I don’t normally pay magazine advertisements much mind. Actually, I don’t really read hard-copy magazines too often anymore – in M-D’s world, they’ve pretty much been demoted from ‘weekly distraction’ to ‘something to read while waiting for an airplane to take off”. (I almost exclusively fly out of Newark Airport, so yes, you CAN finish a magazine, cover to cover, between push-back and take off.)

For the last 6 months or so, I’ve been getting BusinessWeek, mostly because I had to burn off some airline mileage (and I was already getting the now-defunct Conde Nast Portfolio). Leafing through today’s issue, I couldn’t figure out why my brain wouldn’t let me move past this advert:

Looks normal enough, right?

Looks normal enough, right?

It’s a Verizon Wireless ad for the Blackberry Tour. Looks innocent enough, but something just seemed off, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. I tried moving past it and reading the rest of the issue, but I kept flipping back to the ad. I reread the ad copy – seemed like the normal VZW sales pitch. Then I looked closer at the simulated screen image.

Things come into focus.  (-ish.)

Things come into focus. (-ish.)

The simulated user appears to be using GPS to find his way around Rome, Italy. On “America’s Largest and Most Reliable 3G Network”. That seems…odd. Rome, GA? Sure. Rome, Italy? Not so much. Still, it’s possible that a VZW user could be navigating abroad – in fact, a look at the Blackberry Tour’s product page reveals that it is, in fact, a “world phone” – meaning that it uses a CDMA 1X EVDO radio for 3G in North America, but switches to a GSM or UMTS radio when outside North America, where VZW doesn’t exist except as a line-item on Vodafone’s balance sheet. Still, something seemed wrong. So I looked even closer.



And there it was. Itty-bitty white-on-green type, barely visible. Surely the average BusinessWeek reader would miss it. It’s the sort of thing that only a self-confessed geek who spends too much time reading gadget blogs (and used to be an regular at WirelessAdvisor.com) would spot.

“1XEV”. Or, in technical terms, CDMA 1X EVDO Rev. A. In essence, the phone is saying “I’m on a mobile phone network that has never existed in the part of Europe for which I’m currently displaying navigation data.” Because there are no CDMA networks in Italy, EVDO or otherwise. Running a CDMA phone in an all-GSM/UMTS country is like trying to fit an American plug into a British socket – it just won’t go.

So, in essence, Verizon Wireless is suggesting that this phone:

  • can pull in a wireless signal from thousands of miles away to allow use of data services on other continents (at great expense to the user, no doubt), or
  • is bollocks, can’t navigate for crap, and might try to route you past the Colosseum on your way to work.

Either way, it’s a FAIL, albeit one almost nobody will notice.