With today’s Verizon announcement that it will begin to carry the iPhone 4 in early February, some users are eager to ditch AT&T’s network for Verizon 3G. Of course, it won’t be easy. AT&T will likely do everything in their power to prevent you from switching services with high early termination fees and little wiggle room for negotiating your way out of your current contract.
(More on Techland: Everything You Need To Know About Verizon’s iPhone 4)
AT&T customers who signed up before June 1, 2010 are all subject to a $175 early termination fee, with an additional $5 off for each full month of service you’ve completed. Those who signed up after June 1 agreed to a $325 early termination fee when they signed, though the cost depreciates $10 for every month you’re with the network. So, all AT&T iPhone 4 users who signed two-year agreements on June 23 (when the phone was released), would still be required to pay a $255 fee seven months into their contract. Another blow for consumers is the fact that they won’t just need new contracts; they’ll need entirely new phones. The competing 3G networks use slightly different technologies, meaning that the devices must be altered for use on a specific network. This means very little for the user, except that Verizon’s iPhone 4 will only operate on Verizon’s U.S. 3G network and a few outside countries – a potential problem for frequent travelers. SIM cards will transfer, but chips will not, meaning that buying a new phone is unavoidable. This may be fine by those who’ve resisted and held on to their third generation iPhones, but our guess is that the body of AT&T iPhone 4 owners won’t be so ready to make the high-cost jump to Verizon, especially given that Verizon’s version only operates on its 3G, not 4G network.
That said, AT&T customers mat have a few exit doors. Life Hacker has a great explainer of how to actually negotiate your way out of your AT&T contract by logging the network’s failures. If you can provide proof of insufficient service, AT&T may be persuaded to release you from your agreement. (Warning: This may be really difficult to do, but it’s also worth a try if you’re desperate to jump ship.) Other potential (and extremely ambitious) was of wriggling free of your contract could stretch your muscles of negotiation. Aside from complaining about your service, if you’re able to prove that you’ve moved out of the coverage area, which, I’m sorry to say would only be a viable argument in just 3% of the country, the company would likely waive your termination fee. The same might apply to customers whose terms of service have recently changed. Cult of Mac suggests that interested users review their bills for any fine print concerning changes.
(More on Techland: A History Of Verizon iPhone Rumors: A Timeline)
Other options might be selling your AT&T iPhone 4 on eBay. Currently, unlocked iPhone 4s can be sold for upwards of $800 a piece. Bought mostly by those in countries where Apple doesn’t offer its products, unlocked, or “jailbroken” iPhone 4s are in high demand – and it’s surprisingly easy to do. If you’re willing to do a bit of work, selling one unlocked iPhone 4 could potentially cover your termination cost, the cost of your new Verizon iPhone with still a few hundred dollars to spare.
Still, Bloomberg reports that only 1 million to 6 million AT&T customers have plans to flee to Verizon. At its worst, this would only make up about 10% of the company’s wireless sales in 2011, add that to the fact that AT&T is expecting another batch of new iPhone adopters to sign up for service, they may not feel much of a blow at all. The real iPhone battle will be the one that’s played out over a 4G enabled device, which both companies have made their focus for 2011, meaning the iPhone service provider war is far from over.