AT&T no longer happy with iPhone App Store

Now that AT&T isn't the exclusive US iPhone carrier anymore, CEO Randall Stephenson saw fit to express some frustration with the way Apple runs the iPhone App Store. Stephenson believes customers should be able to buy an app once and run it on any device they so choose, including iPhone, Android phones, Windows phones, etc.

"You purchase an app for one operating system, and if you want it on another device or platform, you have to buy it again," Stephenson said in a keynote speech at the world's largest mobile-phone trade show in Barcelona, Spain. "That's not how our customers expect to experience this environment."

And the way to do this of course is by building them as HTML5 apps and selling them through the AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile run Wholesale Applications Community (WAC). Now I don't know about you but I always get suspicious when a big company talks about what's better for customers (yes even Apple). Right now Apple and developers make all the money on apps but if carriers ran the store they would get a cut of the revenue, right?

I do think it would be nice to be able to take my apps with me if I ever change platforms but even the sweetest HTML5 apps are still very limited compared to native iPhone apps. There's no Infinity Blade in HTML5 yet and even if there were trying to make one app work on multiple platforms often leads to a lowest common denominator approach. Is saving a few dollars with a truly universal app worth losing features that are unique to each platform or device?

Is this sour grapes from AT&T, a desire to get a piece of the app pie, or are they finally just able to say what they truly think?

[USA Today]

Georgia

Senior Editor at iMore and a practicing therapist specializing in stress and anxiety. She speaks everywhere from conferences to corporations, hosts the ZEN & TECH podcast, and should be followed on Twitter @Georgia_Prime.

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AT&T no longer happy with iPhone App Store

94 Comments

The hypocrisy dumbfounds me. Sure, it's fine to take a phone that can be used on any network and lock it down to only yours. This is why AT&T will be just another phone company. Show some and value your customers for once.

The carriers just want a piece of that pie since they know Apple makes a decent amount of money from it.
But if they want this for phones, why not for computers too? So if I buy Photoshop for my Windows system, I should totally be able to install it on my Mac and not have to buy it again, right?

Not sure I agree. I wouldn't but software for my Mac and expect it to work on a pc as well. I think the app store works well as it is

Booooo att just wants some of that app revenue ... people been buying video games for decades we know if we have a game on xbox and want it for ps3 we have to buy it twice its not the end of the world

I was thinking that same example as I was reading this. Customers know what they are getting into when they switch phones and platforms.

I don't have a problem with the system as is. Most apps are reasonably priced. If I decide to change platforms later, that's jsut a factor that I have to consider in my decision.

Who cares?? Once you pick an iphone chances are you wont change phones anytime soon, probably consumers with two phone but that's a small target I think..

This guy is a total ass-hat. The carriers need to stay out of the way the phones operating system. Just provide the minutes and shut the hell up.

They didn't care about users when they were blocking slingplayer on 3G and now because they r blocking FaceTime on 3G.

I agree, the carriers should just provide the bandwidth and butt out.
Now that virtually all carriers have imposed data bandwidth caps and tiers what possible reason do they have for limiting what you can do with your bandwidth?

so rather than trust apps from a computer company we should trust them from a cell phone provider?
that makes so much sense...

One time I found a Randall Stephenson crawling out of the drain at my old apartment. I heard they don't like lights, so I shined a flashlight on it and it scurried away into a corner.
I was then able to subdue the Stephenson with my sneaker.

Wow, Mr. Stephenson is such a great CEO, always looking out for the consumer. We AT&T customers are so lucky. Mr. Stephenson, how about we apply these ideals in other, more consumer friendly ways too? Like this: “You purchase DATA for one operating system, and if you want it on another device or platform, you have to buy it again.” Do this then I'll take you seriously.

+10,000 points to you Ray for highlighting the hypocrisy.
The more the AT&T CEO opens his mouth, the more I want to leave his service.

What an arse. He didn't care about customer experience when they didn't put the money they were supposed to into the network.

