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The popular electronic gadget blog Engadget reports that AT&T has sued Verizon over its "There's a Map for That" ads. The print and television commercial, which you watch here, centers around revealing how much more 3G coverage Verizon has, here through some hovering red versus blue colored maps of the US (which in effect look somehow similar to the colors used to distinguish Democratic and Republican states, but I guess that was not really intended) .

The complaint seems to focus about the choice of the white or blank background in the two different 3G coverage maps, which should to be understood to denote "no coverage" in the Verizon map, but actually should mean something else in the AT&T map, as there still exist AT&T's 2.5G/EDGE coverage in most of those "blank" areas. According to AT&T, customers are misled to believe there is "no" coverage at all, which is true for Verizon, but not for AT&T.

While the maps show the correct data (as all textual labels and the verbal explanation mention 3G only), there is a story behind the data that is not told. Something we can learn from as data visualizers?

Some quotes from the official complaint:
"Verizon displayed a '3G' coverage map attributed to AT&T with large swaths of white or blank areas (or no coverage) to bolster its misleading message that customers with AT&T service are 'out of touch' in large parts of the United States" (Verizon then removed the words "out of touch" from all advertising).

"By continuing to include a '3G' coverage map in its advertisement, Verizon is still conveying the message that AT&T has no coverage in the white or blank space included in the maps, and thus AT&T customers cannot use their wireles devices in large portions of the United States. ... The fact that customers are being misled by the blank and white space on the maps is not surprising as Verizon, in its own coverage maps, uses white space to inform consumers that no coverage of any kind exists."

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13 COMMENTS

Note:
I consider my self to be an overly informed consumer, and I have AT&T

Seeing these adds, I completely understood what was actually being said. The issue is that Verizon has that much 3g network, ATT does not. Also, what the complaint says about verizon using white to denote no coverage is wrong. If you look at verizon's coverage map, a lot more area is covered. So verizon is leaving out their non 3g coverage as well.

Though some people may think that 3g == coverage. I think as far as advertising goes, verizon is being honest with the map.

Wed 04 Nov 2009 at 3:12 PM

I agree with Adam Meyer, Verizon is accurately displaying the "3G" coverage map. The advertisement isn't about "voice coverage", or 2.5G, it is clearly, as overly stated by Verizon, a "3G" advertisement.
The underlying humor is that while I was able to watch the linked advertisement on my Verizon Blackberry Storm this morning, an associate with the iPhone 3G, Could not.

Thu 05 Nov 2009 at 1:19 AM

The real issue here is that '3G' is jargon. Under the label, the message being communicated is that data transfer is faster inside the colored regions than outside. A better visualization would just directly communicate that with a color scale representing avg bytes/sec or similar for each region. Hey, maybe that would also show you how much faster 3G is than 2.5G, avg network congestion, and whether you should care at all. This may not be an inaccurate visualization, but to someone who doesn't keep up with the latest phone technology, it is sloppy communication.

Thu 05 Nov 2009 at 5:56 AM
brien colwell

The real issue here is that Verizon truly has much better nationwide coverage than AT&T. It's a better network. Fewer dropped calls. Works in tunnels and on trains.

Obviously, AT&T is insecure about the situation. AT&T doesn't want Verizon to perpetuate the truth.

Sure, the Verizon visuals are intentionally misleading, but they are completely accurate given the specifics being described.

Thu 05 Nov 2009 at 7:41 PM
Mike Wallace

I live in Los Angeles Ca.

9/10 people that I know who have AT&T switched to AT&T because of the iPhone. 10/10 people I know with AT&T service hate it because they have horrible phone and wifi coverage. I personally hate talking on the phone with my AT&T friends because of the horrible reception they have.

The commercial is perfectly clear about its message. Verizon is far superior to AT&T in all the mentioned areas.

People have to understand that a phone is meant to be used as a phone first. Then as everything else. That's why my friends can show me cool apps and take picture and even surf the net but they can never make or take a phone call.

Fri 06 Nov 2009 at 5:42 PM

In Boston, there is no service for Verizon users. AT&T is perfect. I guess it depends on the region/city.

