AT&T Maintains Its Grip on the iPhone Until 2012

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Looks like you can toss your Verizon iPhone dreams in the garbage for now, as AT&T -- the network with the lowest customer satisfaction rate and most dropped calls -- holds an exclusive on the iPhone until 2012. Apparently everything we thought about the contract's expiration was wrong.

Before the original iPhone launched in 2007, USA Today reported that Apple and AT&T has entered a five-year carrier exclusivity agreement. That report was never verified, though, and the terms of the agreement between Apple and AT&T have long been the subject of debate. Until this week, that is, when Engadget poured through documents and found that, in 2008, a class-action lawsuit alleging monopoly was filed against Apple. Apple's response confirmed the five-year deal: "[T]here was widespread disclosure of [AT&T's] five-year exclusivity and no suggestion by Apple or anyone else that iPhones would become unlocked after two years."

Still, as Engadget notes, it is possible that the terms of the contract have changed since 2007 or 2008. "Contracts can be canceled, amended, and breached in many ways, and AT&T's spotty recent service history plus the explosion of the iPhone and the mobile market in general have given Apple any number of reasons to revisit the deal," Engadget says.

It's also quite possible that the launch of the iPad may have brought Apple and AT&T back together, for an even longer stay. When the iPad was released, Apple once again shook hands with AT&T's troublesome network to offer its no-contract-required $30 per month 3G data plan on the iPad. It's possible that during the iPad chats, Apple and AT&T renegotiated the terms of their contract, which was on death row and set to be zapped, according to analysts. Then again, there's a chance Apple and AT&T might've renegotiated to end the contract sooner rather than later -- nobody knows for certain.

This news is especially upsetting since, overseas, the O2 network dropped its iPhone exclusive, allowing Orange to nab the goods. Why does Europe have to be so damn progressive?

It's also disappointing because it means I won't be able to make phone calls in my apartment for the foreseeable future. Sigh.

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