Tag Archives | AT&T

A BlackBerry Bold at an Attractive Price: $0.00

BlackBerry BoldBoy Genius Report found a bargain on the BlackBerry Bold over at AT&T’s site: If you’re willing to buy a refurbished phone (not a big deal to my mind, especially in these times) and ready to sign up for a two-year contract, you can get the Bold for free. And–the saints be praised–it looks like there’s no rebate paperwork involved. The BlackBerry Bold may not have the buzz of certain other phones that also reference a piece of fruit in their names, but it’s a great phone. And AT&T charges $550 without a contract, $299 (after a $100 rebate) for a new one on contract, so free represents a steep discount. The offer, which BGR says appears to be good only today and only online, is here.


Would You Pay $699 For an iPhone?

iPhoneGood news, sort of: Boy Genius Report is reporting that AT&T is about to start selling iPhones 3Gs that don’t require signing a contract, an option which it said it was going to get around to offering all along. They won’t come cheap, though: Folks who are willing to sign two-year contracts can get an 8GB iPhone 3G for $199 or a 16GB one for $299, but the same phones sans contract will apparently be $599 and $699 respectively.

Of course, those prices have a tinge of deja vu to them–when the original iPhone was announced in January of 2007, an 8GB one went for…$599. (The 4GB model was $499, and 16GB iPhones didn’t yet exist.) But that $599 8GB iPhone required a two-year contract, and was a distinctly lesser handset–no 3G broadband, no GPS, and no third-party apps. Today’ $599 iPhone is a better device with fewer strings attached.

But it isn’t really commitment-free, since it’s still locked to AT&T, and apparently only existing AT&T customers will be able to get one–and only one per line. Unless you’re planning to unlock your phone without anyone’s approval, you’re still effectively agreeing to remain an AT&T customer–and therefore turn over $1400 for service over the next two years, in all likelihood–until such time as AT&T and Apple decide it’s okay to unlock iPhones.

(And I’m still unsure why they object to the practice, if consumers are willing to pay an unsubsidized price. I’ve bought several other models of phone from AT&T at full price because the company would cheerfully unlock them if I asked; just what makes the so that’s different?)

Of course, Apple does sell unlocked, truly commitmentless iPhones in countries where it’s required to do so. When I was in Spain last month, I saw an unlocked 16GB iPhone 3G for 799 Euros, or $1075 U.S, at an airport electronics shop. My buying advice is simple: YOU’D BE NUTS TO SPEND OVER A THOUSAND DOLLARS ON AN IPHONE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES WHEN A NEW MODEL IS LIKELY JUST MONTHS AWAY!!! (Whew.)

Anyhow, I might consider a $599 iPhone 3G if I could unlock it without fear of technical glitches or reprisal from Apple–I just hate contracts, and travel overseas enough that the idea of being able to pop in a cheap local SIM is mighty appealing. But I’d wait until June or so to see what Apple has waiting in the wings. And I’m guessing it isn’t a given that any new iPhones will be immediately available at an unsubsidized price.

I feel a T-Poll coming on…

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iPhone Reception Problems Got You Down? You Need More Network Capacity. Now!

AT&T LogoI’m having a very good time at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas, where most everybody seems to be thoroughly enjoying themselves and the principal complaints seem to involve the weather (which finally cleared up this afternoon) and the quality of AT&T’s wireless service in and around the convention center.

The latter is an significant point, because there are legions of iPhone users here–I wouldn’t be startled if iPhones-per-capacita here are higher than anywhere on the planet, with the possible exception of whatever Zip Code Cupertino is in–and Twitter is as important a communications channel at the show as, well, you know, walking up to people and talking to them. The contrarian in me is not 100% empathetic with the folks here who have been traumatized by spotty service. 99.99999999999999999999999999999999999% of the humans who ever walked the earth managed to fare okay without working iPhones, and multiple issues remain more serious issues for mankind than spotty AT&T service (famine and brain cancer, to name but two). And I got the sense that moaning about AT&T had become trendy here. I saw one guy brandish his iPhone, jab at it with his forefinger, and say something unrepeatable about AT&T’s service. In an elevator.

Still, the fact remains that my own iPhone basically had no working wireless service inside the convention center yesterday afternoon. (I made do with my notebook and its EVDO card, which is on the Verizon network. It was fine.)

This morning, however, I tried my iPhone again, and data service worked, Actually, it worked great–it was snappier than it usually is back home in the Bay Area. I chalked it up to random good fortune–in general, I never know whether my iPhone is going to perform like a champ or fail to connect at all, and I’m never sure whether to blame Apple, AT&T, or both.

