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Northern Arizonans Compare AT&T and Verizon for the iPhone

Leslie Kemp doesn’t have much longer to wait before she’ll have an iPhone in hand. The Sedona resident works at NAU and says Verizon has the best coverage in Northern Arizona. Kemp, who uses a cell phone for business and personal calls, will soon be able to access the Internet from her smartphone.

“I’m excited to have an iPhone because it relies on the software rather than the hardware to stay up to date. If something new comes out, I can just download a new app. I don’t have to upgrade in a year in order to get the latest features,” said Kemp, who is a big fan of Apple products.

Since 2007, AT&T has enjoyed a monopoly on the iPhone. That is changing this month as Verizon begins offering the iPhone 4, the latest touchscreen smartphone model. There are hundreds of thousands of applications (apps) users can download. They include GPS, music streamed from the web, news feeds and games.

Zach Ellman has a waiting list of customers who want the iPhone. The owner of Verizon Wireless in the Cedar Safeway shopping center says customers who switch networks will see benefits at his store. “We’re going to do a huge trade-in program if you are coming over from AT&T.”

Along with his wife, Nicole, Ellman has been a Verizon dealer for nearly seven years. He has faced challenges as an independently owned business that has to compete with giants like Best Buy and Verizon itself (which has opened a new store in the Albertson’s shopping center). The Internet has also affected his bottom line because Internet sales don’t have the same tax requirements and businesses without a storefront can also save a lot of money. But he recognizes many people choose his company because of the personal customer service he offers through Just Wireless. Ellman says he appreciates people who choose locally owned businesses, even if they have to wait a short while longer to get the latest and greatest, like the iPhone.

It’s an exciting time to be a Verizon Wireless customer, says company spokeswoman Jenny Weaver. “In Arizona over the last decade we have invested a billion dollars in our Arizona network alone to really give our customers the very best 3G most reliable network.”

The company also recently unveiled the 4G LTE (fourth generation Long Term Evolution) technology for the greater Phoenix area, bringing service that is up to 10 times quicker than the third generation system. While Verizon customers can use the 4G network where it is in place (covering about one-third of markets) by 2013, the network should be in place throughout the United States, added Weaver.

Jody Beeler is watching wireless technology advance and studying his options. The Sedona resident says cell phone coverage in his city is complicated by geography. He’s been with AT&T for two years and loves his iPhone. “The gadget itself is totally James Bond with all the apps on it,” said Beeler. He is concerned too many other enthusiastic iPhone users will join Verizon and overload the network.

Fellow iPhone enthusiast Elizabeth Lundhal says she will likely stay with AT&T when her contract expires in May, even though she thinks Verizon’s coverage for Flagstaff is somewhat better. Because she has been with AT&T for a while, she is able to save money by keeping a plan with unlimited Internet usage. Lundhal was further convinced when she spoke to a company representative who explained some of the network’s capabilities.

Erika Ulring, an AT&T spokeswoman, says many iPhone users will prefer to stay on AT&T because it lets you talk while using Internet apps and works in more countries than other networks.

The global calling and multitasking (talking and web surfing simultaneously) are important to many subscribers, but AT&T can still expect to lose customers to Verizon, says Allan Keiter. The president of myrateplan.com predicts the loss of customers could lead to improved service and connectivity for AT&T’s remaining customers. Keiter’s website includes tools for people thinking of switching carriers or assessing the best data plans for their needs.

In addition to the buzz around the iPhone, Keiter says there is another notable industry change: smartphones without contracts. “For example, the Virgin Mobile USA Android can be combined with a rate plan that bundles voice, text and data. Most of the big contract carriers still greatly limit the phone offerings on no-contract; I don’t think they even offer any 3G phones yet,” he said. And there is also the cost of the device to consider, said Keiter. The smartphone could cost $299 if a person were to pay for it outright, but the cost is greatly reduced when someone signs a contract.

Both Verizon and AT&T are offering many new products during 2011, including new phones and tablets. FBN

www.justwirelessaz.com – 1500 E Cedar Ave # 24, Flagstaff – 928-226-7460

att.com 2700 S. Woodlands Village Blvd, Suite 690, Flagstaff – 928-779-4210

myrateplan.com

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