Wednesday, June 16, 2010

And to Apple: I’m sorry, but as good as you make me feel about the world of technology, I just don’t love you enough  to endure AT&T’s bad habits anymore. So, the iPhone has to go, too. And that makes IMAG0002me sad. I truly wish things were different. I almost can’t believe I’m doing this. They say if you love something, let it go free. It’s a brutal suggestion, really.

Let me start out by saying, for those who don’t know, that I’m a security and IT management professional by trade. I’ve held executive and senior management roles for both security and IT functions at a publicly-held company in the financial services space, I’ve consulted with governments and companies large and small on cyber-security issues, and these days I manage security strategy for a Fortune-500 company. So, I have some perspective and reality-based opinions about security and quality.

Let me also say - plainly and clearly - that this blog is where I voice my own opinion about things that are on my mind (as opposed to discussing work-related topics). And my mind is pretty active right now as it concentrates on my personal AT&T Wireless account and the lack of service and security quality the company has delivered over time. In other words, I have some strong opinions on the topic.

This is certainly a bit of a rant, but it’s not a knee-jerk reaction. It’s grounded in reality and reason and I have put some time and thought into my decision.

And enough is enough: I’m done with AT&T.

First AT&T’s reliability and call-handling problems were the issue, and frankly those were bad enough on their own. There are locations where I can *guarantee* calls will drop on my iPhone on the 3G network, every single time. Areas with three to five (out of five) bars of signal strength that suddenly drops the call and goes to zero, before churning around trying to reconnect and eventually coming back with a full signal once (I assume) a tower hand-off finishes. I actually have to tell people that the call will drop in a few seconds and that I will call them back in a couple minutes when the service recovers. They always want to know how I can know that. It’s sad. Coverage has gotten *worse* over the past several months in many areas where I travel, and call reliability has suffered. It’s probably worth noting that the same bad service areas affect my iPad’s 3G data access, as well. So, it’s not just my iPhone.

As if that wasn’t enough, there’s the costs associated with the AT&T service. We pay a premium for iPhone voice and data plans, and get crap for service in return. If I had a buck for every time someone tried to call me and got voice mail, while my phone was sitting in front of me with four or five bars yet never rang once, I’d be able to pay that early termination penalty AT&T requires of it’s customers. It’s bad enough that AT&T sells us this poor service, but it’s even worse that Apple isn’t more publicly vocal and more forceful about getting the problems solved. It’s been three freakin’ years already, for gosh sakes! There is absolutely no excuse.

Then a week ago comes news that AT&T’s iPad registration service was exposing email addresses and validating iPad hardware identifiers, as uncovered by a hacker group with ShootFootan unfortunate name (don’t Google it if you are not already familiar with why it’s unfortunate, just trust me on that one). I, too got the victim-list email from AT&T describing what had happened, six or seven days after the fact. It’s not the actual leak that stinks in this case, it’s the fact that such a design would make it into a Internet service in the first place.

Since then, there’s been a bit of a meta-debate about who’s responsible for what, and all of it is really just details. The fact that the information leak *could* happen in the first place is yet another indicator of why AT&T is a sloppy, careless company when it comes to the services I consume and my personal information. Shame on them. But there’s more…

Then this week comes the straw that broke my proverbial camel’s back, as AT&T’s servers fail massively under load during the iPhone 4 pre-order, and we discover that apparently the company's critical software changes didn’t get tested, and changes got made at the last minute. Oh, and as a result our personal data is being exposed – once again - due to a supposed flaw in the AT&T systems and how they access database records.

Holy cow.

Regardless of the variety of outstanding questions about the exact details and severity of the security situations, the very existence of these problems is more than just problematic.

One has to wonder, if one is being pragmatic and watching the past couple weeks’ activity: What else might they be skimping on that we don’t already know about? If I followed the same practices and didn’t test or validate security and functionality in my line of work, there’s no doubt I’d be gone in a second. Again, simply unacceptable for a huge company and it’s customers, who demand and require trust.