Tonight, however, I had a chance to talk with someone with knowledge of AT&T’s response to the SxSW Crisis of 2009. He told me that the company hadn’t anticipated that SxSW would be bursting at the seams with iPhones. (You’d hope that it was aware it’s sold a heck of a lot of iPhones since the last conference, but perhaps SxSW wasn’t on its corporate radar screen, or it didn’t realize that everyone would be Tweeting up such a storm.)

By 5pm yesterday, AT&T realized it had a problem on its hands, and it spent four hours doubling capacity in downtown Austin–something it was planning to do anyhow, but over the course of a few months, not a few hours. It did so not by rolling out portable cell towers (also known as Cells on Wheels, or by the wonderful acronym COW) but by borrowing capacity from other areas that didn’t need it as much–there’s only so much capacity to go around.

The person I spoke with said that the whole experience was a wake-up call for AT&T, and that it plans to monitor tech conferences and other gatherings that are likely to spur heavy use of 3G phones on its network from now on, and plan accordingly.

AT&T’s response didn’t turn every SxSW attendee into a happy camper–over at Cnet, Andrew Mager has blogged about folks who were still disgruntled as of Sunday. But as a guy who knows very little about the nuts and bolts of wireless phone service, it was news to me that a provider could do anything at all to improve the situation in a few hours. I look forward to the day when wireless capacity isn’t stretched thin anywhere. And I’m curious how my iPhone will fare in a couple of weeks when I visit the CTIA Wireless trade show in Las Vegas. It may have somewhat fewer ardent Twitter users than SxSw is seeing this year, but it’s surely be rife with heavy-duty phone users…


5Words for March 2nd, 2009

5wordsMarch? In. Like a lion!

Skittles stages goofball Twitter stunt.

Apple desktop event rumors begin.

Microsoft scuttlebutt: Live Search revamp.

One-pound Touch Book netbook.

iPhone becomes an ancient Mac.

AT&T: bring back your handset?

Foxmarks becomes Xmarks, adds features.

Samsung talks up “hybrid” cameras.

Demo 09 kicks off today.

New cameras to fawn over.

A fish swallowed my Nokia.

iPhone firearm app: bad idea.

Psion countersues Intel over “netbook.”

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AT&T, Union Agree to ‘Cool Off’

If anyone thought that the CWA was only interested in crippling AT&T by striking, Monday’s developments should answer those misconceptions. The union appears ready to work with the carrier.

Both sides have agreed to a “cooling off” period. What this means in most basic terms is that union employees will work without a new contract, even though no new talks will occur. Such events are not all that rare: essentially both sides willl walk away from the barganing table for a few days (or even weeks) while both sides mull over their next steps.

This was on top of a gesture by the union to extend the current contract by 30 days while negotiations continued. From what we understand, AT&T did not accept that offer.

Unionized employees will continue to work under the old contract — AT&T is mandated to honor those terms. Obviously, the cooling off period is not inifite: the carrier and the union will need to return to the barganing table.

The union has posted a FAQ on its website detailing the differences between the two sides. At first glance, these differences still look rather significant. Personally, I think that some kind of walkout is still quite likely so be prepared for the worst.

CWA officials are promising updates twice a day, so if theres any breakthrough, of course we’ll let you know here. In any case, if you’re an AT&T customer, I’d recommend dealing with any issues now. If this strike occurs, it could make life difficult.


CWA: No Strike at AT&T, Yet

Barganing continued up until the 11:59pm ET deadline, however no deal has been reached. AT&T and the CWA have agreed to “stop the clock,” which means the current contract will remain in effect while the two sides continue to talk.

Updates throughout the day seem to indicate the two sides are still quite far apart and nowhere near close to a settlement. “The reality is there are more unresolved issues than those resolved,” the union is claiming.

It appears that AT&T is not budging much. The union is also claiming intimidation, which it posted to its front page over the weekend. Among the allegations are threats of forced resignation or firing, and intimidation over showing solidarity with the union.

AT&T has been all but silent on the issue. The company has not made any public statements on the matter, so there’s no word on the carrier’s point of view.

In any case, the WSJ story from Wednesday certainly doesn’t help their cause. If you can spend millions or even billions on old Verizon Wireless assets, you can certainly spend more on paying your employees better.

That’s going to be a hard one to explain.

More as we get it.


