Trust me, this phone doesn’t need the first hundred pages.

Ralph de la Vega, then the Cingular Wireless COO, on what he told the “outraged” board to why he let Apple break the carrier’s spec rules (having to do with a physical keyboard, in this case).

The rest of the piece by Forbes’ Connie Guglielmo is pretty puffy — I mean, this is AT&T, who has shit the bed for years when it comes to their network compared to Verizon’s and left nothing more than a trail of excuses. But they did make the right call with the iPhone, no question about that.

Doing The Math

With the iPad, AT&T offers 250 MB of data a month for $15 a month (technically, $14.99, which is odd since every other deal is a round number). With the Kindle Fire HD, AT&T offers 250 MB of data for $50 a year. So that’s $180 a year versus $50 a year for the same data on the two different devices.

Perhaps not coincidentally, when you factor out the storage markup, Amazon is charging users $130 to upgrade to the Kindle Fire HD with 4G/LTE. 

So it’s possible that Amazon is passing the entire $130 from consumers over to AT&T to secure their good-looking deal. But if that’s the case, why not either tack-on or eat the remaining $50?

It’s just another layer of complexity for the consumer and it’s a weird one since most consumers are going to want more than 250 MB of data a month with an LTE connection. In fact, it’s such a weirdly small amount, that Verizon doesn’t even offer the option. 

Again, I just don’t get it.




Right now AT&T charges $30 per month for 3 GB of data. That’s data you bought. With your money. Just like you buy candy or books or video games or gasoline.

But unlike when you buy candy or books or video games or gasoline, AT&T thinks it can tell you how to use your data. If I buy a gallon of gasoline, ExxonMobil doesn’t charge me later for using it a different way. That’s because it’s my gasoline. I can use it to run my car or my motorcycle or my boat. Light it on fire. Whatever.

I’m shocked — shocked! — that AT&T would try to nickel and dime their customers.

I Don’t Understand What Google Doesn’t Understand About What AT&T Doesn’t Understand

There’s been a lot of back and forth today about some comments AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson (yes, him again) made recently during a Q&A session. When an annoyed customer asked why it takes so long for AT&T to roll out new Android releases, Stephenson said the following:

Google determines what platform gets the newest releases and when. A lot of times, that’s a negotiated arrangement and that’s something we work at hard. We know that’s important to our customers. That’s kind of an ambiguous answer because I can’t give you a direct answer in this setting.

That’s the CEO of the nation’s second-largest carrier placing the blame solely on Google for the poor Android update timeliness. Obviously, Google is not going to be happy about that. So they gave the following response to 9to5 Google:

Mr. Stephenson’s carefully worded quote caught our attention and frankly we don’t understand what he is referring to. Google does not have any agreements in place that require a negotiation before a handset launches.  Google has always made the latest release of Android available as open source at source.android.com as soon as the first device based on it has launched. This way, we know the software runs error-free on hardware that has been accepted and approved by manufacturers, operators and regulatory agencies such as the FCC. We then release it to the world.

So what’s going on here?

If you actually watch the video (embedded in the 9to5 Google post), my sense is that Stephenson is talking specifically about one of two things.

Either he means Google’s “flagship” handset launches. Those absolutely do require Google working with the OEM/carrier beforehand to get both the device and the new OS ready to go. The last one of these was the Galaxy Nexus which launched exclusively with Verizon, for example.

Or he could mean the Android Compatibility Program. That is, the certification a device must go through in order to be able to get the Google Play software license (in order to come with Google apps pre-installed). See more here.

It doesn’t seem like either of those are exactly the answers the audience member was looking for — he probably just wanted an easy answer as to why only a handful of devices have access to Ice Cream Sandwich months after launch — but that’s the one he got.

Google’s response can also be read two ways: that they really don’t understand what Stephenson could have meant. Or that they’re just being coy — playing dumb — to deflect something that is actually a real issue.

Stephenson’s comments out of context are a little hard to follow and perhaps poorly worded, but come on, they’re not that hard to follow when you think about it.

While it’s intriguing to think that the CEO of AT&T doesn’t understand how his own phones get updated, this is spin trying to make it seem as if the company that just got thrown under the bus is actually the one driving the bus.

I remember asking the question: Are we investing in a business model, are we investing in a product or are we investing in Steve Jobs? The answer to the question was, you’re investing in Steve Jobs. Let’s go after this thing. And we went after it, and the rest is history.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson (then Chairman of Cingular) on the early iPhone negotiations. 

Lots of good stuff in Brian X. Chen’s NYT post.

Sales Versus Surveys

When comScore released their latest U.S. smartphone market share numbers earlier today, I was a bit confused. According to comScore, Google (Android) usage surpassed 51% last quarter. Apple (iPhone) meanwhile, was at 30.7%. Those numbers alone aren’t necessarily surprising, comScore measures overall market usage, not just new sales and Android devices (as a whole) had been outselling iPhones for much of the last couple years.

But something happened last quarter. On the nation’s two largest carriers, Verizon and AT&T, the iPhone actually outsold all Android devices — combined. The nation’s third-largest carrier, Sprint, did not give a number for total smartphones sold last quarter. But they did disclose that they sold 1.5 million iPhones, which was higher than expected. Given the numbers, it sure seems like the iPhone is the majority of their smartphone sales as well — maybe by a lot — but it’s hard to know for sure. Yet, according to comScore’s numbers, Android market share rose 3.7% versus 1.1% for the iPhone.

This leaves two distinct possibilities.

