Recently, AT&T made this big claim that they are the most open network. They’ve recently begun offering a SIM-only option in their online shop, so that users with unlocked handsets can sign up without having to fork out for a new handset. Sounds good, right? Wrong. The stupid part of this is that it still requires a contract. Why? For YEARS AT&T (and the other carriers) have been telling us that the contract is to subsidize the handset. So then why am I expected to sign one WITHOUT getting any equipment? You’re trying to say it’s to subsidize the SIM card? Horsefeathers.
Next up, let’s assume you *DO* go ahead and start using an unlocked/unbranded handset on AT&T’s open network. For instance, I’m using a Nokia N95 NAM, and my fiance is using a Nokia N81 8GB. AT&T doesn’t offer either, and therefore, they’re technically ‘unsupported’. No biggie, Nokia’s smart enough (on the S60 handsets at least) to pull the necessary access point information for data and MMS straight off the SIM card for me. However, AT&T is stupid enough to cripple my MMS. They call it ‘MMS Adaptation’, and basically it means that if the receiving handset isn’t listed in their ‘supported handsets’ list, the network assumes it is the lowest common denominator, which is somewhere along the lines of the Nokia 2610, which doesn’t support video playback, and only has 2MB of internal memory. Thus, if I attempted to send Christina a video message between my N95 and her N81 (both of which have no issues with the content), it’s stripped out by AT&T’s ‘smart’ and ‘open’ network because it assumes that her phone isn’t capable of it.
Genious, guys. This is equivalent to a walled garden that opens its doors, but lines the walkway leading out with broken glass. Sure, it’s open and you can get out of the garden, but we aren’t going to make it easy. It’s garbage, that’s what this is, not ‘openness’. I was afraid of this, when the major networks started advertising that they would open their networks. It’s all fake PR nonsense designed to make themselves look good in the headlines for a few days.
UPDATE: It appears as though AT&T has clarified that the 2-year contract requirement was a website error. You can indeed sign up for a SIM-only plan, with no contract, though you will not be eligible to receive ‘promotional elements’ on the plan. This is currently the Mobile-to-Mobile feature on AT&T’s nationwide rate plans. Personally, I would still suggest that you sign a 2-year contract, take the phone you get and flip it on eBay for ~$150-200, and just hang on to the cash in case you need an ETF in the future.