AT&T iPhone Exclusivity Will End... Eventually

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Speaking at Fortune's Brainstorm tech conference, AT&T CEO, Randall Stephenson, discussed the iPhone and it's exclusivity with AT&T.

"There will be a day when you are not exclusive with the iPhone."

Nothing was discussed regarding any negotiations that may be taking place at this time between the two companies but be assured that AT&T will do everything and anything in it's power to keep Apple's device under lock and key for as long as it possibly can.

All good things must come to an end, however, . With that being said, AT&T's exclusitivity deal with Apple's iPhone is no different. It will eventually end. Sure there are those of you out there that can't wait until Apple breaks free of it's chains from AT&T, just don't count on that happening anytime in the near future.

[Via Engadget Mobile]

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AT&T iPhone Exclusivity Will End... Eventually

51 Comments

Even if they were free right now, no other carrier in the US can support the iPhone's 3G radio besides at&t. I don't expect this to happen until 2011 at the earliest.

here in cincinnati there's no other carrier for the iphone. t-mo? crappy coverage and no 3g. sprint? means cdma and dealing with sprint. verizon? means cdma and dealing with verizon who will probably cripple the hell out of it. cincinnati bell? no 3g. i have no issues with at&t here, i'd stick with them anyway.

Please let this happen sooner rather than later!
Has anyone else had especially bad signal with their iPhone in the past 2 weeks? My wife and I both have been noticing it -- no signal on Embarcadero last Friday near the Ferry Building, drop-outs all over the city, zero to barely any signal (3G, Edge, or whatever the circle icon is) on CalTrain from SF to Redwood City.
When did the 3GS start shipping? Is AT&T just falling behind? Apple, please boot AT&T to the curb!

All the phone companies seriously suck.
We can discuss it as a strength vs weakness but in the end, no one provider can provide everything everywhere.
U.S. just has too much land to cover, hopefully the east coast and west coast will be disappearing soon from some kind of disaster. (That's a joke, if you can't handle it, go die)

AT&T has to keep the iPhone... I don't like verizon.. And if they keep it I know they will make there service wayyyyy better..

I have actually been happy with AT&T (MMS and Tethering not included in statement) My signal has been perfect where I live. If Verizon came out with the iPhone I would be very reluctant about going back to VZ because their data speeds just aren't up to par.
Also, this article is stating the obvious essentially. Duh, the iPhone won't always be exclusively with AT&T. Haven't we heard enough the itablet rumors with verizon?

I don't have any issues with AT&T. I live close enough to a big city that I haven't had a single dropped call... and have only been forced to use Edge a few times when visiting friends that live further away.
I understand why some people are eager to switch though. My friends up in Indiana only get decent reception through Sprint and Verizon, so they are quite frustrated with AT&T.
That said, before getting the 3GS in June, I had been a Verizon customer for 4 years. Frankly, any kind of deal between Apple and Verizon scares the shit out of me, because I know how much Verizon likes to charge you extra for EVERYTHING.
I'd be very concerned about buying something like Loopt in the app store only to discover that Verizon will charge me $5/month to use it. Yes, Verizon would do something like that. Trust me.

It's good to see many of you stick behind AT&T. After I wrote this I thought many people would be attacking AT&T. For me personally, there is no better carrier in the Chicago area. And I've had them all.

I wouldn't leave them either anyway. Verizons data speed is terrible and I would be shocked if they didn't somehow put their crappy bloatware on it. I have both carriers and where I live they both get great service buy I will always stay GSM and with AT&T.

2 me it's ALL competition.The sooner the better!!! AT&T knows if the exclusivity ends more competition will begin.I'm pretty sure Im gonna stick with AT&T regardless. With the iPhone being with multiple carriers, it will ONLY push AT&T to do better with their customers(i.e. MMS,Tether, cheaper data plans)... HELLO AT&T customers We can only BENEFIT from this!!!!!

The only thing I would look forward to with AT&T loosing the exclusivity is the potential competition driving down the cost of the iPhone data plan... but who knows if that'll happen.

I have no problems with AT&T. I have been with them for years, always had good customer service, billing disputes have always been in my favour and I have excellent coverage everywhere I go. I live in Las Vegas NV, and the service is great. Plenty of AT&T stores and 3 Apple stores. I hardly ever have a dropped call, get full bars in about 90% of the city. Even when I travel to other parts of the country, I still get great coverage.

