Would AT&T be more diverse, more reliable, and less crap without the iPhone?

Thursday, September 3, 2009 12:05
Posted in category AT&T, Featured, iPhone

On my journey through my ever bloated RSS reader, I stumbled upon a post on Gearlog that really made me stop and think. I sit here day in and day out reading story after story with some tie to either Apple, the iPhone, or AT&T. More often than not, poor network performance is the center headline drawing me in. The fact that Apple’s Jesus phone is causing AT&T to stutter is an understatement. Heck, even major news publications such as the New York Times are starting to notice. One thing I don’t see is news from other iPhone carrying countries about their underdeveloped, under prepared iPhone carriers and the horrendous network coverage and speeds that plague U.S. users. While I’m sure they have their own problems here and there, the fact that it isn’t blowing up like it is stateside is disheartening.

Since picking up the iPhone, AT&T has released countless handsets that on paper, meet or surpass the iPhone in every way. Yet time and time again these handset launches go unnoticed and under the radar. The complete ecosystem Apple created between the iPhone, iTunes, and Macs is a monumental challenge for foes to overcome to say the least. Likewise, since the iPhone’s birth on Big Blue, many handsets didn’t even get a chance to go unnoticed. Handsets that without an iPhone would have been prime contenders. First, this shows just how far advanced the iPhone and its ecosystem is from the rest of the market. Two, it makes one stop and ask themselves: “What if AT&T never carried the iPhone..what if the iPhone never existed?”.


That question can really put a deep thinking gadget nerd into a multi-hour session of brainstorming about all other handset releases and possible sales throughout the last 2-1/2 years. There as been plenty of potential, and up until the iPhone, some real eye catchers. Yet somehow millions upon millions of people were blinded by the iPhone light rendering anything else but a tiny, solitary LED light imperceptible to most.

To start, if the iPhone had never been released, touchscreen technology on mobile devices and more advanced OS’s wouldn’t be as advanced as they are….yet. Feel free to flame me and criticize me. But simply step back and look at Windows Mobile. With WinMo 6.5 still not set to release for many weeks yet, the touchscreen technology still used is resistive — the type of screen that reeks of ancient tech. Even Android which I consider the closest competitor to the iPhone OS and encompassing devices has some areas on the software side that fall short. Shortfalls such as lack of multi-touch (though hacking enables it now and official support is coming within the near future) as well as hardware that still hasn’t had the impact the iPhone did when it first launched. Such flaws and shortcomings highlight how many areas of the market are still lagging.

Now don’t take this as I’m knocking all other devices and praising the iPhone. In fact that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m tired of the iPhone, iPhone news, more importantly AT&T. I’m ready for something new and exciting, something that can get me all giddy in my geeky heart again.

Getting back to the question at hand, what would have happened if AT&T said no to the iPhone much like Verizon is rumored and generally believed to have done? AT&T’s phone lineup would certainly be more diverse and perhaps even exotic. Our GSM friends up north such as Rogers have several higher priced, higher end handsets in their lineups even along side the iPhone. Could AT&T be getting so close with their money making device and relationship that they don’t want to bring in anything too good that would hurt iPhone sales and cause Apple to prematurely search out other partners? However, with other handsets such as the BlackBerry Bold and HTC Fuze just to name a couple, AT&T could have brought in a more diverse customer base with multiple OS’s that cater to individuals differently.

Clever wording and more thought provoking sentence structures aside, how do you see it? Would AT&T have a more diverse and better high end line up if it weren’t for the iPhone? Would they have brought in more exotic handsets such as the Sony Xperia X1 or Nokia N97? Could we see AT&T branching out more when they lose iPhone exclusivity? I desperately want to know. Talk at me.

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5 Responses to “Would AT&T be more diverse, more reliable, and less crap without the iPhone?”

  1. Gib says:

    September 3rd, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    God that’s quite the topic. My initial response (which possible is wrong or will change) is that if there was no iPhone I can almost guarantee the influx of new customers to ATT would have been significantly less. In my
    mind there is no question. I also believe that the iPhone, with how it uses the network, really exposed ATT’s lack of depth to network that likely would have never been exposed in such a way that ATT is worries about mms from iPhones. Or how having a concentrated amount of iPhones in a specific area could bring that local network to it’s knees.

    As for profitability, ATT has to be making money. I know they pay Apple a portion of their data revenue but they also make money from the voice and text plans that apple I’m certain does not get. My impression is that while ATT is making buckets of money, the true cost financially and network wise was never factored or realized by execs before they pulled the Apple trigger

  2. Mike says:

    September 3rd, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Very true. AT&T wouldn’t be nearly as rich as they are right now or have as many subscribers. The revenue sharing however ended after the first iPhone so any new iPhone 3G/S customers aren’t benefiting Apple with their voice/text/data plans. You’re also right about the iPhone really exposing AT&T’s weak network and how not to conduct “business as usual”. If AT&T were really the forward thinking, technologically advanced network they claim to be, we wouldn’t be hearing daily of horror stories concerning reception woes and painfully slow to non-existent download speeds.

    I for one will be glad to see the iPhone branch out past AT&T. With my move back to TMO in the latter half of this year perhaps early next year, SIM swapping on an old friend will be so much easier and less painful. How or why do I assume TMO will bring me overall happier days and more restful nights. Perhaps the fact that they have 3 tiers of iPhone tech support…for a phone that they don’t even carry. Wow. Just wow.

  3. Gib says:

    September 3rd, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    It will be interesting to see how other American networks handle the iPhone and see who suffers as ATT did.

  4. Tom says:

    September 3rd, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    While we’d have a more diverse handset group at AT&T, without the iPhone we wouldn’t have a real all-you-can-eat data plan in the US, which is the key innovation for me with the iPhone. US providers are notorious for nickle & diming customers with practices such as billing for incoming and outgoing minutes. The iPhone really opened up the data pipe, and let people use the internet and internet-enabled apps as much as they care to. So while AT&T would have a more reliable network, users would be stuck with “unlimited” plans of 5 GB/month, and the rush of new business focused on mobile apps, data and websites would not have happened.

  5. Mike says:

    September 3rd, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    Techinically, the “unlimited” plans offered by AT&T and even others such as Sprint and Verizon are really soft capped in that if you consistently go over a certain threshold month after month, they can cut you off for “excessive use”. AT&T’s “soft cap” stands around 5GB. Go over that every month and you’re on the road to getting booted off their network.

    Silly me, I thought unlimited meant excessive/all you can eat/free for all. I guess it really meant capped….

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