None of this is indicative of a company that practices good, basic security principles as a matter of course. It’s not indicative of a company that strives first for quality. And it’s not the type of company I feel like I can trust anymore.

So, I am quitting you, AT&T. I’d say it’s been nice knowing you, but that would be mostly a lie. So I’ll just walk away and let the past be the past, and focus on the future. Nine-plus years is enough. Good luck to you. I hope you will change, but it’s going to take some serious work, and I just don’t know if you can actually do it. Your track record is not good. Change is hard. Change means pain. And  in the end, most people aren’t willing to endure that process. But maybe you will, and if you do please let me know. I’d like nothing more than to be a happy customer and to write something happy and positive here. I’ll keep my iPad service going with you, since I don’t really have much of a choice and its very existence is part of what makes it possible for me to let the iPhone go. But it’s time for a new phone on a new carrier.

Maybe someday you’ll earn my business back. You might have Apple in your jaws of exclusivity, but not me. For now, you’ve lost my trust and business -- and please realize that you killed an Apple iPhone customer in the process.

And that’s really saying something.

P.S. – A quick final thought to Apple:

I love the hardware. I love the OS. I love the apps. But I can’t stand the service provider, which has failed us for too long now.

I fail to see how you can continue to do exclusive business with a company like AT&T, and I hope you’ll quickly open up options for your customers. Maybe you’re already working on it, which would be a breath of fresh air in this cramped, stuffy, smelly room. I’m sure many will suffer the pains of AT&T to get your hardware and software in your hands, and honestly this is a painful decision for me to make because your phone is something I want and need. But your corporate quality and image is directly tied – even intertwined - to AT&T in the United States, and for a company that stands tall on the ideals of doing things well rather than doing them first, your AT&T relationship is a failure of massive proportions, with quality never measuring up and ability to correct way too lacking. For what it’s worth. I want your products more than any other, but AT&T’s issues have finally crossed a line and have reached the summit of Mt. Unacceptable.

So, what do I do? Please, tell me. Do I wait patiently for a relatively short period of time for another carrier option, or do I just make the move now and use someone else’s hardware?

I am truly sorry to have to leave, Steve. Please, win me back.



Add/Read: Comments [7]
Apple | IT Security | Mobile | Tech | Things that Suck
Wednesday, June 16, 2010 9:49:31 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010 11:40:24 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
God I so agree, so much of the crap the goes on with at&t is just plain inexcusable. Btw, love the iphone picture.
Greg Blank
Wednesday, June 16, 2010 11:45:12 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Heh yeah. Screen shattered, just like my opinion of AT&T. Metaphoricalisticnessism.
Greg Hughes
Thursday, June 17, 2010 4:29:01 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
It would be interesting to know where you go with this now. Are you planning on jail-breaking the phone to use it with another provider, or are you selling it, or what other options do you have?
Bernhard
Thursday, June 17, 2010 5:01:39 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
That's similar to the feedback I sent apple after I cancelled service with at&t.
derek
Thursday, June 17, 2010 6:04:29 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
"But your corporate quality and image is directly tied – even intertwined - to AT&T in the United States, and for a company that stands tall on the ideals of doing things well rather than doing them first," I agree with you, I think that Apple doesn't do its research when it comes to partners. I've dealt with a shitty situation in regards to their credit card provider trying to get the 1 year no interest promotion. Apple needs to do its research when it comes to using third party companies.
Thursday, June 17, 2010 6:15:22 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Not only do you in the States have to suffer AT&T, we in Europe must too. Despite the fact that our carriers have supported over the air video calls since 2002, we won't get that in iPhone 4 because AT&T can't handle it.
Casper
Thursday, June 17, 2010 8:48:52 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Great post!

I think it is important to understand why Apple selected AT&T when they launched the iPhone: it was the only company that would let them keep full control of the OS. Additionally, AT&T was nearly dead when they struck the iPhone deal...they were desperate and gave Apple huge royalties on service fees.

However, it is a totally different world now and Apple is stupid to stay with AT&T exclusively. Pure failure on Apple's part.
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