The carriers want in on the action clearly and not to become dumb pipes. Unfortunately for them that's what is happening and they can't really stop it, so they cry about it in the media.
I didn't complain when I got a PS3 that it didn't play my Xbox version of Call of Duty. I don't see many complain when they switch from Windows to Mac that they have buy the Mac version of Office etc. I think people know what to expect if they are going to switch these days.

Gee, isnt at&t the carrier that locks down the bootloader so people can't download certain apps? Now they are complaining about Apple? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!
Grow up AT&T stop blocking your phones then you can complain.

What a whiny b1tch this guys is. His company simply WOULD NOT EXIST if it wasn't for the iphone. IF IT ISN'T BROKE, DON'T FIX IT. You mouth breathing tard.

Excuse me, but what customers don't understand that different platforms require different versions of a program? Or that different cars require different versions of the same functional part? Are the charging cables the same? What we don't expect is for a service we pay for, ATT, fails you when you need it. How's that roaming plan treating you in Barcelona, Senior Stephenson? People living in glass houses shouldn't covet the hot wife next door.

I change phones all the time. Carriers too. I just like to check out whats new. I have a probably 30 purchased iOS, 20 more Android and a half dozen Windows Phone 7. Today I'm back to iPhone because it works so much better. My bottomline is this. With the exception of very few, these apps are $.99. If you want to play, you have to pay. It's NOT a BIG DEAL!

Quit your yapping Randall. Focus on making the network better so we won't have so many dopped calls. Maybe an AT&T app store within an app store would happen. But apple would never let a stand alone att app store. Probably not even the latter.

Wait…isn’t this just AT&T trying to get paid? Sure for consumers we would love to be able pay once and use across many platforms. And of course for AT&T this makes sense. Just maybe they would be the one collecting 30 percent and all the attention. (learningacrossgenerations.com)

All my iPhone apps run on my iPad. You can't expect an iPad specific app to run on your iPhone when it was built for a different screen realstate.

Anything the carriers have control over is bad. The Apple Apps store is the most successful of all the platforms, there is no reason to change.

Wow, its called switching costs, and cell phone companies basically invented it. Eat a D***. Using the consumers as bait to reach their own end. Sad.

Kind of what was mentioned above but how can he talk when HIS company charges an extra $20 to use tethering/hotspot when we already paid for data to begin with? Screw you AT&T I can't wait to leave you and your rotten network!

AT&T just digging there own grave with this one. They should be grateful that Apple came to them for the original iPhone. I don't think that AT&T CEO understands it's " Apple's" App store not other companies App store. Don't blame Apple for making the App store susessful when AT&T's one is not and overprice..

if you buy an app for your Mac, you don't automatically get it for your windows computer. people whine about the dumbest stuff sometimes.

Someone mentioned this before... If I buy Office for my home pc, I have to buy it again for my work pc. And it's the SAME platform. The software you purchase is only good for one device. Been that way for ever. Moreover, I'm paying 4 internet bills to Att -- Home, work, and 2 iPhones. Based on Stevensons philosophy, I should only be paying them once for all of my devices. I wonder why we haven't seen that option from Att.

No kidding he is an absolute moron! I really wish enough iPhone users would leave AT&T so they would lose a ton of money and go away. With all the money they have made off the iPhone for the past 3+ years their network is still laughable and their service is embarassing at times. What a joke!

This stupid CEO, don't realize that att is alive because the iPhone. WTF this stupid CEO is thinking. more than 80% OF ATT have the iPhone.. OMG. what a idiot.!

AT&T is so full of it! They didn't have that POV prior to the iPhone and the App store! I recall changing devices numerous times on one account and having to re-purchase apps or walls or ringtones. Sure technology was different then but bottom line they want a piece of the pie. AT&T needs to stick to providing mobile service, work to keeping up with wireless technology, keeping its subscribers happy and leave the platform devs/device manufacturers to worry about the rest.

