There Oughta Be A Law Against This
Last weekend, I seriously flirted with the idea of getting an iPhone 3GS. Serious enough that I actually went into an AT&T Store, played with one for a few minute, and actually tried to buy one. But I couldn’t pull the trigger. Not that I didn’t want to, but AT&T did not allow me to.
Let me explain. In AT&T jargon, I am what you call a Corporate Responsibility User. In short, my employer pays the bill directly. Good thing, too, because my bill isn’t exactly cheap with the voice, data, and international calling/roaming addons that I have. The downside to this arrangement is that I am unable to purchase a phone from directly from an AT&T store, even if I pay with my own money.
The reason? Pretty much any phone I buy will involve a change of some sort to my account. As a CRU, I am not allowed to make any changes to my account. Heck, I can’t even call AT&T and complain about service issues as I can’t even get past the initial account check since I don’t have the “secret” information.
In the case of an iPhone purchase, the changes needed to my account would not affect the monthly rate. I have an unlimited data plan already. It would, however, add a contract, which is something I haven’t had on my line in a while. Working for Nokia does have some advantages, since I could get much better phones than AT&T was offering.
Even if I wanted to pay full price for the handset either directly from Apple or from AT&T, because pretty much any handset requires an account change of some sort, I am screwed. I cannot buy it from Apple or AT&T directly. I have to go through my employer, which I plan on doing for the iPhone 3GS within the next few days.
Can someone please explain why AT&T–or any operator for that matter–has to know what kind of handset I have? Shouldn’t handsets conform to the relevant standards and that be enough for the operators? How come this tying of phones to service provider isn’t illegal everywhere?
If an operator tried to tie a phone to a specific landline network, it would be illegal in the United States, thanks to the Carterfone ruling. How come when we add a wireless radio to the phone, that rule suddenly doesn’t apply?
I’m not saying that carriers can’t sell subsidized phones in exchange for a contract commitment. That’s their choice. But making it so I cannot buy a phone outright because it is inexorably tied to my service? It should be illegal.