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Apple Sued Over MMS: But Who Really Uses It?

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According to a report this week on The Mac Observer, Apple (s aapl) and AT&T (s att) have been presented with a class action lawsuit by a customer who accuses them of misleading the public by advertising the MMS capabilities of the iPhone 3GS despite not making those capabilities available in the U.S. when it launched.

(Yawn.) I’ll let you mull over whether the accusation is fair; the plaintiff, Francis Monticelli, says in the suit that “MMS functionality was one of the reasons people chose to buy or upgrade… it has [become] clear that AT&T’s network does not support MMS.”

TMO points out Apple made it quite clear MMS functionality would not be available in America at the launch of the iPhone 3GS. Surely you remember the hilarious (and embarrassing) murmur of amusement and derision from the audience at this year’s Worldwide Developer Conference when Scott Forstall introduced MMS? “29 of our carrier partners in 76 countries around the world will support MMS at the launch of iPhone OS 3.0,” Forstall announced, then, trying to keep a straight face, added, “In the United States, AT&T will be ready to support MMS later this summer.”

Still, that little fact hasn’t stopped Monticelli suing, though I’m sure he won’t get far. I’ll never quite understand the litigation-happy nature of some of my American cousins (here in England we prefer to send strongly-worded letters of complaint) but it got me thinking about the now-forgotten drama of iPhone MMS. I can’t help wondering — was it really such a big deal? I mean, now you’ve got it, do you ever use it? Would you truly miss it if it disappeared overnight?

When MMS first appeared via the iPhone OS 3.0 update I couldn’t wait to try it out. I took a photo of a bowl of apples (go figure) and sent it to a pal. “I have MMS!” I declared, proudly. “So?” he enquired, puzzled. (I forget sometimes not everyone is an iPhone user and therefore have always had MMS.) That was back in June, a good five months ago. It was the first — and last — iPhone MMS I ever sent.

Old Habits…

Color me conditioned by my experience with previous iPhone OS limitations, but if I want to send someone a photo I instinctively use the Mail app. I’m not alone, either — fellow iPhone owners never send me MMS messages but also choose to use Mail instead (I know because of all those “Sent from my iPhone” footers I keep seeing).

I’m trying to figure out when and how this habit started; it’s easy to say it’s the result of Apple’s decision not to support MMS functionality, but if I force my grey cells to work a little harder, and think back to those dark times before the iPhone, I don’t have any fond memories of MMS. Sure, I had the function on every one of my old phones, but I barely ever used it. So perhaps my aversion to MMS started then…

Either way, I don’t care for MMS. It’s a clunky old technology that never mattered to me. Not even my most geeky of friends ever bothered using it, with or without adding an iPhone into the equation.

Apple’s Chief of iPod/iPhone Marketing Greg Joswiak once said the iPhone originally didn’t include (amongst other things) MMS functionality because it wasn’t high on the list of features customers wanted from their mobile phones.

Naturally, there was an outcry. People were either ambivalent (they didn’t care or simply accepted email was an adequate alternative) or they were furious. Spend a little time picking through any of the popular Mac discussion boards from 2007 onward and you’ll find plenty of disgruntled punters lamenting Apple’s decision to not support the feature.

You know how, when a child isn’t playing with a toy, and you try to take the toy away, the child will instantly want it and make a scene if they don’t get it? It’s that peculiarly human tendency to want what we don’t have, or what is being taken (or withheld) from us. Well, I wonder, was the outcry over MMS the same thing? And now we have it, how many of us are actually using it?

If you’re in the States and didn’t jailbreak your iPhone, MMS is still fairly new to you and you might still be enjoying the novelty of finally getting it working. So, while MMS is fresh in your minds (and your iPhones) perhaps you can answer the question — where do we really stand with MMS?

Is it an indispensable tool Apple had no business keeping from us this long? Or should we reluctantly (and perhaps a little bashfully) admit it wasn’t worth all that fuss and noise — Apple was right not to make it a priority and, if we’re really truthfully honest, we never used it anyway…

28 Responses to “Apple Sued Over MMS: But Who Really Uses It?”

  1. daddydoodaa

    It’s not Highlander – there can be more than one.

    For some people MMS addresses their needs and they are happy with it. Others don’t use MMS and are happier using something else.

    Yea, Apple!