I believe its safe to speak for Verizon in this matter by saying they agree completely. They are actually a step in front of ATT since they're actually planning a Verizon app store for Android. Screw them. If the apps they preinstall on our devices are what they have in mind for quality i'll pass. If they want a cut of revenue let them develop apps that people actually want and sell them. That way they would get 70% not a lousy 30%. And since they are so consumer friendly ib this matter they could give their apps to customers for free if they switch platforms. The reallyfunny part about this is Ralph says customers should only pay once for an app but im sure that only applies if you stay with his network otherwise if you switched carriers he would say bummer for you. Right now ob Android, ios or Wp7 if you switch carriers or devices within the platform you keep your apps. I would rather that than having to keep a carrier to keep my apps.

It seems that developers wouldn't mind this as much because their app would have to be purchased more than once. I don't see how this is a problem that only Apple created. Because if I buy an App from the App store I will have to buy it again on an Android device. Why doesn't Google let you get the app for free if you can show proof of purchase? They are certainly not obligated to charge you if they don't want to but they do. And it's the same both ways. So I'm still failing to see why this is Apple's problem.

If I buy Madden 11 on Xbox and 3 months later i switch to PS3, should gamestop or EA sports let me get the one for PS3 for free?

No, but if you buy aCounter-Strike:Source from Steam on your PC, then switch to a Mac, you can transfer it there for free.
Same principle. Some stores allow it as an option. It is a good thing when they do.

Ok we are talking about something that is specifically made for 1 platform. Not a reach like the one you mention. Quite frankly, there are more things that you have to pay again for when you switch than not. And that's the point.

This is not a "reach" -- -- Steam has had millions of sales.
It is also exactly what is being discussed here. When you buy a native application from Steam, you buy a license to run that application, regardless of its platform. You, you can run that native app on your PC, or your Mac. The license is for you, the customer, not your device.
To bring it into phone terms -- if Grocery IQ (free now, but used to be pay, just an example) has both an iPhone app and an Android app, should you pay twice, or just pay once and have the license transferrable. Apple, Microsoft (and, I would suspect, Google) would say yes, you should pay twice. AT&T asks why? Steam has shown there is a strong customer appetite for a personal license, not a device license. Why not listen to those customers?
"Quite frankly, there are more things that you have to pay again for when you switch than not. And that’s the point."
By that logic, in 2007 Apple should have never made an App Store, because, quite frankly, there were more things delivered by carriers than not. If you see a customer demand and can reasonably supply it, you do it, regardless of the status quo. Apple is quite famous in that regard; why not allow other companies the same opportunity?

Apple already allows you to transfer purchases between devices with to your iTunes ID, and all iPhones run the same software (save OS versions), meaning that there is never a time when you can't transfer a purchase from one device to another and/or use it on two devices at the same time.

Is AT&T trying to lose the iPhone and iPad all together. Statements like that would make me want to pull my product from them and offer it to another or 2 just to really show them.

So synonymously if I pay for data on my iPhone already ($30) then I can tether it to my MBP on the road & not have to repurchase data AGAIN? yeah, let's see THAT happen AT&T! Maybe you'd jump way ahead of the competition then. Just saying...

The App Store, Android Market, BlackBerry App World, and Windows Marketplace all have their own apps. None of them are cross-compatible. The only reason he's bashing the App Store is because it's the most profitable. AT&T is greedy.

AT&T has been living in the clouds for ages. We have the best customer service, we have the best phone service. What would George Carlin say to all of this? I am not allowed to say on this family forum.

Dear Mr. CEO Randall Stephenson,
Why don't you worry about improving your network and customer service and leave making money to Apple. You need to shut your trap and work on things you can control. Your company is alive today because of Apple and the iphone. Just shut the F***ck Up.
Sincerely Yours
Kona

The post (and most commenters) conveniently overlook that companies and even stores have presented multiplatform native licenses for years now, even in the world of online stores.
Probably the most popular example is Steam. If I buy a game, say Civilization 5, on Steam, I can download and play it either on my Mac or on my PC. I cannot play both at the same time, because the license is for one person, but the license is freely transferrable between any device I own, regardless of platform, as long as the seller (Firaxis, in this case) has signed off on that ability. Millions of customers have used this sort of system, and like it.
AT&T deserves a bashing for a lot of things, but all this rep is saying is that he'd like to bring a Steam-like cross-platform licensing option for companies that want to use it, but that silos like Apple's App Store prohibit it. Is that really that hard to comprehend?

