Prior to iPhone launch, Steve Jobs wanted to replace carriers

Rumor: Prior to iPhone launch, Steve Jobs wanted to replace carriers

Nancy Gohring over at IDG/Macworld quotes John Stanton, Chairman of Trilogy Partnerships, as saying that, prior to launching the iPhone in 2007, he spent a couple of years with Steve Jobs trying to figure out how to do it without the likes of AT&T or Verizon.

He wanted to replace carriers. He and I spent a lot of time talking about whether synthetically you could create a carrier using Wi-Fi spectrum. That was part of his vision.

Jobs gave up on the idea and ultimately signed with Cingular which became AT&T, but Apple did manage to disintermediate the carriers to a large degree with the iPhone, and take back considerable control of the customer relationship with everything from software updates to apps to device design and release.

Stanton thinks carriers should be concerned about the "dramatic shift in power" that occurred. They should. They should emulate it with other platforms because it leads an equally dramatic shift in customer experience and satisfaction levels.

Just imagine if they'd be

Source: Macworld

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 33 comments. Add yours.

Frank Malloy says:

Before people get excited about this, do you really want Apple to replace cellular carriers? Given what is going on about the lack of stability of iCloud and Siri downtime, how'd you feel if your wireless service was down this often?
Apple is great at products but pretty lousy at cloud and Internet support.

Alex Harker says:

Remember, Siri is still in beta. Also, iCloud has been seamless for me and haven't heard many complaints.

Carioca says:

You obviously haven't been following iCloud news closely. Go take a look at the poll Georgia wrote this week about sync and iCloud.

fastlane says:

People are nimrods. iCloud works flawlessly.

fastlane says:

People are nimrods. iCloud works flawlessly.

DiamondDNice says:

this seems to be a long time ago and clearly something that was not doable since he gave up on it and went with AT&T. Carriers in the U.S. are not going anywhere anytime soon.

DiamondDNice says:

this seems to be a long time ago and clearly something that was not doable since he gave up on it and went with AT&T. Carriers in the U.S. are not going anywhere anytime soon.

overunder says:

That's what was said about land lines.

Patrick Sweeney says:

THere are so many things that hard to explain to normal people when they're deciding on Apple versus Android...and among them is the gains that were made when Steve changed the rules. How do you convey that to someone who still just sees it as paying a minutes bill and a data usage bill?

Carioca says:

And what rules exactly did Steve change? He signed a exclusivity contract with AT&T that forced users on this carrier for years. Is that an example of "changing the rules"? How was that positive to customers?
Let's just remember that Apple was late on the data game, when the iPhone 3G came along data plans were quite old news.

eahinrichsen says:

I dislike a lot of things about the iPhone ecosystem, but Jobs telling the carriers that no, they couldn'toad the iPhone with their own apps or influence the OS or slap their logo on the phone itself was huge.

Carioca says:

He traded that for the exclusivity clause, that's not changing the rules, it's bending for his own benefit.
The end result is that AT&T had record customer growth since the iPhone 3G, and continued to dictate terms including the ending of the unlimited data plans.
So yeah, I bet they took that "rule changing" really well. Besides, the iPhone is basically the only phone without a carrier logo on its face, so I don't think the rules have really changed.

MYNAMESALEX says:

I'm in Canada, and here, the smartphones ARE the carriers. All the carriers have to have nearly the same plans and services, (although they're still shitty rates and such) because the devices are now more important. Every major carrier has blackberry, iphone, and android (different androids on each carrier).
Telus, Bell, Rogers, almost all the same to the average consumer. $50 for your plan, pick a smartphone. Want iPhone, go anywhere, want BB, go anywhere, want android (not any particular one, but a high tier one nonetheless) go anywhere. The differences are so small, if any at all.

Carioca says:

Yes, because Canada passed a legislation that forced carriers to provide unlocked phones. The unlocked phone and the GSM network were the game changers, because they gave you complete freedom from the carrier.
That, along with number portability, forced carriers to behave and play nice. Steve Jobs had nothing to do with any of that, quite the contrary, the iPhone was one of the last smartphones to be available unlocked.