  2. Dear lord, if my friends, family, and/or associates started MMSing (proper verbing here?) me their banal pics whenever something caught their eye, I’d be begging AT&T to block the service. When I have the leisure time to catch up on what folks are up to, I check my email, Facebook, and Twitter where such amusing snapshots are–and should be–residing and I can be duly entertained on my own schedule.

    I send and receive SMS when I need a nugget of information immediately (“flight number?” “taking train home.” “you mom’s maiden name?”), not when “OMG YOU ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO SEE RIGHT NOW THIS AMAZING THING I JUST SAW!” No. Tweet it, Facebook it, or email it to me, but do not //interrupt me// just to try and entertain me.

    I have never MMSed an image to to a friend, family, associate, or co-worker (either on my iPhone or with my previous MMS-capable device) because I respect their time and–in several cases–pocketbook enough not to interrupt WHATEVER they may be engaged in.

  3. I think you’ve slightly missed the point, ‘to mms or not to mms is not the question’. Whether it’s used or not or whether email is a better alternative is irrelevant. There is clearly a demand or it would’nt have been included and it was only a software update away so why not. Whilst email is commonplace it’s not been universally embraced as the majority of handsets have poorly integrated this function. Remember not everyone has an iphone! I have plenty of functions on my iphone I don’t regularly use, should I delete them? MMS is a basic application Apple should have included at launch and how & when we use it is not the issue.

  4. Really see the US bias here. In Japan, phone users use MMS all the time – emoji, pictures et al.

    But of course, being in the US – you`re being sued left, right and center for anything and everything. Look out!

  5. MMS is one of those “horses for courses” things. Some people use it and find it useful, other people prefer to send email.
    On the iphone, you can’t realistically claim it’s more convenient to either send or receive MMS over email (as long as you have push enabled and if you don’t, you can’t blame Apple or your provider) since either one just pops up on your screen incoming, and is a one-touch selection from the camera app outgoing. However, it is almost always cheaper to email than to MMS, so that’s a big deciding factor.

    It seems that generally people don’t use it very much because the only thing anyone ever sends (really) in an MMS is a photo, and as HZC and James said above, everyone and his dog uses Facebook or similar to post photos. Even those without Facebook-capable phones (there’s not so many now) seem to get on it sufficiently frequently for it not to be an issue. Admit it, how often do you need to send or get a photo RIGHT NOW?

    So, yeah – not an extensively used technology, but as the author said, if we don’t have it and everyone else does, we want it, even if once we do have it, we’re never going to use it. It’s that warm and fuzzy feeling of knowing you CAN, even if you never will.

  6. The reason why people (at least in Finland) use MMS include the following:
    -It has been possible a lot longer than it has been possible (or feasible) to access email via mobile.
    -There are still countless important people who don’t use email (at least daily, or through their phones) but still find it nice to receive snapshots of their loved ones (e.g. grandparents receiving photos of their grandsons from a vacation trip).

  7. I’ve never used MMS on any previous phone I’ve owned, but I actually use it a reasonable amount on my iPhone. Admittedly, I mostly use it to send and receive pictures of my cats, but I’ve also used it for, to take one example, taking pictures of the various brands of milk available in the grocery store so my roommate can tell me which one he wanted.

  8. The first and only MMS I ever sent was a picture of a loveheart I drew on the whiteboard, which I sent to my girlfriend. Her MMS-capable phone couldn’t view the picture, because it wasn’t presented in one of the resolutions that her phone is capable of viewing, and the carrier’s MMS stuff didn’t do the usual resizing-on-the-fly thing.

    So I can understand daddydoodaa’s comments that MMS is more convenient, but from my perspective it’s totally useless because the one time I’ve ever gotten over the $1 per MMS charge, the transmitted message failed to arrive in a usable form.

    I’m in Australia, and carriers over here charge for everything. You can get “unlimited” plans for $100/month, but most of those only count voice calls and SMS messages – MMS are charged at $0.50 to $1.00 each. Plans vary of course.

    Email is far more convenient for me, since I have all my friends’ email addresses already. I’ve not yet encountered a situation where sending a convenient but crappy picture would have been worth the $1, as opposed to sending an email for free (and I can send an email directly from the camera application, so that’s ultimately convenient for me).

  9. daddydoodaa

    I use MMS messaging often. It’s fast and direct. It pops right up the screen. I leave my push turned off for email.

    Also, it doesn’t add to my mailbox size or the receiver’s mailbox size.

