Can you switch from AT&T to Verizon iPhone without paying hefty termination fees?
No, but you can act like you did. The iPhone's high resale value can cover early termination fees and possibly cost of a new handset from Verizon.
In December, I abandoned AT&T and iPhone 4, returning to T-Mobile with the Samsung-manufactured, Google-branded Nexus S. AT&T charges a $325 ETF for smartphones, which is prorated depending on number of months left on the contract. I signed up for new AT&T service is June, making my December ETF $275. That set the minimum price for which I would sell iPhone 4.
I took the eBay auction route, by putting the 32GB iPhone 4 up for just 24 hours with $410 starting bid. I based the starting bid and reserve price based on average selling prices for the device that week. Twenty-four hours later, a woman living in the United States bought the phone for $525; I expedited shipping for Christmas. Of course, eBay gets its cut -- and PayPal, too -- putting my net around $450.
A week earlier one of the phone geeks at my local T-Mobile store sold his unlocked iPhone 4 on Craigslist for $710. He listed it at $750, which I thought was outrageous. But buyers from other countries will pay that much, because it's less and/or unlocked option -- for example, just south of San Diego in Mexico, he said. The phone geek also switched to Nexus S.
So, what's the going rate for iPhone 4 on eBay? While writing this post one auction finished, after 30 bids, for a new 16GB iPhone: $598. If that was you, and you're ETF was $275 and new Verizon iPhone $199, you would be able to cover full switching cost (when adding tax and eBay/PayPal fees) and still have a little left over. Sure, you're still out the original cost of the device. But that's the price for switching. On the bright side, any cases or peripherals purchased for the older handset should work fine on the new iPhone 4.
But these eBay auctions can be unpredictable. Another auction ended while I was writing this post with zero bids for a used 16GB iPhone 4. Starting and ending bid: $599. The seller should have set a lower starting bid and included more photos. But who knows, he might relist and catch a buying wave. In my experience watching eBay auctions, shorter placement is usually better for hot gadgets.
AT&T isn't going to let you get away without giving up blood. But you can minimize the number of pints by selling your older iPhone 4. Remember to carefully wipe the data. You don't know what Russian hacker might be the eventual buyer. ;-) Five hundred bucks used might seem like lots to you, but it's not for many overseas buyers -- particularly in markets where handsets are usually sold with carrier commitment but where Apple/wireless provider demands it.