Sat 07 Nov 2009 at 3:02 PM
Nik B.

Verizon is obviously trying to make the competition look bad. If I were to buy a phone today, I would think "5 times" before buying a phone with AT&T coverage. Although, it does not seem to stop the iPhone. Anyway, not sure what the big deal is, isn't what advertising is?

Anyone know where we could actually find the data from this visualization? It could be interesting to see alternatives of this map.

Mon 09 Nov 2009 at 2:09 PM

The ads are misleading because the AT&T customer is depicted as being unable to log on to the net. Verizon will lose big time.

Wed 11 Nov 2009 at 11:46 AM
Jeff

Verizon doesn't have any service in Vermont but the map says they cover the entire state. Verizon simply doesn't care what they put out as long as it seems better then everyone else.

Wed 11 Nov 2009 at 11:49 AM
mynameisdunn

This truth is there in red & blue. However, we live in a "dumb it down" society in which people are unable to comprehend and think for themselves, so we have to spoon-feed every detail or we are legally liable for "lying". I have Verizon & my boyfriend has AT&T. The only reason he has AT&T is because Verizon doesn't have a suitable international plan for his needs. Many times, I can make calls in places he can't. Over the years, I've carried Southern Linc, Nextel, Sprint, T-Mobile, and a couple more local carriers for work, alongside my personal Verizon phone. I have always been able to make a call on my Verizon line when I couldn't get out on the others.

AT&T knows it can't compete with Verizon on coverage, so it makes a stink when anyone points it out. I think that Verizon will likely either lose this case, or will be forced to "dumb down" their ads for the non-thinking consumer. With teens and young adults becoming such a large part of the market, they have to either get it in their language or as parents we have to take the responsibility to teach our kids to think critically and not believe everything they hear at face value. Honestly, I think that critical thinking is a better option than the continued "dumbing down" of America. Didn't anyone watch Idiocracy? It could happen....

Wed 25 Nov 2009 at 5:14 AM
DustysMomma

The dumbd down quoting the creator of Beavus and Butthead with such dazzling enlightenment as "AT&T knows it can't compete with Verizon on coverage, so it makes a stink when anyone points it out." Brilliant! DustysMomma, you're the poster child for dumbed down.

The issue is the name IT'S THE NAME YOU TWITS! The two models are the iphone 3G and the iphone 3GS, it's the name brand recognition as much as the shoddy verbiage and maps. Did any of you notice that Apple INC has rolled out two new commercials slamming Verizon as well?

Some claim that hydrogen is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe.

Sun 29 Nov 2009 at 2:06 PM

I'll hit you all back when the Red States and Blue States become the issue. Advertisement is always a slight of the hand and always has more than one message. While coverage is the key driver here because these companies know how gaga we are for our technology and being able to connect anytime and all the time, there is an underlying message here. Trust me when I tell you that whoever put together this campaign didn't just pick these colors out of a hat! Now I know that politics doesn't have a copyright on red and blue - at least not officially, but the Red and Blue States concept has been embedded in our brains and we have been relating it to politics for a few years now.
Don't mean to offend anyone here, so no need to go on the defensive. Just don’t want us to be fooled by the shiny bright lights and glitter of advertisement. Think cigarette ads of the past

Sat 05 Dec 2009 at 7:36 AM
Cyn

Actually, your wrong you may be informed but i am in the military and have had both att and verizons services before the map on verizons side is accurate in that there is absolutely zero coverage for much of Midwest Louisiana which ironically is right on top of fort Polk and verizon claimed to me upon my purchase would be covered they then attempted to charge me roaming fees....needless to say i cancelled my agreement with them at no cost to myself. the att 3g map obviously does not denote att's full coverage areas but it also lies about att's 3g coverage if you look closely you can see that lower Kentucky and upper Tennessee are shown as having no 3g coverage THIS IS INACCURATE or you could just call it a lie. I currently reside at fort Campbell Kentucky which is right on Tennessee's border and I have 3g coverage literally anywhere i go from here to Nashville without fail...Explain that one verizon.

Fri 08 Jan 2010 at 1:38 PM
Aaron
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