How to Be a Useless Company: ATT and iPhones (with irony and a request)

I don’t buy Apple products. I was just starting to change my mind but Apple has managed to annoy me yet again. I wanted an iPhone. My brother noted that and thought he was getting me a gift card for the iPhone. But wait, I am an ATT customer for ten, yes ten, years. Through the Cingular back to ATT shift I have stayed with the service. My reward? I cannot get the new customer prices until March 19, 2009 when I am allowed to upgrade. (ATT business meeting: Eureka! Force delayed spending in a down market where people have many reasons not to spend! That’s a great idea!) If they said you can upgrade with the blasted two year contract and get the iPhone right now at the new customer price, would I do it? YES! When the time comes to upgrade and maybe shift cell service will I consider it? YES, YES, YES!!!!

Let’s talk goodwill. For the sake of a stupid business model, ATT and Apple have decided to annoy longtime, loyal customers. Now the iPhone is pretty cool. Is it cool enough that I would not consider a Blackberry? After the lame service, of course I would consider the Blackberry. In fact, I am considering switching cell companies just to demonstrate how lame ATT is. HEY APPLE! Get a clue. Exclusive partnerships are obviously working at one level, but ATT is silly. Their choice of cutting off old customers and thwarting their attempt to embrace Apple products is downright idiotic and makes people think less of Apple. In other words, how is it wise to prevent an alleged 72.9 million people (ATT’s claimed current customer base) from the better price? Sure Apple has had big sales, but it is still behind Nokia and RiM in a shrinking smartphone market. In hard numbers Apple sold 4.7 million units. Now if ATT is accurate about its customer numbers, one has to wonder whether letting customers upgrade phones and enter new contracts in mid-contract might be wise. I freely admit that ATT must have some double secret probation protected theory about its system that I, unfrozen caveman lawyer, fail to grasp.

The irony is there may be many of us who erroneously wanted the iPhone but can’t get it at a price that makes sense. And, as I looked around for options, I find that Blackberry has many useful features and maybe most of the services that I want. Who knows? Google’s nascent phone empire may offer more too.

So here is the request: Please share advice on what is the best phone for email, music, and Internet use? In addition, ideas for the best cell service are welcome too. See what happens when companies deny a customer from obtaining on impulse? The rational buyer returns and finds better options. Hmm maybe I should say thanks Apple and ATT.

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10 Responses

  1. Jay Levitt says:

    AT&T does, in fact, suck.

    But from a lifelong Palm and Windows Mobile user: There is absolutely no phone on the market that comes anywhere near the iPhone for *usable* Internet access. It’s a stylus-free, full-screen, zoomable, scrollable web browser, with 3G and WiFi. I don’t know if it’s that Apple has patented enough of the multi-touch concept, or just that everyone’s really far behind, but even the recent G1 and Storm seem come nowhere close.

    Seriously: Who are you punishing? You bill at how much an hour? Pay full price for an unlocked iPhone. I would.

  2. Deven says:

    I do not bill anyone by the hour. Nonetheless how much is the unlocked iPhone and where does one acquire one?

  3. I was considering getting an iPhone, but decided instead to get a Blackberry because the iPhone came with AT&T, and I’ve heard way too many stories about how bad AT&T is. What good is a great device if you can’t get good phone service? The iPhone sure is snazzy and great for Internet browsing, but I love my Blackberry with Verizon, which thus far has been quite good. My primary use is email; perhaps the equation would be different for me if my primary use were Web browsing. Regardless, I would have gotten the iPhone if it didn’t come tied to AT&T.

  4. TRE says:

    All cell phone companies are like this, it is outrageous. To get the best deals you essentially have to switch carriers all the time as soon as your contract is up. The lowered phone prices are up front subsidies that you end up paying back over the life of your contract, and if you don’t get a new phone as soon as you can, you are paying extra on your contract.

  5. Roo says:

    Your sense of entitlement is just embarrassing. Would you expect an accommodation for a brand new Corvette because you’ve been a loyal leaser of Chevy Cobalts for the last 10 years? People like you are what’s wrong with America.

  6. Howard Wasserman says:

    If my lease agreement with GM allowed me to upgrade to a Corvette in 4 months for $X, but right now GM is going to charge me $2X for that Corvette while charging a Chrysler owner $X for that same Corvette, I would say I am getting a bad deal. It is not about entitlement, but about why GM would treat it’s current/longstanding customers so much worse than new customers.

    Btw, I wrote this on my new iPhone; pretty cool.

  7. Edward Swaine says:

    I understand how this is annoying — but not much more than any long-term contract. I’m supposing you can’t upgrade because you changed phones; the price of your new phone was discounted to reflect the value to AT&T of your commitment for N years of service. There are drawbacks to this method of pricing, and if what you are proposing is that you be permitted to buy an iPhone at a non-subsidized price (tentatively, $400 more than subsidized, per AT&T) and use it on the AT&T network, explaining why you shouldn’t be able to do that is harder. But if you are asking to pay the subsidized price, the comparison to eligible-now AT&T customers is simple (they have paid their two-year tax), as it is against new customers (they “owe” nothing to AT&T, and besides, have had their own service commitments to fulfill).

    I probably misunderstand — there are points when you seem to be objecting to Apple as much as AT&T. But to the extent relevant, I don’t see anything irrational in deciding not to give the existing customer base the same equipment option as those lacking any service commitment. Loyal customers can always be treated better, but it is very often the case that newbies get preferred in some way (most commonly, with a newer widget). You are right that you can retaliate by switching services when you’re eligible, but AT&T/Apple cruelly anticipate this and counter-move with exclusivity . . . so if what generates irritation is iPhone lust, they may still keep you.

  8. Bruce Boyden says:

    People here are missing the obvious solution: carry more than one device. A phone for phoning, an mp3 player for audio, a camera for photos, a Blackberry for emailing, etc. If you put them all on your belt, you can be all cool and look like Batman. The 1960s Batman, that is.

  9. Sigivald says:

    So you’re complaining that the contract you signed to get a cheap deal on your current phone won’t let you get a cheap deal on a new phone, without having two contracts at once?

    And this is Apple‘s fault? Or AT+T’s?

    Nobody made you buy a subsidized phone on contract in the first place, did they? Did you not realize you were signing a contract, and that you don’t get a cheap subsidized price on a new phone without a new contract?

    Sense of entitlement is right.

  10. Andrew says:

    This is unfortunately typical of all of the cell phone companies. The phones are relatively cheap (often free), because the carrier subsidizes the cost of the phone and recoups that subsidy over the life of the two-year contract. The fact that AT&T won’t let you upgrade at all, even with an extra fee, seems like a bad business decision. Sure, they’ll recoup the cost of the subsidy for your current phone, but don’t they want to keep you as a customer past the end of the current contract? (I do love my iPhone, but AT&T service is not very consistent.)