First, that T-Mobile and regional carriers (which don’t offer the iPhone) more than made of the difference between Android and iPhone sales at the big guys. Eric Slivka of MacRumors notes there are around 70 million wireless subscribers in the U.S. without access to the iPhone, so it may be possible. That assumes that basically all of those people chose Android devices, but that’s also possible given the shrinking market share of Microsoft and RIM.

Second, that comScore’s method of measuring smartphone market share is flawed.

It certainly could be the case that the first scenario is correct, but it just doesn’t feel right. I’ll concede that the people without access to the iPhone could have offset the iPhone dominating Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint, but enough for Android to see nearly 4x the growth rate of the iPhone? That seems suspect.

Then consider the numbers from NPD. As a rival to comScore, NPD has their own methods for gathering smartphone market share. In their most recent report, they had Android controlling 48% of the U.S. smartphone market versus 43% for iPhone in Q4 of last year. In the same span, comScore had Android at 47.3% and the iPhone at 29.6%. 

Forget the actual numbers, focus on the differences in the numbers. It’s pretty clear that the methods these firms are using to measure smartphone usage aren’t an exact science.

Digging deeper, you’ll find that the way comScore gets its numbers is through a service they call MobiLens. How is MobiLens calculated?

MobiLens data is derived from an intelligent online survey of a nationally representative sample of mobile subscribers age 13 and older. Data on mobile phone usage refers to a respondent’s primary mobile phone and does not include data related to a respondent’s secondary device.

A survey. 

So on one hand, we have actual, verified and legally reported public data from the three largest U.S. carriers. On the other hand, we have a survey. 

I’m not denying that Android still has the larger overall market share in the U.S. I’m just disputing comScore’s stats that it’s still growing faster then the iPhone. 

Regardless, one thing is very clear: when the iPhone is available on a carrier, it dominates. This is backed up by cold hard sales numbers, not surveys. If Android is still “winning” in some segments of the market in the U.S., it’s only because Apple is allowing it to. 

Update: comScore has written to clarify things a bit. It turns out their numbers do show iPhone subscriber growth outpacing Android on the “Big 3” carriers (13% vs. 11% from December to March). But the overall growth Android saw came mainly from other carriers (T-Mobile and regionals) where Android is dominating.

Fair enough. This reinforces the last point: that Android is dominating the areas where the iPhone isn’t competing. Yet.

thatfrenchman asked:

I'm still an AT&T customer, but it pains me to be. I'm holding onto my unlimited data and I'm still getting a discount on my bill from a former employer. But every single thing AT&T does these days makes me want to throw those benefits away. But then I look at Verizon and their country-wide data outages and attempts at price hikes in the form of online debit charges. Do you still think the switch is worth it? Is Verizon the lesser of two evils?

Let’s be honest, all the carriers in this country are pretty bad. And they’re scared. They’re facing a future where they lost the SMS cash cow and potentially just become dumb pipes.

The problem is that they’re fighting this future with a breed of “innovation” that looks suspiciously like greed.

I go with Verizon over AT&T simply because their network is so much better in places like San Francisco, where I live. Obviously, a working network should be the most important purchasing decision. 

AT&T says that 7.6 million iPhones were activated last quarter, and 9.4 million smartphones overall were sold. Impressive numbers, but be careful.

As Eric Slivka of MacRumor notes, this doesn’t necessarily mean that 7.6 million of the 9.4 million smartphones sold were iPhones because “activated” can include older devices given away or sold through a third-party.

Still, AT&T says the “majority” of iPhone activations were of the iPhone 4S (which was new). And it’s probably safe to assume that overall, the vast majority of the activations were sales. If that is indeed the case, that means the iPhone outsold all Android phones combined on AT&T’s network.

Just like Verizon.

AT&T does say that they set a sales record for Android devices (as they did with iPhone). But they only give the vague, Amazon-like: “more than twice as many Android smartphones were sold versus the fourth quarter a year ago”. 

AT&T’s statement reads a lot like, “we love you too Android, we just love iPhone more”.

I give AT&T a lot of shit (and rightfully so for jackassery moves like this). But it’s important to remember that their main competitor, Verizon, is also a sleazy carrier. Today brings the perfect example of that. 

The largest carrier in the U.S. is apparently about to start charging a $2 fee if you pay your bill online or over the phone, sources tell Droid Life. Yes, they’re charging you to pay your bill. The only way to avoid the charge is to set up automatic payments which some people, like myself, don’t want to do. 

What a total shitbag move. Verizon is actually incentivizing many people not to pay their bill. Pure greed.

Update 12/30: That didn’t last long.

AT&T’s Unlimited Data*

*at the slowest, shittiest speeds they can possibly provide

If you live in a big city like New York or San Francisco, I can’t imagine why you’re still using AT&T. Seriously, just switch to Verizon, it’s wonderful. But millions are sticking with AT&T and as a present this Christmas, they’re getting flaming bags of shit sent their way.

I’ve had at least a dozen friends in the past couple of weeks says that they’ve received messages from the carrier saying their service will soon be throttled. Why? AT&T claims they’re using 12 times more data than the “average smartphone user”, and in an effort to maintain their network, they’ll start reducing the speed of their data.

It’s complete and utter bullshit.

These are people who pay for unlimited data (which AT&T has since discontinued, but they were all grandfathered in). AT&T doesn’t want to face the backlash if they kick them out of those contracts, so instead they’re taking more subtle, slimy maneuvers to make sure they can screw over long-standing customers. 

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