iPhone Fans Angry With AT&T

AT&T is taking heat for delaying support for the fancy features, like multimedia messaging, tethering, and a boost in speed, in the Apple iPhone 3G S.
Apple iPhone 3G S
(click image for larger view)
Apple iPhone 3G S
While Apple fans seem pleased with the new features in the upcoming iPhone 3G S, they're not showing the same love for AT&T, the exclusive U.S. carrier of the smartphone.

During Monday's Worldwide Developers Conference keynote, iPhone fans cheered the new features in the latest iPhone, such as faster performance, voice control, and video recording, but openly ridiculed mentions of AT&T. Apple executives ignored the catcalls and went on with the presentation.

Among the complaints of iPhone fans is the inability of AT&T to keep up with the fancy features being added to the smartphone. Unlike foreign carriers, AT&T won't support multimedia messaging until the end of the summer. Tethering, which is the ability to plug the iPhone into a laptop's USB port and share its wireless Internet connection, will be supported by AT&T eventually, but the carrier won't say when.

"AT&T sucks, period," a commenter identified as Dan said about the delays. His comment was one of many on the iPhone Blog.

Another comment blamed the problem on AT&T's exclusive contract with Apple. "Apple needs to seriously get the iPhone onto another carrier and create some competition," commenter Paul T. said. "ATT's complacency is awful."

While acknowledging it needs time to catch up with Apple's iPhone refresh, AT&T is asking customers to be patient. "It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when," an AT&T spokesman said Tuesday of multimedia messaging and tethering.

Pressed on the latter, however, he refused to give even a general timeframe. "I'm not going to speculate on exactly when that date would be," he said.

Speed of the AT&T network is also an issue with iPhone users. The smartphone supports the faster HSDPA network, which, at speeds of up to 7.2 Mbps, is twice what AT&T offers today. The carrier plans to start rolling out HSDPA technology late this year, completing the transition nationwide in 2011.

Again, AT&T is asking customers to be patient. "As markets are upgraded, we will make people aware of it," the spokesman said.

Another big issue is the price current iPhone customers have to pay for the iPhone 3G S. Customers too early into their two-year service contract will have to pay $399 for the 16-GB iPhone 3G S and $499 for the 32-GB model. New customers only pay $199 for the latest iPhone with a two-year contract.

The AT&T spokesman said the higher price is justified because AT&T has to recoup the cost of providing an iPhone, old or new, at less than $200. "These devices are heavily subsidized," he said. Full price for the iPhone 3G S, without a service contract, is $599 for the 16-GB version and $699 for the 32-GB model.

Nevertheless, the economics didn't matter to some AT&T subscribers. "This is ridiculous and a slap in the face to longtime loyal iPhone customers like me who switched from T-Mobile and the only reason was the iPhone," wrote an iPhone customer on the AT&T support forum.

AT&T has certainly benefited from the iPhone, raising revenue and adding new subscribers by luring customers from other carriers, such as Verizon, Sprint Nextel, and T-Mobile. However, that could change if Apple ever decides to add another carrier.

While the iPhone maker has said it's pleased with the AT&T deal, USA Today reported in April that Apple was in "high-level" talks to bring an iPhone model to Verizon Wireless.

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