WIRED Explains the iPhone #attfail

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Longtime tech biz journalist Fred Vogelstein goes deep for WIRED Magazine on why the iPhone has so many network problems. Spoiler alert: AT&T claims that it's not all their fault, and with the recent Antennagate revelations, perhaps we should start to believe them.

AT&T executives discovered that Apple wasn't playing by traditional wireless rules. It wasn't interested in cooperating, especially if it meant hobbling what had quickly become its marquee product. For Apple, the idea of restricting the iPhone was akin to asking Steve Jobs to ditch the black turtleneck. "They tried to have that conversation with us a number of times," says someone from Apple who was in the meetings. "We consistently said 'No, we are not going to mess up the consumer experience on the iPhone to make your network tenable.' They'd always end up saying, 'We're going to have to escalate this to senior AT&T executives,' and we always said, 'Fine, we'll escalate it to Steve and see who wins.' I think history has demonstrated how that turned out."

Indeed it has. Just as Rinne and her colleagues predicted, AT&T's network proved unable to cope with the deluge of data traffic generated by the iPhone, particularly in cities like San Francisco and New York. Even as the #attfail meme burned up Twitter, AT&T accelerated its network upgrades -- it has spent nearly $37 billion on new equipment and capacity since the iPhone launch and expects to invest around $13.5 billion in 2010. The effort may have already boosted performance, with at least some independent studies showing that the carrier's network has improved. And yet AT&T's image remains deeply damaged, and the body slams keep coming -- including insults from mischievous blogger Fake Steve Jobs, The Daily Show's Jon Stewart, and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg.

Read the fully story at WIRED.


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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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