Publisher of 'Consumer Reports' Calls for Verizon to Clarify iPhone Upgrade Policy

As Verizon Wireless prepares its long-awaited launch of the iPhone 4 this week, Consumers Union, publisher of the influential Consumer Reports, called on the carrier Tuesday to clarify its upgrade policy should Apple (AAPL) roll out an iPhone 5 this summer. Carriers often require customers to wait toward the end of their two-year contract before upgrading to the next best, snazzy phone -- or pay an early termination fee that can cost upwards of a couple hundred bucks.

With that in mind, customers who purchase a Verizon (VZ) iPhone 4 at Thursday's launch under a two-year contract are likely ineligible to upgrade this summer to an iPhone 5. Some industry watchers have cautioned consumers to consider holding off purchasing a Verizon iPhone 4 until this summer, when Apple traditionally rolls out the next version of its popular iPhone.

Weighing in, Parul Desai, Consumer Union's policy counsel, sent a letter to Verizon CEO Daniel Mead asking him to respond before the Thursday launch and provide "transparent answers" regarding the carrier's iPhone upgrade policy:

"Will customers receive a rebate or some type of discount towards purchasing the new iPhone model? Will customers wanting to replace the iPhone 4 with the iPhone 5 be in violation of their two-year contract commitment and thus subject to an early termination fee of $350? Will customers face any other costs, penalties, or obstacles for upgrading to an iPhone 5?" Desai asked.

A Verizon spokeswoman declined to comment on the Consumers Union letter. But the carrier may want to carefully consider it. The organization's widely read product review publication, Consumer Reports, plans to review the Verizon iPhone 4, possibly as early as this week, said a Consumer Reports spokeswoman.

Consumer Reports Takes Another Look at iPhone 4


Consumer Reports is likely to zero in on the iPhone antenna, which became entangled in controversy over performance issues in what was billed as antennagate. In fact, Consumer Reports declined to recommend the iPhone 4, citing an increase in dropped calls when customers inadvertently covered the lines where the antenna bands met with their hands.

And even Apple's fix of providing free iPhone bumpers to mitigate the problem was not acceptable to Consumer Reports, because the offer was only good for a limited time.

Apple, meanwhile, has changed the antenna design for the Verizon iPhone 4, versus the AT&T (T) iPhone 4, which has been out since this summer. The bands have been shifted further away from where users may naturally position their hands. But according to an Engadget report, the decision was based on Verizon's use of CDMA chips:
While the phone does basically look identical on the outside, there are a few notable changes. The first of those changes -- and most pronounced -- is the shifting of the iPhone's antenna notches (the little black bands that intersect the frame of the device). On the Verizon version, there are four slits which are symmetrical -- two on the top right and left, and two along the bottom. Apple's Tim Cook told us that the move is all about making the new CDMA chipset play nice with the antenna design. There's no indication that any changes (or improvements) have been made to the underlying antenna structure. And conspiracy theorists take note: in low connectivity settings, we could get both the AT&T phone and the Verizon phone to dip slightly in bars if we covered the bottom half of the devices with our hands. We did not see any noticeable change in call quality or data quality.
Despite Apple's antennagate and questions surrounding Verizon's upgrade policy, Wall Street analysts are expecting the pent up demand for the iPhone on the Verizon network, since up until now the iPhone in the U.S. was only available on AT&T. Verizon, for example, sold out of its pre-order allotment within 17 hours last week.







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8 Comments

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Lisa

DAWN ITS SIMPLE, NEW EVERY TWO! IF YOU UPGRADE BEFORE YOUR TWO YEAR CONTRACT YOU WILL PAY FULL PRICE FOR THE PHONE. THE ONLY TIME THERE IS A FEE FOR ENDING YOUR CONTRACT IS IF YOU CLOSE YOUR ACCOUNT COMPLETELY. IF YOU ARE THE ACCOUNT HOLDER YOU CAN UPGRADE ONCE A YEAR BUT YOU WILL ONLY GET A SMALL DISCOUNT OFF OF A NEW PHONE IF ANY. IF YOU BUT THE IPHONE 4 AND THEY COME OUT WITH A NEW ONE 6 MONTHS LATER OH WELL, PAY FULL PRICE OR KEEP YOUR OLD PHONE. I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT IS SO DIFFICULT?????

February 09 2011 at 8:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jesuaphn

They are taking you'all to the cleaners. It is all a ruse to steal your money by bringing in new devices and phones every so often to fleece you. Wake up people, don't give them your hard earn money.

February 09 2011 at 5:05 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
jigokurei

The hardest thing I had to do was to drop my service altogether with AT&T; not to jump ship, mind you. But merely because I just was not getting the full benefit of the service I was paying for. Instead of AT&T helping me to fix the problem and for them to keep a long-time customer, they'd rather just lose me as a customer. Quite frankly, I know Verizon has better service, but that was not a good enough reason for me to move over to them. So, I just decided to go of the cell grid completely. I miss my iPhone, but that $95 I don't have to spend anymore for less than perfect service.

February 09 2011 at 12:07 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
dt1064

Watch your data plans. I have heard that upgrading to a new phone negates your unlimited data plan and you get charged by the minute. Another ripoff.

February 08 2011 at 11:56 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dt1064's comment
Lisa

you heard wrong dt1064

February 09 2011 at 8:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ashespaw

I complained to AT&T about my phone dropping calls constantly. I was informed that I should purchase, from them of course, a device that I could put on top of my house to enhance my calls. I informed them that I could also change to Verizon in April and not have to purchase anything in addition to my phone.

February 08 2011 at 11:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
redneckraciing18

i my self think the goverment should step im and do something about this bring out new phones every year and this 2 year commit crap whats wrong with 1 year it never bothered them before the cell phone companys are just getting greedy they want it there way and there way only they dont give the costomer a say in it that is why i went prepayed no 2 year commit my bill works out to be 6.67 a month and i call all i want to i've got a fancy phone takes pic,texes,live chat it does it all i have no problems with it i buy a card once every 3 months and im set verses a 50 to 60 dollar bill a month

February 08 2011 at 9:42 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to redneckraciing18's comment
Lisa

leave the damn government out of it!

February 09 2011 at 8:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply