Will AT&T Ruin the iPhone?

New York Magazine has an interesting profile on Steve Jobs that focuses on the new iPhone, which hits the streets June 29. I haven’t seen such lust for a tech product before, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen it for a cell phone. But for everything Apple is doing right with the iPhone, there are a few dozen things that could cause the whole wonderful experiment to implode. Like being forced to work with AT&T for starters:

For 30 years, Jobs has hewn to the conviction that Apple’s strength is that, as he puts it, the company makes “the whole banana”—hardware, software, and everything in between. This approach is no small part of the reason that the Mac was trounced in the PC market by Windows. On the other hand, it explains why Apple thumped everyone with the iPod. Whatever its virtues and demerits, however, the whole banana has been Jobs’s ideological touchstone. And now he is entering a business where success or failure will depend on the efficiency and savvy of not just another company, but of AT&T. Oy vey.

For what it’s worth, I have AT&T for my cell phone service. It’s not bad (not brilliant either). My phone is crap, but I think that’s Motorola’s fault (and that’s probably a defective deal–my wife’s phone of the same model works fine).

5 thoughts on “Will AT&T Ruin the iPhone?”

  1. Here’s where I see the problem: Fast internet connections are coming for cell phones, but they aren’t widespread yet (hooray for still being years behind Japan’s cell phone technology), and it’s my understanding that the iPhone is not going to be running on a high-speed internet connection with AT&T. So that nifty commercial that shows someone hungry for calamari after watching Pirates of the Caribbean seems to be conveniently leaving out waiting for those web pages to load.

    It’s going to suck to have that high-end piece of tech stuck on dial-up. I’m hoping that the iPhone inspires AT&T and other carriers to get off their butts and make internet access better on phones, but it’s not there yet, and I don’t think it’s going to be there in a week unless AT&T has something up their sleeves.

  2. This is the thing I can’t find info on. What data plan to you need to unleash all of iPhone’s potential? Will any of ATT’s current data transfer abilities cover it (and thus iPhone comes under one of their current plans), or will there be a new iPhone plan? Before I would spend $500-600 on a new phone, I would need to know what the additional monthly charges will be.

  3. Kevin, check out The Macalope’s writeup of that article. John Heilemann’s article is kind of a hatchet job, actually. Lots of facts wrong, lots of sensational writing. Far too many flowery synonyms. You know the deal. I’ll never listen to another word Heilemann says.

    Dave, regarding the commercials leaving out waiting times, you’re incorrect. That’s how fast Google Maps works on the iPhone over WiFi. You know, the super-fast wireless network that is more ubiquitous than 3G. The WiFi you have at home, at your workplace, at the cafe down the street, etc, etc. (Having said that, I agree that 3G would be nice.)

    Tim, the data plan info is on Apple’s site. In fact, it seems they posted it just after you posted this question! Basically, every plan has unlimited data, and you’re just choosing how much talk time you need.

    I would encourage everyone to remember that no breakthrough product like this stands on its list of features as they are on Day One. The iPod certainly didn’t. It didn’t have Windows support on Day One. But it was still an iPod. It still sparked a revolution. The other things people needed and wanted were added over time, and are still being added and tweaked today.

    Just be patient. It’ll move from great to incredible over time. (Sorta like the great Seth Godin says: it’s not perfect, but it is remarkable.)

  4. The iPhone’s success depends on AT&T. That’s what I was saying. Josh, you and the article you linked to didn’t respond to that.

    The iPod is so amazing because iTunes rocks. Apple controls the whole experience. But this is different–they only control half the experience, and either half can muck things up.

  5. Honestly, I don’t think the iPhone’s success does depend on AT&T except that people need to be able to place clear calls that don’t get dropped in a wide variety of locations. If AT&T couldn’t provide that service, they wouldn’t be the most popular cell carrier in America, so I’m not too worried about that. If they’re behind other carriers in any way on that front, it’s not by much. True, their service isn’t the best in some areas, but those stories are anecdotal and highly localized.

    Put a different way, the capabilities of the iPhone that aren’t related to being a phone can all be used through routes not controlled or provided by AT&T. So even if AT&T’s entire network suddenly went down, the only thing I wouldn’t be able to do with my iPhone would be place phone calls. Sure, phone calls are important, but they’re only arguably 1/3rd of what the iPhone does. You don’t buy an iPhone if all you want to do is make phone calls. There are much cheaper alternatives for the simpler consumer.

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