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Am I crazy to even consider switching from Verizon to AT&T for the iPhone?
April 26, 2011 6:40 PM   Subscribe

I'm a longtime Verizon customer. Due to one of those "AUGH" instances, missed out on upgrading to the iPhone (details inside). I'm considering switching TO AT&T just to get an iPhone. Is this completely nuts?

Verizon offers a "new every two" deal, that allows you to upgrade/change to another phone for a discounted price after your two-year contract is up. Seven years with the same phone, and I never bothered to take advantage of that, because I was quite happy with my phone. Finally, it gave up the ghost in December. I had waited and waited and waited on the rumor that Verizon would be getting the iPhone, but finally gave up when my original phone died, and there seemed to be no progress on the iPhone front.

New-every-two gives customers a 30-day grace period, during which they can return your new phone if they don't like it, and the "new every two" date disappears until they choose to swap their phone again--at any time.

Eleven days after my grace period was up, the announcement that the iPhone would be coming to Verizon was made.

I called Verizon's customer service (which has always been wonderful) and explained my situation. I've been a customer for eight years. I've never missed a payment. I would never have swapped for a new-every-two phone if the iPhone announcement had been made. The CSR tried all avenues, but was unable to find a way to help me out.

I am not going to pay $700 for an iPhone just to stay with Verizon.

I know that AT&T's reception is for shit, but I am seriously considering switching. What do you think? Is it worth it? Do you want to talk me out of it? Share your wisdom, MetaFilter!
posted by tzikeh to Technology (44 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Depends on how good AT&T is in Chicago. Here in NYC it's for shit, and there's no way you should switch. Maybe Chicago (assuming that's still where you are) is better, though.

How badly do you want an iPhone specifically? Could you shine it on with an iPod Touch, or even consider an iPad if you really want a portable device with 3G data on board? Just some things to consider.

Also, given that you've just gotten a new phone, that probably means that you've renewed your contract with Verizon, which means that canceling on them will incur the Early Termination Fee, which last time I checked runs about $200, possibly more, and is almost impossible to get out of. So you can basically tack that much onto whatever the iPhone is going for when you sign up with AT&T.
posted by pts at 6:46 PM on April 26, 2011


Can't you just sign another 2 year contract and pay the contract price for the phone? It appears to be $200-300, depending on which model iPhone you want.
posted by decathecting at 6:46 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe I'm just lucky, but my NYC AT+T service is just fine. Never a problem even when I travel.
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:47 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am an AT&T iPhone user. I am considering breaking my contact to go to Verizon.
My phone drops at least one call a day. I get static on the phone in many places - including my own phone.

The iPhone is a very cool device - but the phone part of it is terrible. I work in construction, and have a nextel two-way for work. That is the phone I use to make phone calls. I would never rely on my iPhone for any serious calls.

Of Course, the phone part of it is all network problems. So, really, I would say, the iPhone is great, but the AT&T network simply cannot make it work as a phone.
posted by Flood at 6:48 PM on April 26, 2011


decathecting: "Can't you just sign another 2 year contract"

No - once you do "new every two," that day becomes the first day of a new two-year contract date. The next time I can change my phone for the 2-year-contract price is 2012.
posted by tzikeh at 6:48 PM on April 26, 2011


pts: "How badly do you want an iPhone specifically? Could you shine it on with an iPod Touch, or even consider an iPad if you really want a portable device with 3G data on board? Just some things to consider."

The iPad isn't a phone. I have an iPod Touch, but it's not a phone.
posted by tzikeh at 6:51 PM on April 26, 2011


AT&T's network is terrible here in San Francisco. It depends on what you want - having a reliable network is most important to me, and I switched out of AT&T to Verizon at my first opportunity.

It totally sucks that they won't give you a break, but there's no way in h*** that I'd go back to AT&T.
posted by jasper411 at 6:53 PM on April 26, 2011


I'd call back Verizon and tell them "I'm canceling my account" and see where it goes from there.

FWIW, I love my iPhone (on AT&T. I've only had reception issues in San Francisco during business hours, never an issue out in the 'burbs.) but I'm also a heavy data user and under-average talker. My very chatty SO loves his Droid X on Verizon, if you want to look in that model or whatever has replaced it.
posted by jamaro at 6:53 PM on April 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Anecdote: I have an iPhone 4 on AT&T and the "reception is for shit" is totally overblown. I never have problems. Probably just as often as any other service provider. I'm in Philadelphia, PA.