AT&T Eyes Verizon Wireless Assets

On one hand, AT&T is fighting paying its employees more. On the other, its hoping to snag up assets that Verizon Wireless must divest as part of its merger agreement with Alltel Wireless.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that AT&T is likely to be able to snag a majority of those assets as it appears to be the bidder in the strongest position. A cable provider is also apparently in the running, although the paper does not specify which one.

Among these assets are 2.1 million subscribers including spectrum and infrastructure to support those customers across 22 states. Transferring those customers to AT&T would likely push the carrier above 80 million once this quarter’s subscriber additions are figured in.

Interest groups are none to happy about it, arguing that it essentially is transferring customers from one mega-carrier to another. Public Knowledge has argued that the Obama Administration should pressure Verizon to sell these assets to smaller carriers.

No sale would be final upon winning of the bids–the DOJ would still have to sign off on the sales.


AT&T Could Be Hit By Strike Saturday

[UPDATE 4/3/09 2:30PM]: The CWA has ratified a new contract, meaning a strike has been averted. Please see our updated coverage here.

att_header_logoThe Communications Workers of America, which represent some of the sales force at AT&T’s wireless stores, have begun to warn its members that a strike may be possible beginning on Saturday.

From the CWA website:

“Picket signs are being sent out to every CWA Local with Mobility members as the February 7th expiration date approaches. With little progress at the bargaining table, every Local must be ready to walk, if necessary, to get some RESPECT from AT&T Mobility.”

AT&T and the union have been negotiating since January 21 on a new contract known as the “Orange Contract,” which covers everyone in the country except for the former Southwestern Bell and BellSouth areas. At issue is wages, vacation time, job security, and benefits — the typical contract issues.

Wages appear to be the sticking point: the most recent update from Tuesday indicates what increase AT&T is proposing would not offset increases in health care costs.

I am not entirely clear here on whether a walkout would occur just in the Orange Contract areas or across the entire company footprint. In any case, a strike could paralyze retail services for a significant majority of AT&T customers.

I’ll watch my local store here. Members are being encouraged to wear red in solidarity on Thursday: I’m going to go into the stores and see who is. More on this as we get it…

Update 2/6/09: A Message to Our Commenters… we know this subject is of a personal matter for both those in the union and their non-union counterparts, and those who may have strong opinions on unionization in general. However, we will not tolerate personal attacks. Please, by all means speak your mind, but keep it at a level of intellectual discourse that keeps out the attacks. Thanks for visiting!


AT&T’s Web Site Starts Selling iPhones Again

iphonestampGood news, and just in time for those of you who were planning to dole out one or more iPhones for the holidays, or gift one to yourself: The AT&T Wireless site is now letting you buy iPhone 3Gs online. It’s the first time you’ve been able to do the whole transaction without leaving the house since the original iPhone, which both AT&T and Apple sold online, made way for the 3G.

The 3G’s move to a more traditional carrier subsidy model meant that you needed to get the phone activated in person; AT&T did offer a two-step transaction that involved starting the sale online and then sealing the deal at a store. But now it’s apparently figured out how to do the activation for purely online sales. Which is not surprising considering that it does that for plenty of other phone models.


This isn’t the same unique, exceptionally consumer-friendly situation that existed with the first iPhone, in which you could buy a shrinkwrapped iPhone and then handle the service signup at your leisure (or give the phone to someone else). The phone’s associated with your account as part of the sale process. But hey, it’s a step in the right direction.

As I write, Apple’s Web site is still directing customers to Apple anf AT&T retail outlets to buy an iPhone, but you gotta figure that online sales via the Apple Store are also on their way.


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AT&T: Tethering Coming to the iPhone Soon

iphone4Here’s a bit of cheery news from the Web 2.0 Summit: AT&T Mobility President and CEO Ralph De La Vega just told interviewer Michael Arrington that the company is working with Apple to let the iPhone serve as a tethered wireless modem for laptops soon. And he says it’ll be available “soon.”

There have been rumors that this was in the works for a while, but if anyone at AT&T or Apple has made it official until now, I managed to miss it.

There are at least two existing tethering options for the iPhone: NetShare and iModem. The former was removed from Apple’s iPhone App Store and the latter only works on jailbroken iPhones; both violate AT&T’s terms of service. Even if AT&T wants more money for a tethering plan–and I’m assuming it will charge something like $50 or $60 a month–I think a lot of people will sign up.

One major remaining question: Given that Internet access on an iPhone 3G can be pretty sluggish, just how quick will it be if a meaningful percentage of iPhone users are routing their connections to laptops and doing things that are even more bandwidth-hogging than typical iPhone tasks?