Apple to AT&T: Drop Dead

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In nearly 30 years of covering technology, I've never seen the kind of snub Apple handed to AT&T during its iPhone 3GS announcement at the WWDC keynote. Apple did everything possible, short of an on-stage denunciation, to picture its iPhone launch partner as what the carrier's customers have long considered it to be: Slow and backward.

Prediction: Verizon will, as soon as contracts allow, become the preferred iPhone carrier in the U.S. Not sure when this will happen, but it will. On behalf of its customers, I want to thank Apple for, with the release of the 3GS, locking us into a new 2-year AT&T contract just to update our phones.

In some ways, Apple and AT&T deserve one another, except for the poor customers caught in the middle.

Since the very first iPhone shipped -- and before, actually -- customers have complained about Apple's anointing AT&T as sole U.S. carrier. Despite a continuing dalliance with Verizon, Apple chose AT&T, a decision it now seems to regret, much as many of its customers already do.

Let me make it clear: AT&T isn’t a terrible service provider, but its lackluster network and weak commitment to customers doesn't compare to Verizon's network and customer service.

Apple didn't slam AT&T by name on Monday, but it's absence from the large list of carriers that support iPhone tethering was obvious to everyone in the San Francisco audience. The announcement that AT&T won't support sending photos as SMS messages until later this summer was done matter-of-factly, but still grew gasps from some in the audience.

Heck, the mere mention of AT&T actually had some attendees booing. That's something I also don't remember having heard at any previous Apple product announcement.

Tech companies have long followed a policy of saying no evil about their partners, regardless of sloppy performance. While Apple didn’t publicly denounce AT&T, the company also didn't do anything to soften the implied criticism of its partner, who presumably knew about the tethering and MMS announcements many months ago and failed to react.

It may be a long two years before I can change carriers.

David Coursey tweets as techinciter and can be e-mailed using the contact form at

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