it appear to be. It’s actually run by some outfit called Wireless Connection acting as an approved reseller. We brought our phones there the other night and the door was locked. We knocked, and nobody seemed to be coming. We got back in the car and used a phone to search for the next closest VZW store – Bellingham, MA, about 20 minutes away. Then the guy in the store came and unlocked the door; guess he was working alone and took a bathroom break. We walked in and he wasn’t very helpful at all: “Sorry, we’re just a reseller, we can’t set up accounts or phones.” I think he just wanted to get rid of us so he could continue his bathroom break. I don’t know what else an “authorized reseller” can’t do, but I’m going to submit a suggestion to Verizon that they publish a list somewhere (or, if such a list already exists, make it more discoverable).

So we went to Bellingham, waited about half an hour (I guess when a store can actually do useful things for you, it’s busy) and finally got to talk to a CSR. She set up the account no problem, and ported our contacts between old and new phones. In my case, the list of contacts roughly doubled – not every contact, but any contact with an address got split out into two (one with phone + address, one with just phone). My phone was functional right away. Nicole’s did not work until yesterday. The CSR (and the person in Warwick who originally ordered her phone) forgot to tell her that she needed to dial *228 or something in order to port her old number over. This was done for me automatically, but this guy in Warwick for some reason assigned a fake, temporary number to her phone, and it was stuck like that until yesterday when we called Verizon with a WTF. They were great about resolving the issue quickly, but why did it have to happen that way?


All in all I’m very satisfied with the phone, and having been a BAM/Verizon customer for 10 years prior to switching to AT&T when they were the only iPhone provider, I know I’m going to be happier with the network. I think Verizon still has some customer service and process kinks to work out, however I’m hoping that the billing works out correctly and that we won’t have many opportunities to talk to their CSRs anyway.