@only1jonarius
AT&T has already stated that they would have very little reason to offer such good subsidies if they lacked exclusivity with the iPhone.
You're talking about a possible improvement in service. Any improvement by losing exclusivity would be negligible. The iPhone carries weight... but not that much. AT&T already competes with other carriers. AT&T ended the quarter with 79.6 million wireless subscribers of which just under 9 million had iPhones. It's certainly not the only thing that motivates them.
However, losing the subsidy we get from AT&T would cost an extra $400 up front. Sure, your average consumer will complain about a service they are forced into... but the vast majority would rather keep their $400 and use AT&T... or else they would buy it full price an unlock it.

I'm pretty satisfied with AT&T so far. It would be nice if data was either less expensive or included sms. Otherwise, its not bad at all.

outrageous data plan price? Big deal you have to pay for it anyway. So if it went down to $20 a month you'd save a little over $100 a year. Big whoop. Bunch of complainers!

@DWJ:

Has anyone else had especially bad signal with their iPhone in the past 2 weeks? My wife and I both have been noticing it — no signal on Embarcadero last Friday near the Ferry Building, drop-outs all over the city, zero to barely any signal (3G, Edge, or whatever the circle icon is) on CalTrain from SF to Redwood City.

Now that you mention it, I've seen problems at the Ferry building too. Falling back to Edge and even GPRS in the last 4 or 5 days.
Of course I'm 670 miles north of you, so it might be a different issue.
I didn't mention it earlier, because I'm not sure posting purely local problems is all that informative.

Jailbroken my 8g 3g last week and unlocked it am from the uk and am now currently on holiday in Egypt . Went into to local town and brought my self a sim for £5 and topped up credit with £4 the 3g signal here is excellent to my suprise I would say it was even better than London .
So glad I jailbroke this phone especially with the skype on 3g mod.
Credit is still high and I have been consuming data!
Unlock your phones and you decide which carrier u want!

Oh Noez...Now we get to hear everyone bitch and complain about how the other carriers suck.
Really who is good?
T-Mobile - No coverage, no real 3g.
ATT - Fastest 3g network. No MMS on Iphone. Extra features are expensive.
Verizon - Pretty fast 3g network. Lots of coverage. Sh itty phones.
Sprint- Fast 3g if you can get it. Spotty coverage. Poor customer service (but really cheap plans!).

You loyal AT&T customers are funny. T-mobile is better hands down!
It all comes down to mins unless you are 50+.
If you live in a hick town in the country, than yea Verizon or AT&T should be a better choice for you. If you live in the city like 90% of you do, then T-mobile is better
Half of you AT&T loyalist would not even be with AT&T if they did not have the Iphone
Here's the facts: AT&T $59.99 for 900 Mins, Unlimited Nights and Weekends
T-mobile: $50 unlimited Mins (for 1 year old customers)
So you AT&T Iphone users continue to pay $150-$200 per month for hick town and 3G coverage for now. Then switch to T-mobile when AT&T looses there contract

I dont hate AT&T. my wife still has AT&T. I was a AT&T Wireless Manager for 2.5 years and we were getting our asses handed to us by the t-mobile store in the mall I worked.
Mins is whats its about now. Hometown coverage, mins, internet and texting is what customers want. AT&T just makes you pay out the ass for it. Thats why Cricket Wireless, T-Mobile and Boost wireless is growing at a alarming rate. AT&T is ONLY hanging in there due to there loyal customers and the Iphone

@icebike: Yeah, purely local not so good; I had actually posted something similar on craigslist and then I saw this article pop up. Perfect cross-post.

Keep in mind, a CDMA device chews through more power also. iPhone users already complain about poor battery life, would Verizons older technology network only make that worse?

All you guys wanting the iPhone on verizon - are you willing to pay more for a comparable cell and data plan, lose your wifi coverage AND the app store in lieu of a verizon-run one? That's what will happen if they ever get the iPhone. they just announced no outside app stores for blackberry and android phones

