Apart from existing Verizon users who could pre-order starting February 3, users who want an Verizon iPhone have been trickling onto the carrier's network over just the past week. Orders via mail just began arriving yesterday.
Activation is usually a simple matter of plugging the device into iTunes, but when we plugged in a new model to transfer service from AT&T, there was an initial error message stating "carrier activation is delayed."
The iTunes alert said, "while your iPhone can be used over Wi-Fi, the carrier activation had been delayed. Please wait a few minutes, then dial *228 Optino 1 to automatically program your phone. If the delay continues, your in store Specialist can contact Verizon's Credit Order and Operations Support (COOS) helpline to identify and resolve the cause of the delay."
Calling the number from the new phone subsequently resulted in a prompt activation, although iTunes displayed a "your session has timed out" warning page, with a dangerous looking hyperlink offering to "re-enter ALUnbrick." That page was replaced with one simply reading "echo."
After detaching and replugging the now working phone, iTunes correctly offered to restore settings from our backup of the previous model.
Verizon network not falling down yet
The influx of new iPhones on Verizon's network hasn't yet registered as a blip on the carrier's performance, according to a report by Compuware Gomez, published by Gigaom.
The firm compared the first four days of iPhone availability, February 10-13, with its week prior benchmark of Verizon's expected performance in web browsing and page load times. It concluded, "Were just four days in, but our measurements show that real-world data users on Verizon Wireless are experiencing no noticeable performance degradation due to the influx of new iPhone users on the network."
The firm estimates that there are already 500,000 to 700,000 iPhones on Verizon's network, a relatively small number of devices that are spread across the country. Verizon may experience more troubles managing traffic if the 1.5 million new iPhones expected by Gene Munster to hit its network this quarter materialize. Initial sales have been described as "healthy but not 'blowout.'"
However, the carrier has expressed confidence that it will be able to accommodate both a widespread upgrade of its existing customers and a switchers from other carriers. In contrast, AT&T became the subject of lawsuits in 2008 after the release of the iPhone 3G highlighted its weak coverage.
AT&T strikes back
Meanwhile, AT&T has stepped up its marketing to counter Verizon's iPhone, initially positioning its network as being faster than Verizon's, with spokesman Larry Solomon saying, "The iPhone is built for speed, but that's not what you get with a CDMA iPhone. I'm not sure iPhone users are ready for life in the slow lane."
The company then began advertising the unique ability of its network to handle voice and mobile data at once, something Verizon can't do, in a spot that depicted a man scrambling to make online reservations while assuring his wife on the phone that he hadn't forgotten their anniversary. Because he was at work, the spot raised the question of why he wouldn't simply be accessing data over WiFi were he using a Verizon iPhone.
AT&T appears to have changed its focus in its latest ad, which promotes the low cost, $49 iPhone 3GS from 2009, something Verizon can't offer.