The new iPad.. AT&T or Verizon?
I have read a lot of posts on various different sites offering advice and a comparison between the AT&T and Verizon “new iPad.” Aside from Leanna Lofte at iMore.com (great read, take a look — AT&T vs. Verizon iPad 2: Which should you choose?) none of the writers in articles I have read have revealed their personal decision (if they ordered one). Here’s more detail than you wanted to know on which I picked and why.
I have gone back and forth between AT&T and Verizon for a long time — switching my lines and my devices between the carriers. I ultimately end up always going back to the iPhone (after slumming it with android phones) and usually ended up on AT&T for their superior data speeds. However, since the iPhone 4S my primary line has been a black 64gb iPhone 4S on Verizon. What it came down to is that Verizon has superior voice quality, fewer dropped calls, and quicker connections when making calls. Since I became a Dad, the iPhone making phone calls reliably become much more important. However, superior voice coverage comes at a price…
I can’t make calls and use the phone at the same time and my average speeds are somewhere around 0.50 megabit down and 0.15 to 0.35 megabit up. These are pretty slow but what big red lacks in speed, they make up for in reliability. I have never experienced the “Check your internet connection and try again” message on my Verizon iPhone.
With this in mind, I’m a speed junky at heart and CDMA is certainly no speed demon. What made me ultimately settle down and keep Verizon, was complementing my iPhone with a Verizon Samsung LTE hotspot. CDMA data is fine for daily use activities like twitter, email, and light browsing. I use the hotspot to download podcasts, upload photos, download music, stream video and anything else that requires more bandwidth to accomplish the task without driving me crazy at infuriatingly slow rates. I average 4-10 megabit down and 2-5 megabit up when using my hotspot, with peak speeds as high as 19 megabit down and 12 megabit up. When Verizon LTE is working, it’s blazing fast. I’ve even seen 30 megabit down in some areas.
So which new iPad did I choose?
The AT&T model. See update at the Bottom.
At this point you must be confused. Anyone who knows me knows that I trash AT&T constantly out of frustration when I use their network. Dropped calls, data sessions that won’t start despite full coverage (I get that it’s the back haul), and a poor overall experience. So why did I choose the AT&T model? For several reasons.
1. I want to try AT&T’s LTE service and see how it compares to the Verizon’s network. I have heard good things about AT&T LTE and tested one of their hotspots side by side with mine. Sometimes AT&T smoked Verizon, and sometimes vice versa. I like the idea of having both carriers to choose from.
2. As I somewhat alluded to above, I have a Verizon hotspot to fall back on if the AT&T service sucks.
3. The AT&T service doesn’t require a contract. There’s no commitment.
4. Verizon may have broader LTE coverage, but when you’re not in an LTE area, stepping down to CDMA is painful. While a lot of articles will be quick to point out that Verizon’s CDMA network will get you “3G” speeds nationwide even in rural areas, my experience says otherwise - mainly because I’ll see 3G on EVDO with speeds below 0.20 megabit down. May as well be on EDGE on AT&T. When you step out of LTE areas on AT&T you are much more likely to be on HSPA and still receive speeds in the 1 to 2 megabit range. This is what I may peak on Verizon’s CDMA network. It’s a much less jarring experience (read more about this in my previous post: here). I’m also in — and spend most of my time in — an area covered by both carriers’ LTE networks.
5. This is the big one. Despite all of the good things I have said about Verizon and the experience I have with them when using my iPhone, the LTE network has its issues. Verizon has experienced 4 nationwide outages in the last 4 months. Also, it seems marrying the next generation LTE with crufty old CDMA has its quirks. From what I understand hand off between CDMA and LTE is a software function. The problem I have with it, is that when I lose LTE coverage, my hotspot gets confused and results in no data connection at all. The hotspot cycles between LTE and CDMA radio modes until it can settle back in on 3G or 4G. This often takes several minutes. Sometimes vice versa is true as well. When I have a good 3G signal and go into a 4G area, the hotspot won’t step up to the better network. The hand off is far from seamless and this behavior in general is infuriating. I’ve seen it on the hotspot, I’ve seen it on an HTC Thunderbolt (previous owner) and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. They all have the exact same issues. I am really interested to see how AT&T performs since their whole network is GSM based.
6. Verizon’s LTE network is usually fast and consistent, but often times I’ll average speeds in the 1-2 megabit down and 0.6 up. I can beat that with AT&T HSPA in my area easily.
So those are my 5 main reasons behind my choice of AT&T over the Verizon model. It’s somewhat of an experiment — albeit an expensive one. I know when the next iPhone gets LTE, I’ll be using the Verizon model, so I can always opt for tethering on that. My unit will arrive on Friday, so we’ll see how I wind up dealing with my decision. I’ll update with experiences in future posts.
Which did you choose and why? I would love to hear from you.
P.S. I got the 64 gb model in black because I like to load the device up with movies and games when I travel and not have to worry about it. I maxed out my 32 gb iPad 2 a lot, so with the upgrade I opted for more storage.
UPDATE: This is long over due, but here’s an update on this situation. I turned the AT&T model back in for the Verizon model within my 14 day return period. AT&T’s LTE network was quite fast during my short use of it (peak speed 55 Mbps down / 17 Mbps up), but their coverage is no where near as broad as Verizon’s in my area (Baltimore and DC). Also, on my last day with it, the network started resembling what I remember of AT&T.. dropped data connections, jumpy signal strength, and jumping between LTE and 3G. I decided that if it was behaving this way now with a network with few subscribers, I shouldn’t stick around to find out how it will perform under load.
I took the sim out of my Verizon Samsung hotspot and placed it into my new Verizon iPad. It immediately picked up LTE on the hotspot line I’m already paying for and the best part is the built in hotspot functionality of iOS works flawlessly. I’ve seen peak speeds of around 32 Mbps down and 22 Mbps up, and it picks up signal in places my samsung hotspot did not.
So.. one less bill per month and a whole lot more network. Verizon is definitely the choice for me when it comes to voice and now LTE data.