@CadillacEfromDC
You are right that the only reason I'm with AT&T is the iPhone... but it goes both ways. I would have been unlikely to buy the iPhone for $700, so that marriage works for both companies AND the consumers.
As far as T-Mobile goes... minutes may be the most important thing to a lot of consumers... but as smart phones go, people want the best 3G coverage. T-Mobile just doesn't stack up against AT&T.
I live in the Dayton, Ohio area... maybe not the biggest of cities, but a metropolitan area nonetheless, and T-Mobile offers no 3G here. Only EDGE/GPRS. Meanwhile, I have 3G through AT&T constantly. So unless T-Mobile gets on the stick in the next 2 years, there's no way in hell I'm changing.
Also... different consumers look for different things. Minutes are pretty meaningless to me. I use less than 200 minutes/month, so unlimited minutes for $50/month might be great for a chatty family, but for me it is worthless. Give me the fewest minutes plan you have. But what I do want is a fast 3G network since I use my phone for the internet more than any other feature.
The pricing difference between AT&T and T-Mobile in that range is a measly $5/month... and I've already discussed how much better AT&T's 3G network is in my area. So, I'm not seeing any reason to make the switch when the contract ends.
Now... just so you know, I'm not a loyal AT&T customer. I've only been a customer since June. And if they lose their contract with Apple, I'll certainly shop around for better deals/service. But I'll tell you this. I'd much rather pay an extra $5/month for AT&T if it means getting that fat $400 subsidy they pay.
If AT&T loses exclusivity, the iPhone will cost more up front for the consumer. And I'll bet this board will be littered with just as many complaints about Verizon charging for everything, T-Mobile's lack of 3G, and Sprint's customer service horror stories. Pick your poison.

@ Derek
You are right in most of your points. Each have there pluses and negative.
But you are the lucky 2% of Americans that use 200 mins or less. My Cell is my home phone, my business line, etc. Am I the only 1 without a home phone?
Regardless, cell phones are to expensive but dont expect the joints like AT&T and Verizon to come down on there prices, they have the coverage and will win that argument all the time. I am waiting for a Phone Skype hack so I can get free calls to every so my wife and I can give the middle finger to T-mobile and AT&T. But I guess this day will NEVER happen

I have been with AT&T since Christ was a private. I have been happy over all & would likly stay even if some other cell company gets the iPhone.

@Derek If the iPhone isn't as valuable to AT&T as you claim. AT&T would NOT be so persistent to keep the iPhone exclusive!!! Don't you think?!

I know some people have said that AT&T's service sucks, especially in NY, but I have had no problems with it. I was with AT&T way before iPhone and am satisfied. The one thing that AT&T is really behind on and gouging its customers on with the iPhone, is text messaging. The packages are ridiculous, $5 for 200, $20 for unlimited? And still no mms? Idiots.

Verizon would cripple half the features, fill it with their crappy software and then nickle and dime you to death for every little feature. Sprint is a nightmare all the way around. I wouldnt mind switching to T-Mobile if they had more 3G coverage.

I don't care who is going to carry the iPhone as I will still buy it. I love how many of you on here throw out the old proverbial well Verizon will do this and that to the phone. I would assume that Apple will always have a say so in what can and will be on the phone. Many of you claim that Verizon gouges its customers, but have any of you had AT&T phones before the iPhone? All carriers get you one way or another and both have the same plans as far as data with 450 mins @ 69.99

I would not switch from AT&T, but I would like to see competition for our money. Right now, they are killing us with their phone and data plans....

I love AT&T. Great 3g coverage 60 miles outside dallas, with a 600kbps during peak hours and 1.5-2Mbps during off peak hours. Me and the mrs. share the 59.99/550 min. Family plan. With free mobile to mobile we still manage to stack 200 minutes a month into the rollover bag. This plan is only offered in certain markets we have been told (by AT&T). You will not get 3g on the iPhone by switching to tmobile. Tmobile's 3g band operates on a different frequency at least in the Dallas market confirmed by tmobile store manager when tried with our jailbroken 3gs(research for a friend that wanted my 16gb 3g but had tmobile). I simply have no reason to switch. AT&T customer for 6 years now, smartphone user for 2 years. Have the tethering option hack witch kicks arss, just waitin on mms...jeopardy tune queing.........

Thank god for Rogers in Canada.
Best network ever....expensive and crappy long contracts, but works great for a high end phone.
Hope AT&T gets their act together for the sake of our neighbours! :)

@only1jonarius
I never said the iPhone wasn't valuable to AT&T. It's just that the majority of that value is found in it's exclusivity. They are willing to pay high subsidies because of the number of new customers it brings in. I think I read that more than 70% of 2009's new AT&T customers have an iPhone.
That said, iPhone owners are still only about 11% of their existing customers. AT&T has been competing with Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile since long before the iPhone existed. So I don't think they are complancent in the service they offer. Neither do I think that losing exclusivity will give them more motivation to improve service any faster than they currently do.
All in all, my point is that AT&T losing exclusivity will result mostly in more expensive iPhones for consumers... not better service.

@CadillacEfromDC
Yeah, I don't suggest that my minute usage is the norm. My point was that different consumers look for different things.
More importantly, I think as the smart phone market grows, the demand for reliable and fast 3G network connections will grow as well. I also believe that many smart phone users would be willing to pay a little more for minutes in order to have access to a better 3G network.
And that's where the iPhone comes in. Sure... If AT&T loses exclusivity, some people will jump ship to T-Mobile, but I imagine most of the people who do their research won't.
P.S. I'm not sure what Verizon's goal is here, but they could own the iPhone market, and pretty much take over the cell phone world if they would negotiate a deal with Apple that didn't involve them sticking their greedy little fingers in the app store. Stupid if you ask me.