It isn't his concern. He should be more focused on his piss-poor network. Why not leave phone and applications development and distribution to the manufacturers? AT&T responsibility is to povide the pipes. That's it.

It's not the App Store that is prohibiting this anyways. Even if it was allowed, you would need to download a different version to run on an Android phone. It is up to the developers themselves, who could do this already by letting users register or something, and then give them the ability to get the app for free on other platforms when they switch.

Great point! and i personally think that developers will not do it because they would lose out on money. Why make a universal app for all platforms when they can make one for each platform and charge on each platform thus increasing their revenue.
This CEO is lost in the clouds somewhere....

"That’s not how our customers expect to experience this environment.”
I don't want to hear this when my Atnt experience has been horrendous when simply trying to retain a phone conversation without dropping the call over the past 3 years.

It's not this way in the computer market, so why would "customers expect" it?? If I switch to Mac or to Windows, I don't expect to keep my apps from my old OS. Lol... Where in the world did he get the idea customers want to keep their apps when changing platforms?

A pox on all their houses. T is only mad because it can't gouge us as well as AAPL can. HTML apps (5 or otherwise) suck and blow at the same time. Walled garden = suckage too. Open the phone, Let us download and install whatever we want. Let freedom ring and the market decide.

So many examples of hypocrisy that this guy obviously didn't think it through or do any research. We customers are a lot smarter than they think.

This must be the same guy who would like to purchase one video game and it work on all consoles.

So dumb, I love my iphone and if i had to switch which i wouldn't, big deal if i pay.99 for some new apps. HTML 5 isn't fully there yet to begin with and on top of that, no carrier in the US could provide that kind of bandwidth yet to be successful. Knowing ATT they would get that whole concept going and then when you switch phones they will charge you out the ass and still keep the same data plans. You will be going over on your data 4 times a month. I am fortunate enough to still have my unlimited data but if you want to do that then you have to go back to a $30 unlimited data plan and let people have fun. Can't have it both ways. I bet you once they saw the 30% cut that apple wants for subscriptions they saw how much money they could make. The iPhone saved ATT and Apple, Apple was always good but the iPhone just brought apple to a whole new level. I would never want the carriers to control everything because then they have ultimate control, they control your service and the apps. it will be a disaster that will never occur. Apple doesn't let carriers have their logo on the iPhone or their products, you think they would let that happen? I love the fact that the iPhone went to verizon as well because now it forces ATT to be competitive and do massive upgrades at a really fast pace like verizon has been doing.

Definitely prefer the app store over AT&T's appcenter has anyone tried to manage ringback tones or anything else on there lately? It's absolutely horrible and the pages are so large you have to have highspeed wifi to get them to load. No thanks AT&T!!

So this would be different from me having an "unlimited" data plan but having to pay extra for tethering how? Cry me a river jackhole.

this is plain stupid, its the way software sales work,
in more advances systems like windows and mac, you pay an incredibly high price for programs like Office because they include lots of licenses. Its the same for apple app store, you pay mostly 99 cents for most apps, specially because its 1 license only, if u want another license, u just have to buy the product again. Even that, u can authorize several devices to your itunes library to be able to use the apps in different iOS devices whenever they have your same itunes id

The reason they say this isn't just about money. All carriers want to be a valued brand that is considered more valuable then the device itself.
What a program like stephenson is speaking of is to basically render device brands moot. Meaning that value of a specific phone is nothing.

