iPhone + AT&T = Dead Trees & Giant Fees

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iPhone + AT&T = Dead Trees & Giant Fees

The first invoices for the iPhone have been delivered, and one thing is for certain, AT&T loves paper!

For most iPhone customers, the only thing they’re concerned about (if anything) is the call and text log. “Who did I call, who called me and did I go over my minutes?” As expected, the invoices included that information, but they also included a lot more.

The iPhone comes with an unlimited data plan (it’s required by AT&T) and by default, the iPhone is set to check email every few minutes. Part of the appeal of the iPhone is its “always on” service, so reporting every connection that occurs in a month for a seemingly “always on” service would be ridiculously long and unnecessary. Unfortunately, for both consumers and trees, AT&T believes that ridiculous is a good option.

My iPhone bill from AT&T was 51 pages long. It listed every single time it automatically checked for new email messages, the amount of data transferred, the exact time of the connection, etc… Only the nerdiest of the nerds would find this information important and necessary. This type of report should only be available online or by the request of the customer. Especially since the argument of “what if they don’t have a computer and Internet access?” is moot with iPhone owners — all of which must own a computer with Internet access just to activate the phone.

The AT&T iPhone invoices are not only an environmental waste, they’re also a waste of money for the company. Tripling and quadrupling the amount of paper that’s sent to the customer costs AT&T ink, paper and postage. I have no idea how much money they’re losing with this practice, but I have to imagine that it’s enough to be noticeable to their accountants.

Fortunately, AT&T has a built-in invoicing subsidy plan called roaming. Every mobile phone owner realizes that traveling to other countries (or domestic rural areas) can incur roaming fees. In fact, when you make a call outside of the local network, the phone usually states that it’s in roaming. But what happens when you aren’t making any calls and you’re phone is designed to be “always on” and frequently checks for new email messages without any user intervention? What happens is that you get charged by the same people who come up with the pricing for popcorn and coke at a movie theater — and you get charged relentlessly.

Stasia Holdren, our VP of Business Development and our Google AdWords guru, recently taught a one-day AdWords seminar in Vancouver, Canada. Although the city is relatively close to Seattle and is a larger metropolitan city, she was technically on an International roaming connection. She was mindful of that and only made calls from her phone when she had to. Unfortunately, her iPhone had other ideas. Since her phone was set to check email every few minutes, she was charged giant roaming fees for every new connection made, along with the time and data of each connection. She racked up a $600 bill from AT&T in just two days, and that was in Canada!

For those who thought AT&T got a raw deal from Apple with the iPhone, they didn’t. The idea of a device that makes connections in the background is very desirable, especially when their customers are likely to travel to other countries and will have no clue of the charges they’re racking up. With that kind of fleecing and an inability for their ripped off customers to leave and use the phone on another network, paying for trees, ink and postage becomes the least of their worries.

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