iFixit Verizon iPhone Teardown Reveals Dual-Mode Global Radio

The moment is here, folks. The first Verizon iPhone preorders are arriving in mailboxes, and Verizon customers can finally get their mitts on their fancy new iPhone 4s. And of course, with a new Apple device comes a new iFixit Teardown Guide with instructions on how to take the thing apart.

While the hardware in this phone was mostly pretty predictable–largely identical to the AT&T counterpart, there was one interesting tidbit that iFixit dug up–a dual mode cellular radio.

To the left is the Qualcomm MDM6600 found in the Verizon iPhone 4 (and also the Droid 2 Global), a dual-mode chip which supports both GSM and CDMA signals. For the non-technically inclined, this radio will theoretically work on both AT&T and Verizon, and is also compatible with the largely GSM cellular networks in other parts of the world. Most people had predicted that Apple would go in this unified direction with the iPhone 5 later this year, but nobody predicted that the Verizon iPhone 4 would have this chip in it.

There is a catch, however. A normal GSM phone will have a SIM card slot, this is how GSM phones identify their service provider and telephone number. The Verizon iPhone, however, has no such slot. Those of you hoping to travel across the world with your Verizon iPhone might be out of luck, as it’s not a true dual-band phone without a SIM card slot.

So why didn’t they make the Verizon iPhone dual-band? According to iFixit, “It may be that it was easier to design antennas for a CDMA-only phone — this phone supports two cellular frequency bands, while Apple supports five bands in the GSM version.” It’s also possible that Apple is just holding off on the “global” feature until the iPhone 5, which is largely rumored to be a unified device that works on all carriers.

I’m sure the question on everyone’s mind is “So when is the Verizon iPhone going to be hacked to activate the GSM radio?” The answer is, unfortunately, probably never. The lack of a SIM card slot is a dealbreaker–unless someone were to somehow hack the necessary hardware into the tiny logic board of the device, it’s very unlikey that this particular iPhone will ever see a GSM signal. Global explorers will have to just wait until July and the probable iPhone 5 announcement.

Verizon iPhone Vs. AT&T iPhone

The Verizon iPhone is currently shipping to lucky pre-order customers, and Verizon had so many pre-orders in the first day they had to shut their iPhone website down. The Verizon iPhone is clearly the new hot gadget, but what exactly sets the Verizon version apart from the AT&T one? If you’re thinking of moving or just want to be aware of their differences, here’s a simple look at what exactly makes these phones different.

1. AT&T’s GSM network is global

AT&T’s network uses GSM, a standard that is also used all across the world. If you were to unlock your AT&T iPhone and go to Europe, you could simply swap out the SIM card already in your iPhone with one from a European provider and  the iPhone  would work normally. With the Verizon iPhone, however, the radio limits it to the United States only

2. GSM Allows for simultaneous Voice & Data

Perhaps the biggest difference between these phones is the AT&T model’s ability to do voice and data at the same time. One of the first iPhone commercials ever showed a person getting directions somewhere while in the middle of a phone call, but that’s not going to be possible with the Verizon version of the iPhone. Unless you’re connected to a WiFi network, being on a phone call disables the data (Internet) abilities of the phone. While on a call, you’re simply not able to use the Browser, Maps, or any other Internet apps.

3. Speed and Coverage

Verizon has 3G coverage for most of America, while AT&T has less 3G coverage. A&T’s 3G, however, is noticeably faster than Verizon’s. If you live in a place that has strong AT&T 3G coverage, there may be no reason to switch to Verizon. If, however, you’re in a place that only gets EDGE service on AT&T, the Verizon iPhone could give you a significant speed increase.

4. Wireless Hotspot

Verizon also has enabled a feature of the iPhone that’s available in other places in the world: wireless hotspot functionality. For an extra $20 a month on the Verizon iPhone, you’ll be able to turn the device into a wireless hotspot. That means that you can use it to create a WiFi signal, and then connect WiFi devices like laptops, desktop PCs or an iPad and share the Internet with them.

Wireless hotspot is great if you’re traveling, away from your home or in a pinch. AT&T has not allowed this service as of now, although a jailbroken iPhone can be made into a WiFi device if you’re willing to break your Terms of Service.

5. Verizon’s data is uncapped

Verizon’s “unlimited” data plan is actually unlimited. AT&T has a 2GB monthly cap on their subscriber’s bandwidth, which is a good amount but is definitely possible to hit with a a lot of use. AT&T has said that they will provide unlimited bandwidth to iPhone users who would switch to Verizon otherwise, but this is not their standard practice and who knows how long it will last. As a Verizon customer, I have had unlimited data for as long as I’ve had a smartphone, and it will surely last for the foreseeable future.

6. Conclusion

In the end, since the devices look exactly the same, it’s really up to your personal situation which one will be best for you. If you think you’re going to need voice and data at the same time, pick AT&T (though, as a Verizon customer, I’ve never found this limitation to be any kind of an issue at all). If you are living in an area that has weak AT&T coverage, or think you’ll be using more than 2GB of bandwidth a month, Verizon could be a great choice.