As mentioned above, you'd have to consider the contract termination fee, plus the cost of the new phone. Is it worth it for you?

FWIW, AT&T will let you upgrade much, much earlier if you are an iPhone customer of theirs. I bought a 3GS in October, and when the iPhone 4 came out the next summer, I was able to renew my contract another two years and get the 4 at the new contract price. And I made a huge profit on the purchase by selling the unlocked and jailbroken 3GS on ebay.

YMMV.
posted by two lights above the sea at 6:53 PM on April 26, 2011


Your two-year deal has a buyout amount.

in order to go to AT&T, you'll have to pay that. Plus the cost of the new iPhone. And get the 2 year contract on AT&T.

Couldn't you just buy out of the contract, cancel the account, and then create a *new* contract with them? Yes, you end up spending $PhonePrice + $EarlyTerminationFee, but you'll be doing exactly the same thing to move to AT&T.
posted by toomuchpete at 6:59 PM on April 26, 2011


I worked for Verizon. I got so pissed at them I changed my cell phone to AT&T. Then I had a problem with my bill and had to talk to AT&T. Holy shit. I went back to Verizon. Verizon's service sucks so much- but is so much better than AT&T.
posted by beccaj at 7:03 PM on April 26, 2011


I'm still on the original 3G (AT&T) and I have no problems with it. That said, I want to switch. I don't think AT&T has tethering, and you can't surf data and use voice at the same time on Verizon. Otherwise they are more or less the same.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:04 PM on April 26, 2011


You need to do a little math here. Specifically, you need

(cost of breaking Verizon contract) + (cost of AT&T phone) + (cost of AT&T activation)

vs

(cost of buying an iPhone outright from Verizon)

If you got a smartphone for your new every 2, the cost of breaking the Verizon contract may be over $300 (working from memory here). So suddenly the difference might only be $200 or $300, not $500. You might be willing to forgo that $200 to stay with Verizon.

Since others are adding their anecdata, I'll add mine: I had an iPhone a year ago, and I paid to break my contract and get a Droid just to escape AT&T's reception problems. I've never regretted the decision, all of my reception problems disappeared immediately.

Another thing you could consider is there will probably be a new iPhone released within a year. If you don't already have a smartphone, maybe you could buy a cheap smartphone from Verizon (I found some basic Android phones for $250 - $300 without a contract) and wait to make this decision when the new iPhone is released? It would be a shame to shell out all of this cash to move to AT&T and then be one-upped by the new release. After that release, you might decide to move to AT&T to get the new iPhone. If you leave now, that option is gone.
posted by Tehhund at 7:05 PM on April 26, 2011


New every two actually means new every 18 months, just so you know, at least in my experience.
posted by sandmanwv at 7:08 PM on April 26, 2011


Consider converting your account to a family account, that way you can have an extra line for something like 10 bucks a month and can use that upgrade to get an iPhone. Got to a store and talk to a rep they should be able to figure something out for you.
posted by pyro979 at 7:09 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


My AT&T coverage seems fine in Seattle. The real question is what the coverage is like where you live, work, and will use your phone most of the time.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:12 PM on April 26, 2011


I'm in the AT&T reception is for shit crowd, though it depends where you are. In DC, I was not able to use my phone in my home for almost a month. No reception at all--could not make or receive phone calls. Reception on the street was hit or miss; I'd drop several calls a day, sometimes more depending on where I was. When I took my complaints to AT&T, they suggested getting an mrouter, i.e. pay more money just to achieve basic functionality on my phone. It's improved somewhat while at home without the router, but I'd say I still get a dropped call at least once a day, and texts can sometimes be delayed for hours, or just never/send receive in the first place. I'm pretty seriously switching to Droid/another carrier when my contract is up because I spend far too much time being infuriated with AT&T/apologizing to friends and colleagues for delayed replies and continued dropped calls.
posted by HonoriaGlossop at 7:19 PM on April 26, 2011


For three or four years now, you've been in this same situation--a Verizon customer relatively happy with their service, unable to get an iPhone, with the option of moving to AT&T to get one. The only difference now is some frustrating timing that is keeping you from getting the iPhone now that Verizon has it. (And until recently, you could have switched to AT&T without breaking a contract.)

