06 September 2009

1 in 9 Million

If all you read was the news coverage of AT&T’s wireless services, particularly since the launch of the iPhone, the stories you’d be most likely to see would be along the lines of the big New York Times piece from 3 September, “Customers Angered as iPhones Overload AT&T,” or an item from All Things Digital about the launch of multi-media messaging ability for the iPhone. The tone of these stories, for as long as I can remember, is one of complaint and frustration among the many millions of AT&T customers, including about 9 million iPhone owners.

The thing is: I find it bizarre, and completely counter to my own experience.

I have been an AT&T customer since 1996, with vague but fond memories of the acquisition of my first phone, a seemingly brick-sized Nokia that worked so well it made me a committed Nokia user, until I got my iPhone a dozen years later. Not only did the phone work well: so did the service to which it was tied. It’s precisely because of the quality combination of the two that I have remained an AT&T wireless customer ever since.

While I spend most of my time in New York City, I have also spent substantial time away from here, from very rural parts of New England to middle-of-nowhere spots in Texas between Houston and Austin, to a range of other places around the country. Rare are the times I have found myself without service. More common has been finding myself with better service than Verizon or (more dramatically) Sprint customers.

The quality of my service or experience hasn’t changed since acquiring my iPhone, either. Sure, periodically I get calls that don’t go through; but hardly so frequently as to be a meaningful factor in my general experience, and no worse than ever or, as far as I can tell, worse than friends with other phones on other services. Sure, I have moments where the downloading of my e-mail seems to take forever; but it usually turns out that some idiot has sent me 10MB of photos, and the problem is either not AT&T’s or, frankly, not so unrealistic. The broad problems described by people in the Times and the many other articles one can find with a quick search have never been my experience. At all.

If anything, I continue to find the iPhone an amazing tool (and toy), something out of the science fiction or comic books I read as a kid
and nearly the real-world equivalent of the hand-held communicators and analyzers of Star Trek. Maybe I’m just old enough that, never having expected such technology to be realized during my lifetime, I’m grateful for how well it works, even with its flaws and failings. Few technologies are perfect, and the iPhoneas a unit, and as a tool to access the AT&T serviceseems damn good to me.

I spend a lot of time using computers of varying kinds. My threshold for poor products and services is both high enough that I stuck it out with Dell and Microsoft longer than I might have, but also low enough that newly adopted tools that just don’t work well are traded out or discarded rapidly.

The iPhone and AT&T are not in that category. Let’s just hope that by writing this I’m not jinxing it.

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