Verizon iPhone 4 Launch: Why the Lack of iLines?

By  |  Saturday, February 12, 2011 at 10:44 am

I went to my local Apple Store yesterday night, in the wake of yesterday’s release of the Verizon iPhone 4. It was an utter mob scene.

Of course, it’s almost always an utter mob scene in there–and tonight, it was no more crazy than usual. I commented on the lack of Verizon-induced insanity to a salesguy. “We’re surprised ourselves,” he said.

When Apple releases a new iPhone, there are supposed to be hordes of folks willing to show up at the crack of dawn and wait for hours to get their hands on one. Everybody knows that. But this time, it didn’t happen–across the country, people did show up to buy Verizon iPhones, but not in droves.

Why the startling degree of normalcy? A few theories…

People are waiting for the iPhone 5. Even if you’re a Verizon fan who’s been jonesing for an iPhone for four years, you might decide to bide your time just a few months more to see what Apple releases this summer rather than committing to a two-year contract on the soon-to-be-replaced 4. In fact, the years of buildup to the release of the Verizon iPhone 4 make a wait of just a few months more–for a phone we can be pretty positive will be on Verizon from day one–seem like nothing.

The iPhone 4 has no novelty about it. It’s an excellent phone–probably the best all-around one on the market–but it contains no surprises, and if you’re seen carrying one in public, nobody will be impressed. Perhaps that decreases the desire of zillions of people to get one at the very earliest opportunity. Maybe people will buy them in the coming weeks at Apple and Verizon stores at their convenience–happy to get them, but not in any way frenetic. (From the first iPhone launch back in 2007, the most practical thing to do has always been to avoid the first-morning rush–by the end of day one, you’ve been able to stroll in and buy a phone with little or no waiting.)

The people who were dying for a Verizon iPhone successfully preordered one. The Verizon iPhone may have garnered more preorders than any iPhone on any one carrier ever–which presumably means that it’s off to a decent start even if there was were no stampedes at the stores.

The “I’ll buy an iPhone the moment it comes to Verizon, but no way I’m moving to AT&T contingent!” was smaller than we expected. Maybe people were bluffing–either they did move to AT&T, or they’re not as interested in the iPhone as they claimed.

The magic of the iPhone is wearing off, at least a little. If there’s an iPhone XXXV, it may sell extremely well–but I can’t imagine it will induce the sort of hysteria that the original iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, and AT&T iPhone 4 did.

I tend to think that huge sales and first-day wackiness aren’t synonymous: It’s entirely possible that the Verizon iPhone 4 will end up selling just as well as the AT&T one, but in a more low-key manner. Any theories?


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36 Comments For This Post

  1. davezatz Says:

    I polled nearly a dozen AT&T iPhone owners at work, where we have zero coverage. Folks are unwilling to make the jump because it's too much trouble (family plans) or they will get nailed with extreme early termination fees. AT&T raised theirs to $325 prior to the launch of the iphone 4. That's a bitter pill to swallow.

    While my wife and I were both AT&T iPhone owners, we have separate plans. And where she has the iPhone 4 (and new ETF), I had the 3GS and it only cost me $80 to bail early. (She also doesn't have as many problems as I do… location, location, location.)

    I was inadvertently the first person to purchase a Verizon iPhone at the Reston Apple Store. It was a ghost town. Very strange. But very efficient. Double win for me! A network that works where I find myself and a 15 minute transaction.

  2. arthur Says:

    Also I think many disgruntled VZ droid customers (if there are any) would be hesitant to switch over to iphone even if they wanted to, purely from a cost standpoint. they already have a smartphone so why purchase a new one

  3. jon Says:

    yes i agree its wearing off…everyone go buy android phones because you're slowing down my dam download speeds and its ridiculous

  4. Muay Thai Says:

    Lol, you serious dude? Muay Thai Combinations | Muay Thai Kick | Martial Arts for Children

  5. Greekboy Says:

    Check out greekthuglife69 on YouTube see how Verizon treats their workers u already know how they treat u

  6. Samantha Says:

    I am eligible for the Iphone 4 on Verizon, but I'm choosing to hold out until the summer to get the next latest iPhone. People who buy the iPhone 4 now on verizon with a 2 year contract, will have a way outdated iPhone even by next summer. Might as well wait and get the next newest one!