    • Is mailbox “size” really that big of a concern? I don’t know of any legitimate email provider where a 50kb photo would somehow be an issue with taking up too much space.

      Seems like the bigger issue would be how much data you’re sending to/from phones, in which case MMS uses just as much data as sending/receiving the photo via email on your phone.

    • daddydoodaa

      It’s just one more piece of 190kb clutter among all the other pieces. It might not be the latest email I receive so it gets shoved down as more come in. I have several accounts on my phone. Which one did they send it to?

      MMS pops right up on my screen and I can take a look. It’s more direct. It eliminates the email servers and filters. No “connecting”….

  10. I’ve never used it. I had a friend send me an MMS once to try it out. None of my friends use it – they all post to Facebook instead.

    MMS cost extra here in Canada and since it’s really not necessary (and none of my friends use it), why would I bother?

    It’s a dying technology that never really got off the ground flying. Those who use MMS now will probably have a smart(er) phone in a few months and won’t need it.

  11. I generally don’t use it. I think I’ve sent two since June. It was an interesting (if usually cumbersome, depending on the model of phone) feature back before smartphones became so widespread, but with smartphones and especially app stores, I usually just use something like email, Twitter, Flickr, or Facebook to share photos on the go.

    I don’t imagine this lawsuit will go very far. The entire premise, that Apple misled the populace by advertising MMS and not providing it immediately in the US, is deeply flawed. Apple DID say that it wouldn’t be available in the US initially. Even with the later delay, the lack of MMS is on AT&T, not Apple. Besides, the upgrade was free for iPhone users, wasn’t it? It’s hard to claim damages for “20 minutes of doing something besides using my iPhone while I upgraded the software”.

    This seems very similar to that frivolous lawsuit against Apple in France where the customer claimed that Apple didn’t provide a warning about loud volumes potentially damaging one’s ears, even though it was right there in big letters in the Getting Started manual.

  12. trader205

    The primary reasons we don’t use MMS as much as we would have 2 years ago:

    a) we got used to mailing pics and receiving them that way, and now we haven’t broken the habit.

    b) twitter & facebook- people are more likely to post pics to these services than send them out individually.

    c) many people can’t afford the data and/or text fees.

  13. This guy’s complaint isn’t even valid. AT&T does support MMS, just not on the iPhone. I’m surprised that MMS is even a selling point on a device with robust email capabilities. I’ve been able to do it for years, and I think I tried it once, and quickly got over it. Clearly this guy needs more to do.

    • trader205

      How is email even remotely more convenient than MMS? That statement makes zero sense.

      I have unlimited messaging and do use MMS all the time, for sending and receiving pics with friends and family. Before it was available, I would receive probably 10 pic messages a month that did not work or required me to sign in to some goofy website and go through a big hassle. Just to see some friends grainy vga image of their pet or whatever.

      Now, with MMS, it’s easy to view pic messages. And, unlike mail, I have a preview of the image that pops right up on my phone (making it easy to skip looking at until later if it’s not urgent or interesting).

      MMS, for pictures, is indeed much easier than Mail.

    • On the iPhone, it’s trivially easy to email an image. It’s just as convenient to send. And, for me, it’s just as easy to view. If I want to do something with it later, it’s right there on my computer, where I can do with it what I want.

      For me, email is most definitely more convenient than MMS. I _never_ used it when I had my Palm, and since my iPhone didn’t have it the first 20+ months, I never missed it. I’ve gotten, I think, 1 MMS in the last 4 months.

  14. “The car manufactures for misleading the customers or the police/law for not allowing you to drive at those speeds?”

    The police. Duh. :^D

    Frankly, I don’t use MMS for the same reason I rarely use SMS I have to pay for them. If I had unlimited MMS/SMS, I’d probably use it more.

  15. i have friends who don’t have data plans because att keeps text messaging and data plans separate. so i could email them pictures all i wanted but they weren’t going to get them unless they logged into a computer to check their email. the work around was to email the pictures to their phone email address which was just plain dumb because once they replied you had to check your mail. how can people think that was okay? i realize people in the tech world forget that they are still a small group despite the “majority complex” they seem to suffer from but yes we like our mms even if you don’t see the point.

  16. This is so much similar to buying a car. The speedometer tells me the car can do 200 miles or more per hour, but our roads either do not support those speeds or it’s illegal to drive at those speeds. Who’s to blame? The car manufactures for misleading the customers or the police/law for not allowing you to drive at those speeds?