Douglas Crets

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Giving Credibility to the Shadow Education System

What Causes iPhone Update Limbo?

You used to own an iPhone, and until a month ago, you aimed to buy an upgrade for the discounted price and an extension of your current two year contract. But…

The iPhone was stolen in a foreign country. In the month between the theft and the qualifying date for the iPhone upgrade, you switch to a replacement phone that does not require a data package. You also lower your phone bill by adjusting the account settings, halving the current bill and making it more affordable. It’s a practical choice. You only need to send texts and make phone calls. You will not be doing much business travel, so the need for on the go email is minimal. You work from home, so you can always check emails there before you head out to a meeting.

But a funny thing happens when you make proactive choices as a consumer of AT&T. The algorithms in place at AT&T take into account the new billing settings and then adjust your timeline for a discounted iPhone upgrade. Instead of receiving it in a month, your new phone acquisition is pushed back to July 2011.

On its face, this does not seem fair. I have tried to see this from the point of view of the carrier. The payments for the iPhone usage go towards the subsidy for the discounted iPhone. They are not raking in as much as they used to from you, and in order to offset any potential further loss, they need to extend the time between your current acquisition (in this case, this point is moot) and the next one. Okay, slightly fair.

But the trouble is that this system leaves no room for the human side of the story. I’m a loyal customer and I desired to get a new phone and to pay the heavy bill for the kind of usage I am used to. But there is no “setting” in customer service that allows the customer service representative to take this into account. After talking to him on the phone, I was told the best that he could do was recommend me a new phone, the new Atrix, which is in pre-order mode right now.

I registered my disappointment and at this point it really feels like I am headed to a Verizon store in a couple of days. Time for a new iPhone 4, and a new contract. With a new carrier.

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