  7. Eric Says:

    I believe ALL carriers raised their early termination fee to $325 if you purchased a smartphone after 11/2009. You can pay it down at $10 per month but as you can see, after 24 months you'll still 'owe' $85. Unfortunately, the fact still remains, if you have a phone that drops calls or can't find a signal to begin with, you may as well still have a pager.
    Don't be fooled by the glitter, use your 3 day grace period to try the phone EVERYWHERE you can realistically be expected to use it. If it works as expected, you're all set. If not, take it back – it's not going to get any better in the future

  8. davezatz Says:

    "I believe ALL carriers raised their early termination fee to $325"

    Verizon was first ($350) and then AT&T followed at $325. amd say their ETF is $200. The pay downs also vary.

    Your idea to try a service for 3 days is somewhat risky if you care about possibly re-porting a number…

  9. Rip Says:

    It's cold yo

  10. @dominocollege Says:

    The answer is quite simple. This late iPhone 4 launch appealed to a select market.

    (1)The blackberry crowd still toting two/three year old blackberries eligible and waiting.
    (2), Extremely disgruntled AT&T iPhone users who have money to burn.
    (3) Flip phone owners who've waited it out and lusting for a smart phone who knew one day the iPhone would land, yet clueless about their typical release schedule.

    Most current iPhone 4 owners on AT&T will wait until summer to make the switch if they do intend to switch. Current Droid owners who would love to get an iPhone aren't eligible to get one yet, even the original Droid 1 owners. Lastly, the pre-orders were insane on day one, so those who wanted them got them early. The people who showed up at the store were in one of the three categories I listed, and not too tech savvy to boot. If they were they would have pre-ordered or waited until summer. So it wasn't like a typical AT&T launch where people upgrade every year and were offered a special upgrade offer. Only a small percentage of Verizon customers were eligible. This will be a trickled success mark my word. By summer there will be just as many Verizon iPhones on the streets as AT&T.

  11. johnwbaxter Says:

    Also, "I'll wait until there are reports from the field around here. I don't know yet whether the Verizon phone will drop fewer calls than the AT&T phone does where I use the phone."

    I am not that person (my AT&T iPhone 4 works fine where I use it), but it is a sensible thing to do if one is looking at spending the money to switch. There are some odd indications, like Paul Thurrott's experience that his AT&T Windows Phone doesn't drop calls where his AT&T iPhone does. (Citation not available, but on several of his sites including his Windows Phone Secrets blog at

  12. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    Waiting to hear what the actual Verizon iPhone experience is like makes sense, but your Paul Thurrott connection is ridiculous. The guy defines "axe to grind." Walt Mossberg from the Wall Street Journal said switching from an AT&T iPhone 4 to Verizon iPhone 4 made his calling problems go away.

    Also, keep in mind that Verizon is not the second carrier with iPhone 4, it's something like the 110th. If you are able to read websites from all the way outside the US, you already know AT&T is the problem, not iPhone. David Heinemeier Hansson from 37 Signals said when he takes his iPhone 4 from the US to Europe, suddenly his calling issues are fixed.

  13. AAPLWatch Says:

    Paul Thurrott? Yeah, there's an unbiased source.

  14. Fred Says:

    Or, AT&T service has never been that bad, but 90% of writers from tech blogs are urban hipsters from NY and SF, who find the idea that people voluntarily choose to live anywhere else inconceivable.

  15. @tinyvox Says:

    Android. People are satisfied enough with their Android phones. More and more are selling all over the world – we fast-tracked our app's port to Android because of increasing OS quality on Android. Apple's monopoly is over.

