AT&T Is Open To Fake PR

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.

  • Steve

    I forst travelled to the US from Britain in 2001. I was here for 6 weeks (I live here now) and wanted to buy a SIM card so I could use my phone while I was here. I was shocked to learn that it was impossible to buy a SIM card – that I would have to buy a phone + contract instead. Ultimately it was cheaper to suck up the high call costs from my UK provider than it was to buy a ‘cheap’ local phone!

    So now, almost 7 years later, it is possible – but since it still requires a contract, then it’s pointless. It would still be cheaper for a visitor to use his own phone from home, eating high call charges.

  • Jared

    i think you can resolve this by calling them – i have an unlocked N95-1 on AT&T in MA, USA and i send/recieve video just fine. i had an issue once, and a call resolved it: i tried changing to a data plan with bundled SMS, but found that they’re AP ‘isp.cingular’ was, in fact, no faster than ‘wap.cingular’ and have the same ports available (ie VoIP could not connect over EDGE with either AP). i called and changed my plan back to unlimited data + 200 SMS as separate items and this made inbound videos, etc show up as texts asking my to goto a PC and browse the web to see the content. i called, and complained – they fixed it while i was still on the phone (hands free, i wasn’t going to hangup until it worked – i sent and received video with no issues)

    so – the problem is likely that they need to manually enabled the content delivery for your account.

    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

  • Jared – I’ve had the same media package from Cingular/AT&T for 4 years (grandfathered MediaWorks) and two months ago, was able to send videos back and forth with no problems. I’ve not made any changes to my account, and they’ve simply started ‘adapting’ my MMS. There’s several threads all over the internet with similar situations. User makes no changes, it appears as though someone flipped a switch somewhere.

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  • Ewan

    Ricky, you can have ANY colour you want. ANY colour. We offer ANY colour — it’s completely your choice.

    As long as it’s black… 😉

  • I agree, it s weird thing with this SIM item; I almost looked at this and smiled. Though, and techinically speaking, one could always go pre-pay with ATT and not pay on a contract to do just what they are marketing as being new.

  • The minute I saw this press release where AT&T announced they were open, I was like “um, aren’t you already open?” The only real difference is:

    a) Sales folks are allowed to admit you can use any unlocked GSM device you want–when asked.
    b) You can buy a SIM on the website.

    One point of correction: a 1 year contract is all that is required. Not a 2 year. Still would be nice to go month-to-month.

  • PhoneBoy; you can go month-to-month; purchase a pre-pay card and you get the SIM and no phone.

  • @antoine of course you can. They sell them on eBay real cheap. 😉

  • At least they’ve taken this baby step. But the genie is out of the bottle. In the near future, monthly contract and pay-as-go SIMs should be easy to buy at a local retailer. It’s just a matter of time at this point.

  • Jeb

    I could be wrong but I pressed the sales guy at the ATT store last week and he swears that he can only do a 2 year contract.

  • Jeb

    The reason behind not selling SIMs so freely at the grocery store and such is security. They think that if you go into a cell phone shop that you will be honest and give them your real name and address. You are able to easily by top up cards at the grocery store here in the States.

    One thing to keep in mind is that prepaid is looked down upon here, it is viewed as the poor man/poor immigrants means of having a mobile . I don’t agree with it but it is the way it is. So making SIMs and top up cards readily available is not the Telcos top priority, because they are not the big money makers.

  • With t-mobile you can now choose a flex pay option which gives you month to month service without a contract. Its not as convenient as prepaid is to setup but at least you have the option of the better rate plans and data options, especially since t-mo in the USA doesn’t offer any prepaid data outside of a sidekick.

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  • Update: Om says AT&T say this was a mistake and there’s no contract lock-in:

    Way to turn a positive announcement into a backlash!

  • Jeb

    Funny how those things get left out. Maybe ATT listens more then we know.

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