Article: Taking a Verizon iPhone Abroad…Or Waiting

by on April 4, 2011

Recently, a friend of mine asked me if she should get the iPhone 4 on Verizon or wait until the iPhone 5. She’s due for an upgrade and has an LG texting phone that is on its last legs. To further complicate the matter, she’s leaving to spend a few months in Italy, and is on a family plan. What’s a girl to do?

My advice was to wait. I’m no expert on Verizon, as I’ve dealt almost exclusively with AT&T for both my personal and work lines, but I thought I’d provide the expertise I could. Currently, it seems that she has three factors competing with one another and only two of the three will work:


Let’s talk about the big red elephant in the room—Verizon. Unfortunately, Verizon and Sprint are carriers that currently use CDMA technology, which is part of the reason why it took so long for there to be a Verizon iPhone. Unfortunately, CDMA is not as popular as GSM, the technology behind AT&T, T-Mobile, and most of the world. Apart from a few places in Asia and South America, CDMA isn’t going to be very helpful.

Since she wanted to stay on Verizon, starting a contract with AT&T was out of the question. Furthermore, being on the family plan meant that the extra cash to keep her line active wasn’t going to be that much of a problem compared to shutting down her line. It could stay dormant for those couple of months. The one issue with getting an iPhone now meant that data would be added to the line, requiring an additional charge to keep it active. Essentially she’d be paying for data she cannot use.

The iPhone Itself

Verizon does offer “world” phones, some are loaners for students studying abroad, but they feature a CDMA GSM radio. In this case, the phone can operate on Verizon’s network in the US, but acts like any phone sold by AT&T and T-Mobile when taken overseas. Unfortunately, the iPhone is not one of these.

Furthermore, I’m not so sure that getting an iPhone right now is such a good proposition, especially since it will be unusable while she is away. By the time she plans to get back, it will be late fall/early winter. Many are expecting the next iPhone to be released in the first quarter of Apple’s 2012 fiscal year, which means September. Why get a device you can’t use and will be obsolete by the time you can actually use it?

Her Current Phone

The LG she is using really is on its last legs, so it probably won’t even last until she leaves. My advice was to pick up some sort of cheap, prepaid Verizon phone or dig up an old, unused Verizon-compatible phone from a friend or family member. As I mentioned earlier, if she had been okay with trying Android or BlackBerry, there are a few models that feature both CDMA and GSM radios, but she wants an iPhone (for a number of reasons, notably that she’s already locked into the ecosystem with an iPod touch).

Bonus: That iPod touch

Although not one of the three factors she’s dealing with in her should-I-or-shouldn’t-I dilemma, if she is going to be somewhere with Wi-Fi, her iPod touch can be a excellent communucator. Besides using the various free texting apps, Skype, FaceTime, and other technologies can provide a low-cost or free way to stay in touch. After all, the Internet doesn’t care where you are in relation to someone else*.

*Provided the service you’re using doesn’t implement location-aware restrictions.

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