Open Letter to Apple, Inc. Re: iPhone and AT&T (Cingular)

Dear Mr. Jobs,

Recently at MacWorld 2007 you introduced the iPhone to raving audience and analyst reviews. I don’t remember any product that has been so eagerly anticipated and then exceeded our collective wildest expectations. I must admit, I want one, I want one bad. My wife wants one, even the Microsoft employees on my flight home from CES (I clearly attended the wrong show) want one! What’s not to like? Revolutionary mobile phone, iPod and Internet communicator all in one sleek device, we all marvel at how you folks at Apple do it. Congratulations to everyone at Apple on what will surely be more than just a successful new product, but a category redefining innovation!

However, during your keynote presentation you indicated that Apple has entered into an exclusive agreement with AT&T, in the US, as the mobile service provider for the iPhone. It is our understanding that the iPhone will work exclusively with AT&T and that consumers with other mobile service providers will not be able to use the iPhone unless they switch to AT&T. The question on many of our minds is why? Why tie this revolutionary product exclusively to AT&T?

We were all astounded as you demonstrated the many revolutionary capabilities of the iPhone. What stood out was the category defining user experience of the iPhone. You have left the traditional handset companies in the dust! What you must realize, is you have left an important part of the overall iPhone user experience in the hands of AT&T. While AT&T believes they have the most reliable network in the US, they certainly have the most reliably poor customer service. The iPhone, the network and the customer service all combine to create the “iPhone experience”. Apple has clearly done its part to create a wonderful user experience, are you sure you want to leave the rest in the hands of AT&T’s infamous customer service?

As you are probably aware, AT&T rated at the bottom of a recent Consumer Reports survey of 42,921 readers. My personal experience echoes that of the Consumer Reports readers. I work for a large multi-national company, part of the Fortune 500. We use AT&T, almost exclusively and have close to 50,000 (my guess based on our 70,000+ US employees) business accounts with them. Even with such a large account, I am rarely treated with the respect that is warranted such a large account. How will AT&T treat your (Apple) customers?

I was amazed at the press reports describing the statements from AT&T about their “agreement” with Apple. They certainly sounded arrogant and were gloating over “bending” Apple to conform to their terms. Is this true? For what possible reason would Apple need to “bend” to sign an exclusive deal with AT&T? Surely you have read the reports of AT&T’s gloating over at PCMag (you do read PCMag occasionally, right?). Cingular makes Apple Bend.

It certainly makes sense that there is a lot of work in putting together a feature like Visual Voicemail, and doing the work over and over with other service providers is costly. However, this cannot be the reason for linking iPhone exclusively to AT&T. Why then?

In stark contrast to the exclusivity with AT&T, your selection of GSM as the network technology was an excellent choice. GSM is a standard that allows the iPhone to be used almost anywhere on the planet and with leading service providers. GSM also allows for interchangeable SIM cards to link a GSM handset with a particular service provider. The iPhone has a SIM card slot and could therefore easily be linked to any GSM compatible service provider–a service provider chosen by Apple customers not by Apple corporate.

Mr. Jobs, please let us select our own service provider. Open the iPhone to other service providers or create an “unlocked” version of the iPhone. Let your customers decide which service provider to choose to complete the iPhone experience.

Best regards,

Ryan Petty