GREED IS AN UGLY MISTRESS, AND CORP CARRIERS ARE VERY GREEDY
LEAVE IT IN THE APP STORE, WHERE THEY BELONG
DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY APPS I HAVE HAD TO REPURCHASE OVER THE YEARS!
From multiple Windows versions, Mac versions, Palm, Win CE, Blackberry, iPhone, and on and on.
Sure I would have liked to just buy them once, but software makers don't stay in business and improve their products if you can only buy it once.
If the carriers want to get in the app business, they should do it the old fashion way, create them from scratch and see how easy it is not, not expect Apple to just hand them a cash cow.
Just what we all need, another hand in our pockets.
They should stick to what they do best, overcharge us for Data and continue to make billing so convoluted that even their employees can't explain the plans.
Screw em!

That is the way it was for the longest time when most phones came with a java engine but none of the carriers cared about allowing those cross platform compatible apps to be transfered to another phone or provider then. Apple revolutionized the mobile world and has made a lot of money off of it and they just want a piece of it for doing nothing.
If they want money from the app store they should develop apps; otherwise they need to stay out of it.
Plus, for the most part, when I buy an app for my Windows PC, I can't use it on my Mac, so it's pretty common software isn't cross platform.

Mac & pc have had this issue for YEARS. Why does AT&T think they can speak for us and say we are too dumb to understand that apple apps are for apple products and android apps are for android. OMG does AT&T know you can't play Wii games on an Xbox? Same diff to me. If I want to play Madden on Xbox and Wii I need to buy the game twice.

A big problem is phone manufacturers don't want to share their technology. That's why Wii and Xbox games are not cross compatible. Universal apps would be near impossible! LG doesn't want to share tech with Motorola. Apple obviously doesnt want to share secrets with Blackberry that's just how it is.

this is why we are using adobe air. adobe has had this idea right from the start, and apple has tried everything to stop it. that is why there is no flash on the iphone, not because of the crap excuses steve jobs likes to rant.. its about control, not protecting their customers.. they just want the customers money, they give a crap about features until the competiton forces thrm to add something (multitasking, etc)

This CEO is out of his f-ing mind! By this standard, if I buy M$ Office for the PC, I should get the Mac version for free. How about we launch an investigation as to why texting costs extra when it's transmitted over the same carrier wave as a phone call. This is the kind of chit that makes me want to go all Jeffry Dahmer on this Jack Ass!

I disagree. As far as I know, you can transfer apps between your iPhones. If I had a 3g, then went to a 4, my apps transfer. Same with Android, all the apps on my G1 went to my Epic 4g. The different OSes make for different apps. If I buy a ticket on JetBlue I can't go to American Airlines and demand a seat. They both get to the same place, but are different behind the scenes. (In this analogy JetBlue tickets and American Airlines tickets are from the same company)
I would agree if this was for iOS to iOS, or Android to Android, or WebOS to WebOS and so on. But if I buy Angry Birds for iPad, that is completely different code than is in the Android version. Not fair to developers.

What a terrific concept, Mr. Stephenson. How about letting buy one phone and let me go with it to a different carrier at my choosing? Mr. Stephenson are you prepared to unlock my AT&T iPhone so that I can use it on T-Mobile??
Probably not, you jackass!

Hey, my Blackberry apps weren't transferable to my iPhone. This is really kinda ridiculous. Let's just leave things the way they are.

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I prefer the app store as it is now. If I have an iPhone and buy an app, I can already share the app with my other iOS devices for free. I have no problems. If I buy a Windows PC, I can't expect the same apps to be available for my Mac for free. I sometimes have to repurchase apps that I already own. The vendors argue this is because they are different software formats and not all the same features exist. The same is true between phone platforms. Some android phone apps don't support the same features as the same iPhone app. If you switch phone platforms, you should have to pay for apps that are duplicates. If AT&T or whatever carrier wants to offer duplicate apps across platforms as a bonus to their customers, fine.
This brings up a question. How does this work with apps like Skype or Qik on iOS? If I switch to an Android on AT&T, the apps are blocked.