Explained: What does ‘Certified by Verizon’ really mean?

2 min read

This post is purely based on a technicality that bugs me about some recent devices and how companies are presenting them to their consumers. Two unlocked devices over the last year or so have been advertised as working on Verizon’s network and being “certified” by the carrier. While this may sound like a positive thing, the inclusion of this certification often brings confusion to the user once the device is actually purchased. The two phones I’m referring to are the newly announced Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact and last year’s HTC U11.

Both smartphones are stamped with the nice, shiny “Verizon certified” designation, but if you check Amazon and forum reviews, you’ll soon find that this is very misleading. Most Verizon customers seem to have issues with the device and signal. Here’s why: it doesn’t have the hardware for CDMA fallback. For those of you that don’t know, this is the traditional 3G network that Verizon implements and still covers many areas with no LTE coverage. It’s extremely important to your overall results on the network.

One could argue that most Verizon customers are still with the giant company simply because of their CDMA network. All the major cell networks are great in large, metro areas, but Verizon is still king in rural America. This success in the most remote parts of the country is directly impacted by the network’s CDMA bands still supporting the older 3G spectrum.

That brings me back to my problem with the HTC U11 and XZ2 Compact. It’s almost false advertising to say that these phones are “Verizon Certified.” Yes, they support the correct LTE bands to work on the carrier, but they will have to be in areas with stellar LTE coverage. This is because they can only make VOIP-style calls using LTE, which means no traditional calls or texts via CDMA. Again, certified doesn’t mean it works well.

The previously mentioned rural America would essentially render the Sony and HTC useless in CDMA only regions. No calls. No texts. Oh, and no internet. The older CDMA network handles all three data transmissions when LTE isn’t around to whip them into overdrive. Remote areas on these phones would be completely handicapped by not having the appropriate hardware that the consumer is most likely used to having in previous devices with Big Red.

So, the next time you see “Certified by Verizon” beware that it’s not always the same as a Verizon phone. I’m sure the HTC U11 and Sony XZ2 Compact are great devices, and for much of the United States they should work great on all the major carriers, but Verizon users should be hesitant until Verizon’s network is completely converted to LTE in 2019. Until then, they should be wary of any phones not on the Verizon website and check whether it has CDMA listed under the hardware specs.