End of exclusivity does not necessarily mean other carries will get the iPhone (though it could, especially if or when Sprint/VZW move to 4G - GSM based network); it could also mean "We'll enable unlocking at some point and you are free to leave after the contract and take your iPhone with you."

@ jlc: to unlocked iPhone would not work on Verizon unless it was 4G LTE.
@ Derek: I'm not trying to defend Verizon at all here, but where do you get this information that Verizon is going to be sticking its fingers in the app store? Verizon could make apps for the app store if they get the phone, but Apple is not going to let anyone take any amount of money from them there.
I still believe Apple is waiting on LTE to be released and then move the iPhone to all of the carriers that run LTE, hence no more exclusivity. One of the biggest crocks here is the subsidy price going away as all carriers subsidies there phones no matter what and its not like the iPhone is costing more to produce then some of the other phones out on the market.

@Loner
Perhaps I misspoke. What I mean is 1) Verizon has come out and said that no 3rd party app stores are permitted while on their network. You may only use the Verizon app store, and 2) Verizon loves to charge monthly fees for apps, and would likely do so (like AT&T does for its turn by turn navigation app)
These are two main reasons I don't see any kind of marriage between Apple and Verizon. Verizon refuses to meet Apple's demands, and then pushes back in the opposite direction making policies that hinder the liklihood of a future marriage.

Also @Loner
I'm not suggesting that subsidies go away completely... but these are the words of AT&T, not me.
Subsidies will continue to exist, but it is unlikely that they will be fantastic deals we currenlty get. Instead of $400 off, you'd be looking at a much more standard $150-$250 off. Still a good deal... but not the steal it is now.

Can someone, anyone, justify to me why AT&T has an entirely different voice pricing plan structure for the iPhone?
Does it cost AT&T more to handle calls from the iPhone?
Sounds like unmitigated greed to me. Bastards.

Karen good point. I love my AT&T coverage but I don't see why my texting is $5 more than the plans for the phones that do include mms. Anyone think tethering will be $10? Also I have the original iPhone. Are they going to release tethering for it???

@CadillacEfromDC
I'm not a min person either same with tons and tons of my college and H.S. Friends who all just text now, I have the 450min plan and always have 300-350 rollover min since I get the mobile to mobile for free and I only call mobiles otherwise the only landline I call is my home rarely so if ATT had a 150min plan with unlimited data and unlimited text I'm sure tons of kids my age would opt 4 that

I believe that an open market for the Iphone will wake up the AT&T giant from its lazy drunken state and simplify its processes to allow for better customer service and streamlined ordering. My prediction is when the IPHONE is allowed on other GSM networks you will see a major exit of AT&T's customers moving to an inferior network.
When I-phone is offered to CDMA networks, then you will see people willing to pay for a new iphone, just to get away from AT&T. I think it will be a hard pill to swallow, but think many people will do it. The problem here is that AT&T has a pretty good network over all, and outages are few, once service is established. The problem with AT&T is they have over complicated their ordering, customer service, and their billing. Its too much for their sales and customer service reps to handle. There are so many rules and systems that do not talk to one another. Especially on theAT&T Wireless business side. They have no clue how to handle a miss-order, or a miscalculated invoice. It leaves the customer frustrated and disenfranchised. I currently have 85 wireless phones I manage for my company. 48 are iphones. I am currently moving all of our phones that are not iphones back to Verizon. I did the ROI and found it was cheaper to accept the penalties and move vs the cost of time spent in man hours trying to manage my AT&T Wireless Account. My AT&T rep quit last month, cause she had no power to fix problems that AT&T caused. I ordered an iphone in December 16th of 2009 and still have not gotten it, due to internal system errors on my order. I have made 6 calls to AT&T business customer service. I have contacted my new rep, and even complained to my AT&T Wired Services REP. No one can figure out why the order is being held up.
I promise you that as soon as this exclusivity is up and AT&T has not changed their ways, then I am gone and not just wireless. EVERYTHING. 40,000 a month in reoccurring invoicing with AT&T will be gone. This is not threat. Its a promise.

actually to the guy above, yes i had AT&T before the iPhone, and i would continue to use them even when the contract ends... simple as that no if ands or buts about it hands down AT&T and its GSM technology beat Verizon and its CDMA hands down!