So I'd say:

1) Don't let your frustration goad you into throwing a bunch of money into doing something that you could have done much less expensively any time in the last three years, and will be able to do inexpensively 18 months or two years from now.

2) If it's really killing you not to have an iPhone, keep talking to Verizon until you get someone who can help cut you a deal. They'll probably be willing to work with you some to keep a customer.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:22 PM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't know, I have AT&T in NYC and just have the occasional dropped call, and also have had excellent experiences with several service reps. I mean it can take a while on the phone, but they are pretty personable and helpful. One of these representatives talked to her manager and got us approved for a standard upgrade this week instead of waiting for August after she heard "in my voice" that getting my daughter a gophone for a few months (the rep's first recommendation) would be disappointing. I hadn't given the representative any grief and, when she said that, felt like either I or my daughter must be a spoiled brat!

(Long story short, my daughter's phone screen had given out, and thanks to AT&T customer service, she got an upgrade to a Blackberry for $50 now instead of several months from now.)

Don't mean to sound like a shill, here, just to say I've had good service from AT&T, and this was just the most recent example.
posted by torticat at 7:22 PM on April 26, 2011


Just called Verizon and explained my entire situation. I said, unhappily, that I would be switching to AT&T if they were unable to help me, even though I love Verizon's coverage, and their customer service. No go.

***

Verizon early termination: $155
Cost of iPhone on AT&T: $199
Cost of AT&T activation: $36
Total: $390

Retail price of Verizon iPhone: $700.

***

Family account plan on Verizon (i.e. adding another phone/line): $100/mo (before $199/$299 for iPhone, before taxes)
My current plan on Verizon: $50/mo (after taxes)

***

I didn't think about the fact that there will probably be a new iPhone in the coming year. Hm.
posted by tzikeh at 7:23 PM on April 26, 2011


I don't think you're crazy to switch to AT&T, especially if you come out ahead cost-wise. But, MacRumors says to wait. Other rumors indicate the iPhone 5 will be coming a lot sooner than you think.
posted by jabberjaw at 7:26 PM on April 26, 2011


keep talking to Verizon until you get someone who can help cut you a deal. They'll probably be willing to work with you some to keep a customer.

Oh yes, I also meant to say this! If AT&T would work with us, I'm guessing Verizon will work with you, especially if you have a stellar account; you just need to reach the right person.
posted by torticat at 7:26 PM on April 26, 2011


Can you wait for iPhone 5 to come out and then buy someone's Verizon iPhone 4 on ebay at a (presumably large) discount? This is less than ideal in some ways – used phone, not the latest model. However, think of it this way – you get the same model phone you'd have had if you waited for the Verizon iPhone announcement before upgrading, at a price that might rival the price you would have paid with a two-year contract, since the equipment will be old.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 7:36 PM on April 26, 2011


(Caveat – I don't actually know how the prices tend to change on these things when a new model comes out. It's just a thought.)
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 7:37 PM on April 26, 2011


You're missing a scenario from your math, as dixiecupdrinking pointed out:

Motorola Cirtus to tide you over: $250
Refub iPhone 4 after iPhone 5 comes out: unknown, but 3GS ones are on ebay for $300.

That's not great in the short term, but it fills your requirements and leaves you the option of jumping to the iPhone 5 instead of the 4. Or you could just stay with your current phone until the 5 comes out and skip the awkwardness of getting an interim smartphone.
posted by Tehhund at 7:48 PM on April 26, 2011


For the last three years, there's been a new iPhone released each June/July, but Apple has said this year's phone will be delayed. (I don't think they've officially said why, but it's believed to be due to the tsunamis in Japan.)

John Gruber believes the iPhone 5 will be released in September, if that helps with your decision-making.
posted by Georgina at 7:50 PM on April 26, 2011


torticat:
Oh yes, I also meant to say this! If AT&T would work with us, I'm guessing Verizon will work with you, especially if you have a stellar account; you just need to reach the right person.
"

I tried for 20 minutes; CSR said there was absolutely nothing he could do, even with my spectacular history with Verizon. I asked to be bumped up to a manager, and he said that the CSRs are the most lenient and likely to make deals; the further up the chain you go, the less likely it is you'll get anything at all.
posted by tzikeh at 7:54 PM on April 26, 2011


Call Verizon, get a supervisor, and you should prevail. I'd been with them for 15 years, my " new every two" was due in July, got an iPhone when they came out. Just be pushy and persistent.