Alex Harker says:

Considering Apple has begun to circumvent SMS/MMS (an old carrier standby) with iMessage, I think they probably still have the vision to remove the carrier from the consumer's perception as much as possible. There's no reason that they couldn't roll a voice service in with FaceTime for communication between Apple devices and further remove the phone carriers and the conventional idea of a phone number from the equation. I dream of the day when the "iPhone" is basically an iPod touch with a cell data radio and an earpiece. Alternate services like Skype and iMessage could replace the phone minutes and SMS that I am unnecessarily paying for and convert the telcos into the dumb pipes we want them to be!

Shameer M. says:

"There's no reason that they couldn't roll a voice service in with FaceTime for communication between Apple devices and further remove the phone carriers and the conventional idea of a phone number from the equation. "
Good idea. Instead of integrating it into Facetime, Apple should release that feature as a separate & call it Voicetime.
Or a second option would be to roll Facetime, iMessage, and a voice service into one app and call it...you ready for this....iChat ;)

jaswanth.koppu says:

"iCall" free calls to iOS devices when connected to WiFi/3G...may be they are planning some thing like this??

Shameer M. says:

I wouldn't doubt it & they should.

Carioca says:

Revolutionary. If only Skype hadn't been doing this for ages now...

Anton Frost says:

They could just do a WiFi VOIP app that could work world wide with it's own Phone number. This wouldn't replace cell service but be a better option than Skype or Google Voice. But then they might be stepping on the toes of carriers as well as inviting Google to a boxing match in court.

Anton Frost says:

They could just do a WiFi VOIP app that could work world wide with it's own Phone number. This wouldn't replace cell service but be a better option than Skype or Google Voice. But then they might be stepping on the toes of carriers as well as inviting Google to a boxing match in court.

d2globalinc says:

Lmao - you think the iphone is beating the carriers? Yah right, all the carriers are doing is replacing "minutes" with 4G/3G data caps... The carriers are limiting innovation and services just like they always have, to make sure they make their buck..

jpoates says:

Carriers should be dumb pipes. Much blood will be shed in this war.
Great point about customer satisfaction increasing with phone designer having control of OS updates and app store.
Everyone used to hate Verizon because they would disable hardware features and stick their crappy OS on the phones instead of use the OEM OS...

FlopTech Engineering says:

The phrase "dramatic shift in power" is an understatement. Apple has pushed the carriers that much closer to their inevitable dumb pipe fate. Just like ISPs.

MYNAMESALEX says:

What's an ISP? Can you eat it?

Terry Knab says:

They might just be able to yet. T-Mo or Sprint would make a great acquisition target.

Terry Knab says:

They might just be able to yet. T-Mo or Sprint would make a great acquisition target.

Brian says:

Google has been trying to do this for years. When you think about it, all the infrastructure is already there. Virtually every smartphone has a Google Voice client available for it. Only thing they have to is enable VOIP which would be trivial.
I assume the only reason they haven't is because of some back door deal with th telcos (speculating).

anon says:

With 80B in bank, I suppose anything is possible.

anon says:

With 80B in bank, I suppose anything is possible.

Carioca says:

What gradually forced carriers to have less control over devices was the advent of the unlocked phone. AT&T had full control over the iPhones on its network, and people unhappy with the service were forced to change devices or learn to live with it.
Apple only recently started to provide unlocked iPhones, and that was because some countries like Canada and Brazil passed specific legislation that forced phones to be provided unlocked.
If Apple had really had qualms about carriers, they would have done what RIM did, set up their own servers and circumvent carriers, that was game changing.

Carioca says:

Sure, you could do it with satellites, and no one needs to invent it because it is already invented and in use, it's called Iridium.
Receivig data is easy, the problem is getting the data back up, then you need big antennas and a lot of power.

Kate says:

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