For reference, he’s a chart comparing some of the key differences between devices:

Global UsabilityNoYes
Simultaneous Voice & DataNoYes
Network Strong PointCoverage AreaMaximum Speed
WiFi Hotspot Functionality YesNo
Data Bandwidth CapNone2GB

HTML Tables

3 Things You’ll Miss if You Switch From Your Droid to a Verizon iPhone

After years of speculation, Verizon announced today that they will be carrying the iPhone 4 starting on February 20. For the usual $200 and a 2-year contract, Verizon users can finally get their hands on Apple’s coveted device. But what if you already have an Android phone? Is the move over to iOS worth it? This blogger doesn’t really think so.
Looking at what I do with my Android phone and what’s available on an iPhone 4 right now, there are a few things that I think will be sorely missed if I switched to an iPhone 4 next month and here’s what they are.
1. Free 3G Tethering
Tethering is great in a pinch. Since I live in the city and don’t travel a lot, I don’t need it that often, but there are times when it really comes in handy. Untimely Internet outage when you need to finish a research paper? Tether! Stuck on a train that’s been delayed for several hours and need help killing time? Tether! Verizon is making a big deal out of their iPhone’s ability to act as a 3G hotspot, but there is no doubt that this will be an add-on service which adds money to your monthly bill. For those of us who might only tether once or twice a month, this isn’t a good solution. Android has a variety of WiFi and wired tethering apps available for free or cheap in the Market, and it would be hard to live without them on an iPhone.
2. An open app Market
Now that I’m used to Android’s Market, it would be hard to go back to the walled garden of the App Store. It’s comforting to know that if there’s ever any part of the Android OS that I don’t really like, there are at least a couple of suitable replacements on the Market that might be more what I’m looking for. Apple’s restrictions make those sorts of app replacements impossible, and their limitations on what App Store apps can interface with on your phone seriously limits creativity for developers. It took Google Voice years to come to the App Store due to Apple’s rejection, and I highly doubt you will see an app as powerful as Tasker on the App Store anytime soon, or a replacement keyboard as good as Swype and Swiftkey (or any replacement keyboards at all). Android’s abilities are much greater in this area.
3. Very frequent software updates
On the iPhone, you get one software update per year–that’s been Apple’s pattern at least so far. Google, on the other hand, has been rolling out two to three major Android releases every year, with plenty of minor software tweaks in between. An easy example is the Maps app. Maps in iOS has not seen a major update since the iPhone’s initial release, while Maps for Android is updates seemingly monthly. Google has added vector graphics, turn-by-turn navigation and lots of other features to the Android version, but these have never made it over to the iPhone. Updates to Android come at a fever pace, and that’s a good thing for consumers, a good thing for developers, and definitely a good reason to stick with your Android phone.

Verizon iPhone Rumors Almost Confirmed

Verizon iPhone Rumors almost confirmed — we are talking about 99.999% confirmed here. According to DigiTimes, Apple has a shipment goal of around six million CDMA iPhones scheduled for early 2011. For even the moderate geek, you know that AT&T is a GSM network. That means that Verizon is finally getting a piece of the iPhone 4.

The DigiTimes article reports that the large shipment of CDMA iPhones will be going to North America and Asia Pacific. As we have talked about in the past, Verizon has gone through a major overhaul of its CDMA network. Gearing up with 4G LTE, Verizon’s network is finally able to take a huge stress attack of iPhones to the network.

If the Verizon iPhone rumors prove true in early 2011, it will be a big relief for users. There have been numerous complaints about AT&T’s coverage and support. According to a Consumer Reports survey, AT&T ran dead last in customer satisfaction.

The promising 4G LTE Verizon network and reliability go well with the iPhone 4. The only surprise that would come out of this story is if Apple doesn’t release an iPhone for Verizon in the first quarter of 2011.

Verizon Apple iPhone In 2011: Is It A Rumor Or A Sure Thing?

The reports that Verizon will get their hands on an iPhone, which AT&T has been peddling exclusively,  has garnered much attention in the news. But one must remember that this is rumor only and may not be a sure thing. We have heard many times before that Apple was wanting to expand their horizons and could offer the iPhone to other cell phone companies.

But according to the AppleInsider it may be too early to count your chickens:

But Reiner isn’t completely sold on the prospect of a Verizon iPhone in early 2011. The analyst, in a note issued to investors Wednesday morning, noted that such rumors have surfaced numerous times.

“Similar speculation has emerged before, so barring independent confirmation or a press release from one of the parties, it’d be rash to pop the champagne,” he wrote. “Still, it’s worth considering the potential implications.”

The impact for Apple would be huge, he believes, adding at least 12 million additional iPhone sales in the U.S. annually. That would amount to $7 billion in incremental revenue and more than $3 in incremental earnings per share.

“Many investors have mused about this upside, but few, we believe, have built it into their models or expectations,” he said. “If this is real, it’s big and it’s incremental.”

On AT&T alone, Apple over the last year sold 11 million iPhones to its 65 million postpaid install base of subscribers. Some of those subscribers who switched for the iPhone would inevitably move back to Verizon if Apple’s handset became available on its network, Reiner said. But with Verizon’s 83 million subscribers, Verizon would likely add at least 12 million net subscribers for Apple, and likely many more.

And from a strategic standpoint, Yainer said he believes it makes sense, as adding Verizon would “significantly blunt the competitive threat” from Google’s Android mobile operating system. Since last year, Verizon has worked closely with Google to offer some of the best Android devices in an effort to compete with the iPhone.

That is the key ingredient which could keep Verizon from making the move. Verizon has spent a lot of time and energy working with Google and the Android mobile operating system. Would Verizon want to give up that partnership to add the iPhone to their offering of cell phones? Would AT&T not fight to keep their exclusive contract with Apple to be the only cell phone carrier to offer the device?

Until one of the players, Apple or Verizon, confirms the rumor, it will remain exactly what it is — a rumor.

Comments welcome.

Source – AppleInsider