If you keep repeating "I'm a long time customer" often enough, you should win. But get a supervisor--the guy who answers can't make the deal. You do have to be very firm.

I know the comment right above me says the opposite, but I've never had a supervisor turn me down.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:56 PM on April 26, 2011


The guy who answered said CSRs are the only ones who *can* make deals. I see no reason for him to tell me that I will get nowhere if I talk to a supervisor--that seems completely pointless.

But I guess I'll call back tomorrow and ask for a supervisor.
posted by tzikeh at 8:04 PM on April 26, 2011


I'm in Chicago and although two years ago I had lots of dropped call problems it hasn't been an issue for quite a while. I do notice that anywhere in the Loop reception is crap. I hear all of the complaints but for every time a friend has an iPhone that doesn't work in their office another has a Verizon/T-Mobile/Whatever phone that only gets call on their porch and can't be used inside.

Since I work from home and spend most of my time there I made sure I tested out the phone before I rented. Have you tested out an iPhone (of a friend) wherever you are most likely to use it? I always heard that Verizon was the greatest until my friend was running around her house trying to get reception and apologizing for having Verizon. I don't know many people that are 100% happy with their coverage in big cities, YMMV. Good luck and keep your eyes on September for the iPhone.
posted by Bunglegirl at 8:14 PM on April 26, 2011


For the last three years, there's been a new iPhone released each June/July, but Apple has said this year's phone will be delayed. (I don't think they've officially said why, but it's believed to be due to the tsunamis in Japan.)

John Gruber believes the iPhone 5 will be released in September, if that helps with your decision-making.


My guess is that the September release date is for both AT&T and Verizon -- instead of going with the AT&T release in summer and VZW release the following winter, Apple is splitting the difference and having a co-release during the fall.

I suggest you wait until the release in the fall. At that time, sell your current phone on eBay to subsidize the whopping amount you will have to pay for a new iPhone. Just don't switch to AT&T -- the risk of poor reception is too great (I don't make a lot of calls, so it seems like literally every call I make gets dropped on AT&T).
posted by puritycontrol at 8:19 PM on April 26, 2011


My AT&T service in Chicago is awful. When I have service, calls get dumped constantly. Lately, I don't even have service a few times a day (I'm on the north side). I do love my iPhone.

I would see if you can find a phone on eBay or something. I would probably pay full price before switching to AT&T.

The only reason I keep it is that I'm on my dad's plan - so my cell costs $10/month. AT&T is worth that much, but not even $5 more.

And you will be locked in for two years. I'm having trouble reconciling my new contract for the iPhone 5. And I'm not even paying for it.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 8:21 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


New every two actually means new every 18 months, just so you know, at least in my experience.

While formerly correct, this has changed (specifically due to the arrival of the iPhone--and though that link is Verizon specific, it's also true for ATT and Sprint).

I've been in Chicago (specifically the Loop area, but also in the 'burbs and areas pretty far out of the center of town) with a AT&T phone and found it perfectly usable. I was using a dumbphone, so can't comment on the data issues but considering my AT&T reception is absolute shit where I am now, I think phone reception can sometimes be a decent proxy for data connection (except, it should be noted, in SF and NYC where iPhone saturation has led to issues).

Finally, my local AT&T store is somewhat pessimistically stating that October is the date for iPhone 5. That, at least for my location, is the official corporate line.

Given those points, I'd suggest waiting. You don't say (or I missed you saying) what kind of phone you have now, but it's worked fine up til now so surely it'll work until the latest iPhone comes out.
posted by librarylis at 8:43 PM on April 26, 2011


librarylis: " You don't say (or I missed you saying) what kind of phone you have now, but it's worked fine up til now so surely it'll work until the latest iPhone comes out."

I had the Treo 650 for seven years. When it finally got to the point that it was a pain in the ass (volume buttons no longer worked, etc.), I used my new-every-two to get an LG Cosmos. WORST. MISTAKE. EVER. This is the world's shittiest phone and I hate it with every fiber of my being. Five months in and I hate it more and more every day.
posted by tzikeh at 8:53 PM on April 26, 2011


I see no reason for him to tell me that I will get nowhere if I talk to a supervisor--that seems completely pointless.

Let me help kick-start your imagination.

