Apple just updated that old cliche by leaving the man in the black hat off its list of wireless providers worldwide who are prepared to handle new features on its popular iPhone.
AT&T, currently the exclusive carrier of the iPhone 3GS in the United States, may have just made one of the biggest gaffes in its existence. During the keynote at this week's Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), with a room full of devoted Apple followers and with millions more looking in, the telecom company didn't show up. Apparently its network isn't prepared to support features like MMS and tethering -- features it had to know were coming from Apple and that customers had been clamoring for since the iPhone was first announced.
Well, it's almost high noon and the man in the white hat may be riding toward town right now.
In the past couple of months rumors have surfaced that Apple may be looking to bring the iPhone to Verizon Wireless. Verizon, with its larger network and more subscribers, would allow Apple to make more money on the hardware by putting it in the hands of more people -- something the Cupertino Crew is always looking to do.
It would seem to make sense that AT&T, seeing the backlash on the blogosphere and on Twitter, would do something about this debacle. Instead, the company continues to put out press releases and tweets letting its customers know that they are either not eligible for an upgrade until 2010 or they will have to pay full price -- between $299 and $399 -- for the new iPhone 3GS.
AT&T, for its part, is countering this swell of bad press by sending out tweets that for the most part continue to ignore the fact that users are upset. Instead, the official AT&T news feed on Twitter appeared to be oblivious as to what was happening. Since the iPhone 3GS was unveiled on Monday, AT&T has sent out about a dozen tweets. Of those messages to its followers, none addressed the fact that people were upset.
Until late yesterday, that is, when AT&T finally appeared to catch on. "We are listening to chatter and concerns on iPhone upgrades and pricing. More details just posted," tweeted AT&T. One problem: The link included in the tweet is broken.
Black hat? Maybe AT&T is an ostrich with its head in the sand, hoping that this will eventually blow over.
At WWDC Apple essentially threw down the gauntlet, letting all of the Cupertino Crew's customers know that it had listened and made the feature upgrades users wanted. Apple held up its end of the bargain and called AT&T out for sleeping on the job.
It's amazing that AT&T isn't listening. In April, the telecom company reported less than stellar earnings. The bright spot? The fact that the company had activated over 1.6 million iPhone's in the first quarter. According to the company, more than 40 percent of those 1.6 million activations were first-time users. It's baffling that AT&T would be caught with its pants down when the opportunity to capture more new customers and create good will among current users came along.
Meanwhile, in April reports started appearing nearly everywhere that Apple and Verizon were talking. Ivan Seidenberg, CEO of Verizon, said that the iPhone wasn't coming to Verizon yet. Later, speculation started swirling that Apple would be bringing a iPhone Lite to Verizon.
The exclusive deal AT&T and Apple signed terminates at the end of 2009, at which point Apple should strongly consider building a CDMA version of the iPhone to run on Verizon's network -- if it hasn't already.
A new network may not provide all the solutions, but chances are good that Verizon would be ready to support every feature the iPhone 3GS offers from day one.
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