Behind the Scenes of the Apple-AT&T Relationship [Updated]

115659 apple att logos 150

ZDNet reports on a new feature article in the August 2010 issue of Wired discussing the relationship between Apple and AT&T and how the success of the iPhone has enabled the partnership to continue despite each company's faults. While the full article is not yet available online, ZDNet's summary provides some interesting details.

Apple and AT&T fell in love and quickly got hitched. Then after the honeymoon was over they started noticing each other's faults. Apple was staunch and unwilling to restrict the iPhone's Internet access, AT&T couldn't build its network out fast enough to accomodate them. Then came the finger pointing. But the two couldn't divorce, for the the sake of the kids. So they ended up tolerating each other, for the time being.

The report points to Apple's choice of Infineon for the cellular communication hardware in the original iPhone as an example of the tensions between the two companies. Infineon had traditionally been focused on the European market where cellular towers are located more closely together than they typically are in the U.S. But when AT&T asked Apple to work together on making Infineon's hardware in the iPhone work better with AT&T's U.S.-style cell site configurations, Apple reportedly declined, saying "No, you resolve them. They're not our problem. They're your problem."

An Apple source also indicated to Wired that Apple CEO Steve Jobs has suggested at a least half a dozen times that the company consider dropping AT&T for another carrier. Apple's team went as far as visiting Qualcomm's facilities in late 2007 to investigate the possibility of switching the iPhone over to Verizon's network, but size difference between the chips used for the different carrier technologies would have meant a significant redesign for the iPhone, something the company was unwilling to undertake given other possible issues with the move.

Apple also heavily considered switching to Verizon numerous times. Around the end of 2007, at Jobs' behest, Apple engineers (including Scott Forstall) visited the headquarters of Qualcomm - the primary supplier of the chips in Verizon's phones. It concluded that switching to Verizon would be too complicated and expensive because the chips were different sizes and would necessitate rebuilding the iPhone from scratch. Apple also wasn't convinced that Verizon's network would fare much better and let's not forget the nasty lawsuit that voiding its exclusive pact with AT&T would invite.

Interestingly, the Wired article also suggests that a hybrid chip from Qualcomm capable of running on both Verizon's CDMA2000 network and the UMTS network of existing iPhone carrier partners previously rumored for the iPhone is the result of a partnership seeing Qualcomm working with Apple on the chip.

The most recent rumor regarding a Verizon iPhone comes from Bloomberg, which late last month cited sources claiming a January 2011 launch for the device.

Update: The Wired feature article has now been posted.

Related Forum: iPhone

Popular Stories

iOS 17

iOS 17.4 Will Add These New Features to Your iPhone

Monday February 19, 2024 6:52 am PST by
Apple last month confirmed that iOS 17.4 will be released in March, and the update includes several new features and changes for the iPhone. Key new features in iOS 17.4 include major App Store changes in the EU and Apple Podcasts transcripts. The update also adds new emoji and includes preparations for the launch of next-generation CarPlay later this year. More details about the new...
apple wallet drivers license feature

Apple Said iPhone Driver's Licenses Will Expand to These 8 U.S. States

Monday February 12, 2024 7:51 am PST by
In 2021, Apple introduced a feature that lets residents of participating U.S. states add their driver's license or ID to the Wallet app on the iPhone and Apple Watch, providing a convenient and contactless way to display proof of identity or age. Unfortunately, states have been slow to adopt the feature since it was first announced in September 2021, with IDs in the Wallet app only available ...
samsung galaxy ring

'Apple Ring' Allegedly in Development to Rival Samsung Galaxy Ring

Tuesday February 20, 2024 2:27 am PST by
Apple is speeding up development of a smart ring that can be worn on the finger to track users' health biometrics, claims a new report coming out of Korea. Teaser image of Samsung Galaxy Ring shown at Galaxy Unpacked in January Apple has toyed with the idea of a ring wearable for several years, as indicated by several patents, but with Samsung preparing to bring its own product to market, the ...
New Macs iPads iOS 17 4

New Macs and iPads Coming Soon: What to Expect

Saturday February 17, 2024 3:00 am PST by
Following the launch of Apple's Vision Pro headset, attention has shifted towards what is next on the company's agenda this year. As usual, March should be eventful for Apple, as it is expected to release new MacBook Air, iPad Pro, and iPad Air models during the month. In a recent press release, Apple also confirmed that iOS 17.4 will be released in March. Below, we recap what to expect...
m3 macbook pro 14 16

Apple Now Selling Refurbished M3 Pro and M3 Max MacBook Pro Models

Monday February 19, 2024 5:04 pm PST by
Apple today began offering refurbished versions of the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with M3 Pro and M3 Max chip options, offering the machines at a discount for the first time since their October 2023 release. The release of M3 Pro and M3 Max models on Apple's refurbished store comes almost two weeks after the entry-level 14-inch M3 MacBook Pro first appeared on the store....
Apple Watch Series 9

5 Major New Features Rumored for This Year's Apple Watch

Sunday February 18, 2024 3:00 am PST by
Thinking about upgrading your Apple Watch or buying one for the first time? If your current smartwatch is doing its job just fine and it's only the idea of a good deal that's piqued your interest, it could be worth holding out until later this year when Apple unveils its next-generation version. Here's why. There are already several rumors from reputable sources that suggest 2024 could be a...