- Maybe that's what he's supposed to tell you. Not making deals saves them money, especially if there are no repercussions (customer leaving).

- Maybe his particular manager(s) were sick of him not knowing how to get things done for customers and he worried that if they kept having to handle his calls, he'd be in trouble.

- Maybe he was over his allotted time-per-call and he needed to lower his average and needed you off the phone.

- Maybe he hates iPhones -- and the people who buy them -- and just didn't want you to have one.

- Maybe he was simply mistaken.

...but, really, the number of situations in which a person's boss does not have the authority to do the things their subordinates do is pretty rare.
posted by toomuchpete at 10:24 PM on April 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


I've heard that with some companies it helps if you [ask to] speak with the "retention department." From brief googling I'm not sure whether Verizon has one, but someone gives a supposed phone number for it here.
posted by needs more cowbell at 11:09 PM on April 26, 2011


I would never rely on my iPhone for any serious calls.

This is a bit silly. I'm an iPhone user with AT&T, and while I've had a dropped call here or there, it really hasn't been a problem at all. Aside from the very occasional dropped call, I don't notice any difference between the phone call experience on an iPhone and my previous (Nokia or maybe Motorola??) phone.

Answering the original question, I'm not sure I'd switch exclusively for an iPhone. Have you called Verizon to see if maybe they can make an exception in your case or otherwise engineer it so that you can get an iPhone sooner than two years with minimal inconvenience on your part? Mention that you are strongly considering changing providers.
posted by Sara C. at 4:12 AM on April 27, 2011


My husband and I left Verizon for a somewhat similar reason. And we had been long time customers like you who were paying a non-trivial amount for two smart phones with unlimited data and a bunch of minutes (we both use our phones for work and home). We were so pissed that we even paid the early termination fee because they were completely full stop unwilling to work with us.

The Verizon network is definitely better than AT&T right now (although who knows with the whole T-mobile thing) BUT we have never regretted it. We love our new phones, happily upgraded to the 4 not long after they came out and are still loving them hard. Our plans with data etc are still cheaper than what we were paying on Verizon and we still think they were dumb to throw away about 2k a year from us because they didn't want to help us upgrade our phones. So I feel like the joke is on them.
posted by Kimberly at 6:42 AM on April 27, 2011


I have AT&T (in Chicago) and know a number of people who have AT&T phones (not iPhones) and the service works fine for me and them. My friends with the iPhones, however, get crappy service all the time. The problem is the phone.

There was a rough patch late last year when calls were dropping for me, but in the 6 or so years I have been with AT&T, the service has been pretty good.

(The worst service I've ever seen was actually someone with Verizon. This was back a while, however. But the reception, call quality, etc., was terrible.)

If you want to get some love from Verizon, call during business hours and start asking for supervisors. The CSRs are likely trained to not want to do that, so you have to be persistent. If you get the "I couldn't do that even if I wanted to" game, just start for asking for someone who can.
posted by gjc at 7:00 AM on April 27, 2011


Its probably true that his manager wouldn't have been able to do anything. But sadly the next level or the level after that might be able to. Escalate this issue to someone who doesn't have to answer your calls. If you don't get any help there send a letter to their executive board. Explaining that you have been with them for 8 years that you would not have updated you phone had the previous one not failed mechanically. Companies make exceptions for stuff like this all the time as long as you whine enough and go high enough. Your problem seems like something they would probably be happy to fix.
posted by Rubbstone at 8:06 AM on April 27, 2011


You could try an EECB - Consumerist readers seem to get magical things with this method!
posted by radioamy at 8:21 AM on April 27, 2011


Another Chicago datapoint. I'm in Chicago on AT&T and the service is absolute crap. I take the northline Metra and have three complete dead zones in the city limits. I get zero bars at Lake, again at North and in Roger Park. This is both on a blackberry and an iPad.
posted by rtimmel at 8:34 AM on April 27, 2011


I have an iphone and Verizon.

My fiance has an iphone and AT&T.

We live in Chicago.

I have much MUCH better service than he has.
posted by Windigo at 1:01 PM on April 27, 2011


AT&T customer service is the worst.

I wonder if it would be worthwhile to terminate your contract with Verizon and pay the fee, and then start a new contract with Verizon to get a discounted iPhone.
posted by exogenous at 2:04 PM on April 27, 2011


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