Samuel L. Lytle

Over the past four years, it seems like Apple’s iPhone has quickly taken over the world. From spunky, white commercials to less-than-subtle product placement to television personalities clinging to the ‘precious’ gadget as if it will grant them immortality, this touch screen phone has reached into every corner of the globe.

Every corner, that is, except the greater Lincoln County vicinity.

This week, that all changes. Until now, AT&T has held exclusive rights in the US over the phone, thus preventing its use with any other carrier. Now that this exclusivity contract is over, Verizon has announced that they will be releasing their own version of the iPhone 4 February 2011. Since Verizon is the only real wireless provider in rural Nevada, this means the iPhone is now coming to a theater near you.

I’m no expert, but do have some experience that has helped me learn a few things. To help you navigate these new, possibly confusing waters, here are my Verizon iPhone FAQ’s to assist you.

Q: What is the iPhone 4 and why should I care?

A: It is the solitary phone produced by Apple, maker of the popular Mac and iPod products. It is a smart phone capable of most of the standard features, but has grown in popularity largely due to the Apple ‘App Store’ which now boasts over 300,000 applications custom-designed for the phone.

Q: What is an app?

A: App is short for application. It is one in the same as any other program or application for phones or computers. Apple didn’t invent ‘apps’, but they started the app craze. Apps can range from impressive games with 3D graphics, to specialized apps that use the camera to scan bar codes and bring up information about products.

Q: What features does the iPhone 4 have that make it stand out?

A: The current generation of the iPhone boasts a 1 Ghz A4 chip (fast), retina display (beautiful), 720p HD video recording (for crystal clear memories), Facetime (video chat on the go) and a great digital camera along with other smart phone features (GPS, web access, accelerometer, wifi…). iPhones are also well-known for their music and video playback abilities. (oh, and it makes calls too)

Q: How much will it cost?

A: It depends. If you are available for upgrade, you can grab the 16 GB version for $199 or the 32 GB version for $299. If you are not up for upgrade, you can get the 16 GB for an easy $649 or the 32 GB for $749. (You read that right, without contract, this phone costs more than a nice computer)

Q: I’m not due for an upgrade for a long time but really want this phone. Should I wait until my upgrade or just get it for the full price now?

A: I would probably wait. Not only are the contract-free phones more than most budgets can handle, but Apple also has a history of releasing a new version of the phone every June. This means that in a few months the iPhone 5 will probably be announced and will be available when you are ready to upgrade. No one knows for sure how the next phone will be different, but it will likely be the same form factor (i.e. look the same) but have a better processor, camera and the like.

Q: Is this phone just for people in business?

A: Hardly. One thing that makes the iPhone stand out is how easy it is to learn and use. The user interface is simple and there is almost no learning curve. I know many grandmas that are now adamant iPhone users.

Kids also seem to love the iPhone, but parents beware that the iPhone is unlimited access to the world’s information and experts have counseled against giving smart phones to kids in the first place due to the privacy, security and exposure issues that they present to the uninformed user. If you have a child that insists that they have to have it, consider giving them an iPod touch along with a standard phone instead. Still, know that any of these devices are like mini-computers and can access the Internet when near wireless connections. There are also family-friendly browsers in the app store to help control and limit what the iPhone, iPod touch or iPad has access to.

Q: How is the iPhone different from Android phones?

A: Basically iPhone is Apple and Android is Google. The iPhone is a little different because the hardware and software are made by the same company and no other company can use the operating system (iOS) for their phones. Android, on the other hand, is more ‘open source’ which means that any manufacturer (Samsun, Motorola, LG…) can use the operating system for their phones (think of how any computer manufacturer can use Windows but only Apple can use Mac OS). This means that there are many different Android phones, all capable of running Android apps, but only one iPhone (well, four iPhones if you count all of the older versions).

With Android you have more options, especially if you like features like larger screens (the iPhone screen is 3.5 inch but some Android screens are well above 4 inches) It is common for advocates of the iPhone to tout ease of use, stability of system and depth of app store over the Android. Conversely, Fandroids (fans of Android, really) claim that their phones are more customizable and not locked down by apple. The difference is really in the details, and to each their own. I would just encourage you to play around with both and see what fits you best.

Q: What about Blackberry, Palm and Windows Phone 7? Aren’t they players in the smart phone world?

A: Windows Phone 7 is untested and currently unavailable for Verizon, Palm has a niche audience (hi dad!) and Blackberry is on the downhill slide.

Q: Can the iPhone do anything Android can’t?

A: Probably not*. Android’s own App Store now boasts over 100,000 apps and some of the more powerful phones exceed the iPhone in processing speed and storage. Additionally, some of the Android phones slated to come out in coming months are much faster and will run on Verizon’s 4G network. The asterisk* is due to the fact that the iPhone can be used for video chat via a front facing camera and while Android has phones that are capable of this feature, Verizon currently doesn’t carry any of them.

Q: What is 4G and how will it affect me?

A: 4G is just the name for the next generation of wireless networks. It will be bigger, faster, stronger than the current 3G network and will require special phones with special antennas. Verizon’s own version is called LTE which stands for Long Term Evolution. Unfortunately for Lincoln County, however, LTE will probably not be available in rural areas for a long, long time.

Q: How is the iPhone related to the iPad and the iPod Touch?

A: The iPod touch is basically an iPhone without the ‘phone’ and the iPad is a supersized iPod touch, also known as a tablet. All three of these products use the same operating system, iOS. That means that if you have previously used an iPod Touch or iPad, the iPhone will probably be able to use many of the same apps.

Q: Will I have to pay more for my Verizon bill if I get the iPhone?

A: Again, it depends. If you already have a smart phone with an unlimited data plan, then no. If you have a ‘feature’ phone (enV Touch, enV 3, Chocolate Touch…) or ‘dumb’ phone (flip phones, mostly), then you will have to get an unlimited ($30 per month) data plan. Currently, Verizon allows Android phones to have a limited data plan (150 MB, $15 per month), but this may change. Verizon has also announced that the $30 unlimited plan is promotional and for a limited time. This means that in a few months you will probably be able to downgrade to a limited plan and save $15 or so a month.

Q: Does this mean I can get a used AT&T iPhone from eBay on the cheap and use it on Verizon now?

A: Nope. AT&T uses GSM antenna technology while Verizon uses CDMA. All this basically means is that the Verizon and AT&T iPhones are actually made with different parts and not cross-compatible. For now, there are no used iPhone options for Verizon customers.

So there you have it. For current Verizon customers, you can pre-order Thursday (Feb 3) at 12:00 am. For everyone else, the iPhone will be available in stores (Verizon and Apple) Feb 10th.

Personally, I think I will wait a little while before I pull the trigger. Like probably 12:15 am or so, just to make sure the servers are still up.

If you have any more questions, email me and I will (possibly) attempt to find a (passable) answer.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————– Samuel L. Lytle is an aspiring Civil Engineer and Freelance Writer. He currently lives in Reno with his wife Tiffany and his son Jason. He recently released his first book, Gold Stars, which is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble as an eBook. You can learn more about his writing projects at http://www.samswritingblog.com.