In mid-January, the longanticipated event finally happened: Verizon announced that in February, it would begin offering the iPhone on its network in the United States. iPhone users in other countries have long been able to choose their service provider, but Apple and AT&T signed contracts that restricted users in the United States to the AT&T network. Technology writers and Apple aficionados had vigorously speculated about the announcement for months, especially after Verizon introduced its version of the iPad.
While the device itself costs the same for both AT&T and Verizon customers, and the data and calling plan fees are roughly equivalent, there are some significant differences. The Verizon version can act as a "hotspot," allowing nearby devices, such as laptops, to use it to connect to the internet wirelessly. However, the technology Verizon uses does not allow a user to make calls and receive data simultaneously-so a Verizon iPhone customer could not talk to someone and look at a map on the device at the same time.
Additionally, while AT&T's network technology is used around the world, Verizon's is mostly used in the United States and Asia, making it more difficult to use the Verizon version abroad. But even given the potential drawbacks, the news was enthusiastically received by technology bloggers, current Verizon customers looking to upgrade, and users in areas where AT&T coverage is spotty or nonexistent, and Verizon expects to sell at least 11 million iPhones in 2011.
The newest sign that smart phones are pervading our lives: Toyota will ship select models of their cars with their new EnTune system later this year. Using an app on a driver's smartphone, EnTune connects to Toyota's servers to receive information and entertainment, then transmits that information to a screen in the car via Bluetooth. The system will offer a number of services: sports, stocks, weather, and traffic information, plus Pandora internet radio, the OpenTable restaurant reservation site, MovieTickets.com, Microsoft's Bing search engine, and iheartradio. To quell concerns about the safety of operating the system in a vehicle, certain functions-such as making a new restaurant reservation-will only be available when the car is not moving.
Toyota plans to continue making new services available on EnTune, but there will be no app store for customers to choose which applications they want-everyone will get the same services. And because EnTune connects through a smartphone, there are some drawbacks: Listening to Pandora radio for long stretches of time could be costly for those without an unlimited data plan, and the system will only work when the phone has service. But it's likely that EnTune is a sign of things to come, as mobile devices become more tightly integrated into daily life.