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5/27/2010
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Exclusive: iPhone Woes Revealed In FCC, FTC Consumer Complaints

Freedom of Information Act documents obtained by InformationWeek show that the Federal Communications Commission has received 72 complaints about Apple's iPhone since 2009, mostly involving AT&T. There are 450 Federal Trade Commission complaints.




FTC, FCC Reveal Complaints Filed Against Apple
(click for larger image and for full photo gallery)

Apple's iPhone is phenomenally popular. The company sold 8.75 million iPhones during the first quarter of the year, 131% more than it sold during the same period in 2009.

The company's customers are almost all at least satisfied with the device, if not enthusiastic, assuming that the sentiments of 200 iPhone users surveyed last summer by RBC Capital Markets/ChangeWave are representative of the feelings of the masses.

But the love is not universal. The iPhone is abhorrent to some supporters of open-source software because it is closed. It relies on digital locks, something Apple CEO Steve Jobs has rejected in the context of music but finds appropriate for the iPhone, iPod and iPad.

Apple's insistence that it approve all apps developed for the iPhone to ensure a positive user experience has lead to a string of controversies about the company's inconsistent and unclear rules for allowable content. The company's policies have alienated some developers and underscored the different road being taken by its main competitor in the mobile space, Google.

Most of iPhone users outside of the tech community care little for such debates. Some, however, believe regulators should force Apple to change its ways.

Last month, following Apple's decision to change its developer agreement to ban Adobe Flash and other third-party development tools, InformationWeek filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests asking both the FTC and the FCC to provide copies of customer complaints about Apple and the iPhone since the beginning of 2009.

Our hope was to assess the extent to which issues that aroused ire in the technical community mattered to others. When a prominent technologist like Tim Bray declares that he hates the iPhone, it's easy to discount his opinion as evangelism for Google.

When actual iPhone users seek help from the government, charges of bias become harder to make and the issues raised seem somehow more worthy of attention. These complaints were not intended to be aired as public statements. They were submitted to encourage regulatory action.

Apple happens to be under the microscope of regulators at the moment. The FTC is reportedly looking into the company's decision to prohibit Flash and other developer tools for iPhone development. The FCC's inquiry into the company's refusal to approve the Google Voice app for the iPhone, started last July, remains ongoing. And the Department of Justice is reportedly reviewing the way Apple does business with its music industry partners.

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