  16. render Says:

    I have 2 other clues:

    People that were really that into getting an iPhone, actually wanted it bad enough to pay their termination fees with Verizon a long time ago. The psychology is simple: If you prioritize verizon service (which having been a customer of theirs for years I can say it absolutely marginal), or not having to pay a termination fee over getting an iPhone, then you probably are not going to care one way or the other, you're a PC. This is why there is no rush, these people just want a phone.

    Secondly, the antenna issue with the iPhone 4 cannot be discounted as having taken some shine off of iPhone releases. Not much, but at least some. In fact I have an iPhone 4 now, but the 2 I bought when it came out were horrible. I only recently just bought another one, and it has none of the issues of the first batches. So even as an iPhone devotee, I will probably never subject myself to first run issues with Apple again.

  17. @AbbiV Says:

    Nice analysis Harry!
    The one possible theory you left out is that there is no resale value in the black market for a Verizon-only iPhone whereas a GSM model can be purchased and sold on eBay for use without contract. I know many scalpers wait in line to buy iPhones on day 1 so they can be shipped overseas or resold on eBay/ Craigslist for a tidy profit.
    The one theory that should have been left out is the "online pre-orders reduce walk-in traffic" theory: you could pre-order the AT&T version too, and that didn't seem to affect launch day lines; in fact, the lines have gotten worse with each new iPhone!


  18. Bill Says:

    I'm a Verizon customer. My 2 year upgrade discount is now available to me. I'm waiting till June / July and will decide between an iphone 5 or the best available android phone at that time. If there is no iphone 5 then its clear I'm going android.

  19. derek Says:

    Verizon dropped the new every two promotions… all due to the iPhone release. Shoddy business move, especially for those of us who have been dedicated customers. Im considering switching carriers now because of this.

  20. Burt Says:

    Droid phones are better in my mind. Flash player, removable battery, expandable memory, in-store warranty, Very large number of free apps, Larger camera (droid x), plus multiple manufacturers so you can have a more custom fit. Back by Google software which is used throughout alot of the internet, and free software updates so your phone stays current, etc. etc. etc.

  21. BlackberryTilJune Says:

    i am a current verizon customer. i think its a combination of a few…more competitive phones definitely. but more that current verizon customers are either preordering or waiting for the iphone5. waiting will keep some people from other carriers from incurring such a large or any etf at all. verizon customers will be closer to early upgrade. no ones in a hurry to get an old phone. look at the price of any other phone that came out last summer. their is some kind of discount or rebate with it. iphone is still full price w/2yr contract.

  22. Crawdaddct Says:

    I was at a Verizon store yesterday. People are still buying androids! I was looking at getting my wife a iPhone 4 for valentines day. I personally would never use one. Have a iPod touch and dont like the UI as much as web OS. I understand people want to wait for iPhone 5, but why. 3GS had some seriouse limmitations, but 4 is fast. iPhone 5, may be a little better phone, but im not sure you will see as big of a diference as you did between 3-4. Unless your one of those people who have to show off the newest gadget, the 4 will probably work for you.

  23. Data Medic Says:

    How about the fact that in today's economy people just don't have as much "disposable income" to go out and plunk down $199-$299 for a phone that was revamped for Verizon.
    As well as history has shown us that the majority of smart phones launched by big red have had buggy issues that have to be solved via new firmware/software releases that are at times painfully slow to come out.
    The 1st storm is a prime example of a device that was riddled with issues and took well over a year to address and finally get an OS revision that made for better operation.
    Granted Verizon's coverage is probably the best coast to coast, but quite a few of their devices are lacking.

  24. Aaron Says:

    Got my iPhone 4 this weekend… yeah I understand it will be terribly outdated in a few months, but that doesn't mean it won't do what I want it to anymore. I can imagine any new features that I would add, even if I could. Besides, I can't lose my unlimited data plan, which they will probably cap with the iphone 5/4g version.

  25. Jon Says:

    I got a month left on my contract with Verizon (I still have the 'New Every 2' on my plan). I'm waiting for the Droid Thunderbolt, I could care less about the iPhone 4 or 5.

  26. The_Heraclitus Says:

    Umm, why would ANYONE want a hand held computing device where app development was restricted by a dictator?

