Consumer Confidential: Verizon iPhone, higher airfares, paper-towel slugfest
--The worst-kept secret in tech is now a reality. Verizon says it will begin offering the Apple iPhone on Feb. 10, ending AT&T's lock on the super-popular gadget. The phone will start at $199.99 with a two-year wireless-service contract. Analysts say the move could double Apple’s smart-phone market share and put a crimp in plans by phones running Google’s Android software to take over the world. A couple of caveats: Because the Verizon iPhone will run on so-called CDMA networks, they apparently won't work if you travel to Europe -- most networks there aren't CDMA-compatible. Also, you can't make a voice call and access data at the same time. I'm not sure why you'd want to, but this is apparently important to some power users.
--The new year is only a few days old and already the airlines are jacking up fares. In fact, this is the third price hike within a month. The increase on many domestic routes ranges from $4 to $10 per roundtrip ticket. Discount carrier Southwest Airlines appears to be the prime mover behind the latest increases. Rick Seaney, chief exec of FareCompare.com, says after other airlines made modest increases on flights in the Midwest last week, Southwest raised its fares across most of its routes. Other airlines then matched the broader fare increases. And so it goes.
--The contentious world of paper towels has grown even more heated. Procter & Gamble is challenging ads from rival Kimberly-Clark over the latter's Viva and Scott brands making possibly unwarranted claims for absorbency and thickness compared with P&G's Bounty. In one ad, "Sandy" holds up a self-help book that urges her to "Quit the Quilt," referring to Bounty's quilted towels and claiming they have more air, not thickness. She then uses a Viva towel on a spill and is convinced. The National Advertising Division Council of Better Business Bureaus found that the ad communicates "that the use of quilted towels is a bad habit that should be broken by use of Viva towels, which provide more towel for the money." The council says the ad's suggestions that Viva is thicker or absorbs better aren't supported. So there.
-- David Lazarus