With all that holiday gift cash stuffing your pockets, you might want to hop online and buy yourself a nice gift (the selfless part of the season is over). How's sound? Perfect! . . . except if you have a zip code in New York City; Westchester County, New York; or the New Jersey suburbs. But don't be alarmed -- iPhones are still for sale; you just can't buy them online.
A reader of The Consumerist blog confirmed that he could not purchase an iPhone for the New York area online, even though it was available for most, if not all, major U.S cities. "Sorry, this package is not available in your area," AT&T's site says. So The Consumerist went online and asked Daphne, a customer service rep, who said, "Yes, this is correct, the phone is not offered to you because New York is not ready for the iPhone." Yikes. Then the New York Times received an e-mail from a rep stating, "We periodically modify our promotion and distribution channels," whatever that means.
But the fact that certain cities may not be "ready" for the iPhone does make sense. AT&T's network is an ongoing problem, and its failings have become aggressively public ever since Verizon put the company's head in the guillotine, exposing AT&T's meager 3G reception and coverage. AT&T struck back with a court case (or, more aptly, flailed, then gave up), but we knew it wouldn't do anything; not until AT&T actually fixed what was broken. So conspiracy theorists (and some customer service reps) might believe, given the circumstances, that AT&T is trying to keep the data-gobbling iPhone away from the Big Apple to spare itself further embarrassment.
Interestingly enough, Tech Crunch played around with AT&T and managed to score a New York iPhone by claiming to be a current customer; but the moment they dropped the cloak and pretended to be a newbie, they were told to go to the store.
Credit card fraud is another theory bouncing around to explain the New York area's dearth of iPhones, but this information came from yet another online AT&T customer service rep, so it's difficult to know what to believe.
AT&T really wants to be a good guy. The company has promised to boost its network in six US cities (New York not included) to satisfy irate iPhone owners. That's all fine and well, but when are other cities going to see improvements? Living in Boston, I frequently have to manually switch my network over to EDGE to avoid the 3G network dropping my calls and refusing to send texts. I didn't switch carriers and buy the iPhone 3G to play with EDGE.
Maybe by the time Apple updates the iPhone, which is likely to happen in June or July 2010, AT&T will have gotten its act together and honestly prepared itself for the smartphone phenomenon. Or perhaps belligerent AT&T customers should wait for Verizon to supposedly get its own iPhone. I'd hate to switch carriers again, but it's looking mighty tempting.