The AT&T-Apple iPhone blame game hits the Grey Lady

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Here's a fun game to play if you subscribe to the New York Times via RSS: you can watch the headlines change over the course of the day as stories are updated. For instance, when I bookmarked this article yesterday, its title (preserved in my bookmarks list) was "iPhone Users Love the Device, But Hate Its Slowness." Today, when I brought it back up to write about it, that had morphed to "Customers Angered as iPhones Overload AT&T." That's an enormous difference in framing, and it sort of exemplifies how the blame game has gone back and forth as people gripe about the phone's performance.

The Times's lede -- in which the iPhone is called "the Hummer of cell phones" -- doesn't strike me as quite the right metaphor, though; the Hummer, after all, uses more gas to go the same speeds along the same roads as everybody else. If were going to make a car analogy, I'd compare it more to some kind of fancy sports car that could go at 200 miles per hour that was sold for use on narrow, two-lane roads with a 45 mile per hour speed limit. That makes it seem like I place the blame squarely on AT&T's shoulders, of course, but Apple really ought to have done some due diligence on this point before yoking themselves to a network that couldn't handle the traffic that they ought to have known was coming. If you want a really good metaphor, check out this post from Michael Mulvey, in which iPhone users are compared to New Year's resolution gym members: Gyms don't have to build out to meet the needs of their full membership, because a good chunk of those members will only come for the first weeks after January 1. iPhone owners start using the Internet and never look back.

AT&T is doggedly attempting to meet expectations. MMS will be here, finally, by the end of the month; tethering, well, sometime later. And, most hilariously, AT&T is striking back against the nebulous "bloggers" who are slamming their service, with this helpful video from "Seth the blogger" about how their wireless network works.

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