The Consumerist details a conversation with an AT&T customer service rep, who allegedly told a Brooklyn resident that she couldn’t buy an iPhone because “New York City is not ready for the iPhone.” Which is weird, as in the streets of New York the iPhone is ubiquitous –not especially useful as a phone, but ubiquitous.
The Washington Post says New Yorkers can get one, but only at physical stores. When the reporter gave a New York address, he was blocked from online sales. Other outlets cover the story, though Apple’s own news section is silent.
AT&T’s response to both Consumerist and The Post when asked about all this: “We periodically modify our promotions and distribution channels.”
You may see this as poor service and public relations ineptitude. We see it as an admission of defeat.
Our iPhone, purchased in a moment of weakness 16 months ago, does many wonderful things. It shows us where we are on a map. It tells us the weather. Thanks to a recent innovation, we can even send picture messages, just like ordinary people.
But what the iPhone does like crap is make and take phone calls in New York. We cannot count the times our call has unexpected dropped, or been rendered by a change in position vis a vis AT&T’s approximately 17 towers in the area into unintelligible noise. And if we press it against our ear in the wrong way, the call disconnects.
In short, for New Yorkers the iPhone is a microcosmic version of what Apple itself has turned into: A company great at offering what we never knew we wanted, but not so good at delivering the ordinary and necessary. (The iPhone doesn’t even come with instructions, as Macheads are expected to intuit its functions with the Apple side of their brains.)
In behaving so strangely when grilled, the AT&T factota have merely taken on the gnomic and unhelpful aspect of its tech partner, probably as part of some 360-degree branding campaign.
We expect that in the coming days Steve Jobs will appear on our telescreens to announce that iPhones will no longer offer phone service to New Yorkers. Though this is really because the iPhone has failed as a phone, he will not present it that way. Phone conversations, he will tell us, are last-wave technology anyway, inferior to instant messaging and Skype via the browser.
He will then declare all our iPhones to be iTouches, and — as it is the latest version thereof — charge us all an extra $100.
Update: It is now suggested that AT&T stopped doing online orders out of commercial fraud concerns. You can still order the iPhone online via Apple, and the Wall Street Journal says AT&T has resumed its online sales to New York residents, too, though still without explanation as to the suspension.