A 300-page iPhone Bill?

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Phone owners getting their first AT&T wireless bills have been posting videos and complaining on message forums about bills as thick as Moby Dick that detail every call, every text message, every moment spent on the EDGE network.

AT&T Inc. acknowledged that by default, customers receive these detailed paper bills, but said users can switch to a much shorter summary, or do away with paper entirely, at any time.

One blogger, in fact, is in the middle of her 15 minutes of fame after posting a video that shows her unwrapping a 300-page AT&T bill.

Justine Ezarik, a graphic designer from Pittsburgh, Penn., posted the one-minute video on her blog; it was uploaded to YouTube, where as of mid-day Thursday, it's been viewed more than 200,000 times. "I finally got my first bill from AT&T in a cardboard box containing 300 pages," she wrote in a blog posting. "Apparently, they give you a detailed transaction of every text message sent and received. Completely unnecessary."

Other new owners of the already-iconic iPhone have voiced similar gripes on Apple Inc.'s own support message forums. One user, identified as "macsgalore," said the first AT&T bill ran 125 pages, then later in the thread compared Apple's and its wireless partner's design sense. "On the one hand you have the most elegant, best designed, artistic, and SIMPLE iPhone," macsgalore wrote. "On the other hand, you have a 1/2-inch stack of paper that looks like phone bills did in the 1970s. It's just an amazing contrast! I laughed when I opened the bill."

Writers on Ars Technica were among the first to note the sheer size of the AT&T bills. In a post last weekend, one blogger said his bill was 34 pages long, a colleagues' 52 pages, with printing on both sides. "What gives?" asked Ben Kuchera.

It doesn't have to be that way, says AT&T.

"We can always give people a summary bill," said AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel. "It's little more than what you owe this month. And there's always the online option, too, which means you never get a paper bill."

AT&T subscribers who want to change from the default detailed paper bill to the paper-based summary or the online bill can do so, added Siegel, by calling customer service or tapping into their account from the AT&T Web site.

An e-mail message purportedly written by an AT&T call center worker claims that the company has recently changed the default for new customers from the detailed paper bill to the summary. But Siegel denied that AT&T's made the change. "The default is to get the detailed bill, he said. "That's where things are now, but that's not to say they'll stay that way."

"If they're sending this to everyone who sends a lot of text messages, and uses their iPhone extensively, this is a lot of waste," said Ezarik in a television interview. During the interview, she also estimated her text messaging volume at 30,000 to 35,000 message per month.

"In our business, that's what we call a lot of text messages," said Siegel.

This story, "A 300-page iPhone Bill?" was originally published by Computerworld.

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