  27. Guest Says:

    Because it let's me know it's not an app that steals my information or cash from my bank account. Im not tech savvy, so just loading unchecked apps on to my phone is unappealing… May sound silly to you, but as I said I'm not tech savvy…

  28. S Smith Says:

    I have been with Verizon for 6 years and I have been waiting for them to get the Iphone. How stupid is it for them to offer a new phone with 3G when everyone knows 4G is now here. ATT's publicity about "you can't surf the net and talk" at the same time is correct. Plus, the Iphone 4 can't be upgraded with a new chip and will not be compatible with the Iphone 5 and everyone will have to buy a new phone. This could be the biggest blunder Verizon has ever made. One other thing, one of the sales guys at a Verizon store told me that the HTC Droid Thunderbolt would be available today 4g with all the goodies. Went by another store and they hadn't heard anything about it. I will wait for the Iphone 5 with 4G. or get the droid.

  29. Shakers Says:

    I have the original Motorola Droid and am eligible to get the iPhone 4 now. Seems crazy to not just wait until summer for the iPhone 5 with (hopefully) 4G when my current phone has every feature the iPhone 4 has. No need to rush. I'll shop the newest Android phones vs. iPhone 5 when the time comes.

  30. OtherReasons Says:

    I personally wanted an iphone for many reasons, but I feel as though the option came out at the worst possible time, more because of the upcoming 4G network then anything else. I happen to live right near 2 of the current 4g cities for verizon which leads me to believe its very possible we could get 4g soon. If I purchase an Iphone I'm stuck in the contract for 2 years with a somewhat older phone anyway. My other options include buying a much less expensive phone with a 1 yr. plan (I do want to upgrade), or going with something like an HTC Thunderbolt which has several other benefits such as 40GB of storage space. As far as the iphone 5 there doesn't appear to be any confirmation of actual 4g connectivity yet so while I could wait I'm not sure that there is a reason since if it isn't 4g I won't be buying it.

  31. Doug C Says:

    One of the main reasons I didn't upgrade is because I am not eligible and I am not going to pay the retail price for an Iphone. Verizon will not budge on this one even after I said I would go to AT&T. I think the other reason for the lack of lines is the rumor of the iphone 5. Why buy the old version when the new version is around the corner. We can finally wave the phone in front of those obnoxious AT&T users. Finally, the main reason for me to upgrade for my Android phone is that the iphone gets the better apps first. The Android marketplace is like on being on the web in the beginning. Meaning, anyone and everyone are producing poorly conceived apps.

  32. Peter Says:

    I am eligible for an upgrade to the iPhone. It was temping but I decided to wait for the iPhone 5 or an improved Droid that will support 4g+ other new feature soon. Verizon want to lock you in for 34 months for a phone that is already 6 months old.

  33. Laura Yecies Says:

    I think the answer is simple – the frenetic, must have right away types of people got the ATT version

  34. AJ Says:

    I’ve had a few renditions of the iPhone since it’s launch. The Verizon IPhone 4 is the best IPhone experience ever. I’ve never felt the need to talk and surf so this is a non issue drummed up by AT&T who has had a sub par network since their launch and change to GSM in 2003!

    If you are waiting for a 4g network…keep waiting. Even after 4g launches there will be some huge gaps and issues in coverage and you will be waiting for the network to improve over time until about iPhone 7. 3G will continue to work and satisfy many people across America.

    The only thing missing the IPhone 4 for Verizon is ability of being a world phone. It should have had a sim card as well like the Blackberry world phone for Verizon a few years ago. The iPhone was introduced as a world phone and should stay that way.

    All in all a great user experience on iPhone 4 with Verizon. The only reason to keep an AT&T iPhone is to unlock it and save it for your travels.


  35. Jarrett Says:

    I am a verizon customer, and think it was stupid to do a launch for a phone another carrier already has, when you are working on launching this amazing 4G LTE system that the IPhone 4 can't use. I am waiting for the IPhone 5 hoping it will be able to utilize this new 4G LTE system.

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