Thursday, September 1, 2011

AT&T or Verizon?

There are two communications giants battling it out to own as much as they can of the traffic exploding from the iPhone and iPad markets. The iPad and the smartphone are both extraordinarily sophisticated devices that give their users abilities for Internet access and very smart apps at their fingertips virtually anywhere. None of this magic is possible, however, without a communications provider that can hold up to the demand. Therefore, it pays to do a comparison of the two big dogs in the communications world to see which will give you the best service when using your iPad or iPhone. Those two big dogs are AT&T and Verizon.

In terms of costs or contracts for tapping into the AT&T or Verizon networks, the differences are few. You will still find yourself signing up for a two-year contract with either carrier. The phones that are sold that are compatible with AT&T run in the $200-$300 range and the same costs will be there for good smartphones that salute the Verizon flag, so to find differences, we have to look elsewhere.

Performance is where most people find the differences worth noting between AT&T and Verizon. AT&T has a reputation of seeing a great deal of congestion on their bandwidth in big cities. Verizon’s ability to deliver wider coverage in less-populated areas seems to do well for many of their customers. The result is that depending on location, Verizon’s service can be faster. AT&T began implementing upgrades to reduce that performance discrepancy in the last year.

AT&T and Verizon use different kinds of networks, which impacts where their strengths lie. Verizon has done its primary development using CDMA whereas AT&T taps the GSM markets. The big advantage this gives to AT&T is that GSM is much more common internationally. That gives AT&T the edge if you will be taking your smartphone or tablet device with you on international trips.

Verizon does have a nice technological plus in the feature called the Personal Hotspot. With a Verizon iPhone with Personal Hotspot enabled, you can connect to your Verizon phone network and then your iPhone becomes essentially a WiFi hub, letting you drive your Internet-enabled gadgets through your iPhone to give you personal connectivity. That is a pretty nifty feature.

The AT&T’s equivalent is a feature that lets you use a single computer by connecting it to your iPhone using a single USB port connection. Both of these Internet support functions come at a small additional cost for both providers. That costs runs from $20-$25 per month, which could be worth it to get Internet connectivity anywhere you can work with your smartphone.

Both AT&T and Verizon are constantly upgrading their services to be more competitive. For a while, Verizon had the edge when AT&T eliminated unlimited data services. That advantage is vanishing as Verizon phases that out as well. There is also the issue with older Verizon services that limit the ability to use your device as an Internet terminal while also making a call. These limitations are being phased out as well.

The time to consider the value of AT&T or Verizon is when you are in the market for a new phone. Since you will have to sign a two-year contract, considering making that move when you still have time on your old contract may just cause you frustration. It is good, however, to stay knowledgeable about what the major communications carriers have to offer and which phone or tablet devices will deliver that value, so that if a friend or loved one joins the party, you can give good advice. You also will have some direction on which carrier to use for when your contract is up.

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