The Apple iPhone 4 on Verizon Wireless is here – what it means for travelers

Well, it finally happened – the largest mobile carrier in the United States is getting the Apple iPhone. Ever since the original iPhone was announced back in 2007, gadget sites have been speculating about a magical “can you hear me now” version of the phone.

But now it is here – the news isn’t really as spectacular as it could have been. A mere week after companies like Samsung, HTC and Motorola announced 4G versions of their handsets, the Verizon iPhone brings little new to the table. On the inside, it is exactly the same as the AT&T iPhone, albeit with a different radio system (for the Verizon CDMA network).

And that CDMA network is a major problem for people who plan to travel with their Verizon iPhone 4 abroad. With the AT&T (GSM) version of the iPhone, you can take it to Europe, Asia and most other countries and get access to a GSM network. CDMA users have never been that lucky – the list of CDMA countries is tiny when compared with GSM (44 CDMA networks compared to 255 GSM networks).

In other words – take your new Verizon iPhone 4 to Canada or Mexico, and it’ll work just fine. But take it to France or Australia, and you’ll only be able to use it when you find a Wi-Fi hotspot. Of course, with roaming rates as expensive as $5/min, sticking to Wi-Fi isn’t that bad a plan.

And unlike some of the newer Android devices on Verizon, their iPhone does not do dual mode CDMA/GSM. This limitation is of course not that important if your travels don’t take you outside the limited CDMA lineup, but if you are regularly in Europe, you may want to think twice about this investment. And finally, because this new iPhone uses CDMA, you will not be able to do simultaneous voice and data connections.