How Steve Jobs and the iPhone changed AT&T

How Steve Jobs and the iPhone changed AT&T

Getting cranky phone calls from Steve Jobs demanding to know why you're wasting his time with 100 pages on keyboards. Being told by your chief technology officer that you're crazy for giving in to Apple. Having to tell people you're betting on Jobs, not some unseen, unknown future device. That's just some of what AT&T and their executives experienced when they signed the exclusive deal with Apple for the iPhone. Connie Guglielmo reports on AT&T's take for Forbes:

AT&T had a 1,000-page manual that detailed how suppliers should build a mobile radio optimized for its network. “ He said, ‘Well, send it to me.’ So I sent him an e-mail. Thirty seconds, he calls me back. ‘Hey, what the … ? What’s going on? You’re sending me this big document, and the first 100 pages have to do with the standard keyboard,’ ” de la Vega says, laughing. ‘ “ Sorry we didn’t take those first 100 pages out, Steve. Forget those 100 pages. Those don’t apply to you.’ He says, ‘Okay,’ and he hangs up the phone.”

All of this by way of setting up AT&T's claims that the iPhone helped transform the company to one that's willing to invest more in networks, take more risks on technology, and "mobilize everything". (Hopefully with one, shared, data-is-date account, right? Right...?)

Give it a read and then let me know if it reflects the AT&T you've experienced over the years, and if you're just as interested in where they're going.

Source: Forbes

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

How Steve Jobs and the iPhone changed AT&T


At&t is saying they are victims of their own success? Well as long as those customers are not canceling lines and their churn isn't increasing, they're making the money back on those iPhones they sold at a subsidized priced. If they're keep them and having them resign contracts then all is good IMO.

2010 was a huge year for smartphones. The iPhone 4 sold really well for At&t, Sprint had its Evo 4G, Verizon it's Droid lineup, and Tmobile was the first to back the Galaxy Line up. Everyone was grabbing these phones. But now people are just upgrading instead of switching as much. As long as you are continuing to upgrade those lines from Feature/Dumb phones to Smartphone or have customers upgrade their older Smartphone, then At&t should be fine.

I read the Forbes article, and I was a nice opportunity to reflect on the state of the wireless industry pre-January 2007. I think here, on the sixth anniversary of the unveiling, we should all take a few moments and remember what it was like seeing the new iPhone and what devices we had managed to use prior to that. I was rocking a Treo 650 before the iPhone, and even going from the crappy (by today's standards) resistive touchscreen to the capacitive screen was a stunning change. Cingular/AT&T took a BIG risk on the iPhone - and clearly, it's paid off. But I'm sure they were sweating it out, and De La Vega knowing he was betting his job and probably career on this thing.

Yea the game was so different back then. I won't forget how it felt to unpack my new iPhone when I got it. Or how cool it was to web browse from the bus I used to take.

Funny though, I would often pull my phone out and just marvel at it, almost begging for something to do on it. There were no apps and little as far as mobile WebPages to browse from that tiny screen. I used to text my girlfriends text/carrier email address so I could save on texts because I had the included 200 texts with my old data plan.

The good old days.. Now att is trying to minimize their dependence on the iPhone. Notice their big push of non-iPhone devices? I worked at one of their stores and they put a lot of stock into their Android lineup and soon after Windows Phone.

I don't blame them for this though, its business. They make more money from selling those devices than they do iPhone. Higher subsidies for the iPhone.

A friend of mine recently went into an AT&T store for an iPhone. The were giving her the hard sale for Android instead.

I do understand business is business but it's about time somebody started sticking it to the carriers as they have been doing it to us for years.

Yea a lot of times the reps at the stores push for their favorite devices. I'm supposed because you have a much better chance of making accessory sales on iPhone.