File this one under strange decisions by a company. Apparently AT&T has decided to stop selling iPhones in the New York City area because its network can't handle any more iPhone usage. While I applaud the company's honesty in addressing a problem, I'm utterly shocked it would get to this point. I found this report doubtful, but I verified it myself on the AT&T website -- NYC zip codes can't buy iPhones anymore. And the Consumerist, who broke the story, went further in actually calling AT&T. A representative confirmed that "New York City is not ready for the iPhone."
Here's the surprising response. Laura is the Consumerist reporter and Daphne is the AT&T rep:
Daphne: Welcome to AT&T online Sales support. How may I assist you with placing your order today?
Laura: Hi, I was looking at the iPhone 3Gs and the system tells me that I cannot order one in my ZIP code. My zip code is 11231. (Brooklyn, NY) Is this true? Are iPhones no longer available in New York City?
Daphne: I am happy to be helping you today . Yes, this is correct the phone is not offered to you because New York is not ready for the iPhone.
Daphne: You don't have enough towers to handle the phone.
Laura: Thank you for your help. So the phone is not available to people anywhere in the city?
Daphne: Yes this is correct Laura.
Wow. Really AT&T? Really? Because you've been selling the iPhone in New York City for going on three years. I waited on line at the 5th Avenue Apple store when the 3G came out back in 2008 for several hours myself. It's fascinating to see that you've finally decided that the network infrastructure there can't support the iPhone.
Even reading this report, I find it hard to believe that this is really AT&T's official stance. The company later provided the Consumerist with a statement:
We periodically modify our promotions and distribution channels.
Which is also sufficiently vague. Clearly, depriving 8 million consumers from one of your best selling devices probably isn't a smart distribution strategy.
So what's the real reason for this? Feel free to speculate, as I can imagine few reasons other than a desire to slow down its NYC distribution because the traffic is just too much for its network. I want to believe that it could have something to do with the upcoming January Apple event. Could there be a revolutionary new iPhone release that's leading Apple to slow down current model purchases? It's been known to take that route. But then they'd probably be preventing more than just NYC from purchasing. Or maybe it's AT&T specific -- could this be a partial response to AT&T losing its iPhone exclusivity in 2010? Who knows, but feel free to speculate in the comments below.
Update: iPhone sales are again allowed in New York City on AT&T's website. But that sales weren't allowed and now are further deepens the mystery.