My iPhone, my wireless carrier: A marriage of (in)convenience with AT&T?

While the rage about dropped calls involving the iPhone 3G on AT&T's network (and others) has subsided since the phone's semi-disastrous rollout, there is still an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the phone's service. Generally, the attitude is "love the device, hate using the phone service." Perhaps the highest-profile example came this week when tech blogger Om Malik publicly dropped his iPhone, putting the blame squarely on AT&T's poor network quality.

I should say that I personally do not have many iPhone complaints. Sound quality is generally good, and I've had fewer than five dropped calls in the five months since I've been using it. This is of course more than the zero dropped calls I had in my five years with T-Mobile, but then again, I use my iPhone as my only phone, whereas my old Nokia was just for when I left the house (and I work at home, so that wasn't all that often). But perhaps one of the reasons for this anecdotal difference is that I live in Baltimore, and Malik lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. More anecdotal evidence (just check out the comments on Malik's blog post) points to the Bay Area having particularly poor AT&T service -- which is kind of insane, as it's ground zero for the US tech industry, and full of people who can and will complain loudly about it on the Internet. The problem may be exacerbated by the fact tech-savvy and relatively affluent Bay Area types are much more likely to actually use iPhones than your average person, and thus put more of a strain at AT&T's network infrastructure.

Whatever the case, AT&T is working diligently to improve service quality -- oh, wait, I mean they're trying to figure out how to extract more revenue from customers. Rumor has it that the company is planning tiered Internet service plans for future iterations of the iPhone. This is presented as creating opportunities for lower-cost plans for those who balk at the current $30/month all-you-can-eat service; but of course, if you go over your allotted bandwidth, that's when the big nasty charges kick in, and you may find yourself upgrading anyway. (This is all coming from the same analysts who are insisting that some kind of stripped-down iPhone is coming any day now, so take it with as much salt as you think that merits.)

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