Part of my THE WAY I SEE IT series, where I quick-hit a few topics per week.
The way I see it, AT&T owes the bulk of its monetary success of their business to Apple. So why do they continuously offer iPhone users poor service?
Read just about any article, or watch just about any interview, and you’ll hear the same thing: iPhone users are frustrated with the service they receive from their carrier. So much, in fact, if it weren’t for the exclusive iPhone agreement they have with Apple, AT&T would have fewer stores and less revenue to advertise.
Survey results vary across mediums, but in my experience, AT&T makes a good amount of money based on iPhone exclusivity. The company stands to lose a pretty big chunk should Apple decide not to renew the contract that is up in 2012. Every iPhone-using colleague of mine left another carrier just to get Apple’s device, and plans to move to any other carrier should the iPhone be offered elsewhere.
It’s not just iPhone revenue that will be lost, either. Family plans – which save consumers money by grouping several devices and service to a single account – are increasingly popular. Most iPhone users I’ve met pay for two or more lines on a plan, even if secondary lines don’t use an iPhone. When a two- or three-line plan can cost more than $150 per month, that’s a significant amount of money AT&T’s at risk of losing.
Even worse, many carrier reps in local markets do nothing but sell phones and accessories. Employees at the store close to me, for example, weren’t aware of Consumer Reports‘ recommendations, had no knowledge of a class action lawsuit against Apple and their employer, and were ignorant of reports that thousands of users have reception issues. This means reps aren’t keeping up with news about their employer and the devices they sell, and AT&T certainly isn’t funneling information down the chain. So, when a potential customer enters the store with iPhone reservations, the rep isn’t armed with any real data because he doesn’t even know what problems have surfaced in the media.
Very public, celebrity complaints don’t help AT&T (or Apple), either, and recently Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak recommended users experiencing problems pick up a Palm Pre as part of a backup plan.
Lastly, AT&T misleads potential consumers by stating it “covers 97% of Americans.” What they mean is that service is available to 97%, and even that is regularly disputed.
What say you, loyal reader? Is AT&T doomed when the contract is up? Will Apple offer the iPhone to other carriers? And, if you’re an iPhone user, would you switch carriers or devices? Inquiring minds want to know.