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iPhone Owners Suffer Stockholm Syndrome, AT&T is Actually Awesome (Just Don’t Mention Friday’s Outages)

It’s hard to know where to begin. The weekend has seen a series of events unfold that manage to combine — beautifully, perfectly — into a single glorious mutually-annihilating maelstrom of silliness.

On Friday the Wall Street Journal published an inflammatory piece by Randall Stross which began “I love my iPhone…” but barely a half dozen sentences (and some obligatory ‘AT&T (s att) versus Verizon’ (s vz) white noise later) added “…the iPhone itself may not be so great after all.”

I’ll spare you the tumultuous (and largely inane) nonsense that follows, and just give you the bottom line; Stross thinks the iPhone is a flawed device; that Apple has mass-produced shoddy hardware; and that the iPhone’s poorly engineered internals lie at the heart of AT&T’s network problems.

In an example of utterly brilliant (but coincidental) timing, AT&T’s network in San Francisco’s Bay area ground to an awkward halt the very same day Stross’ article appeared on the WSJ website. AT&T acknolwedged the problem with a statement via Engadget’s website:

“We are seeing a hardware issue in downtown San Francisco that is causing some degradation in service. GSM and EDGE voice and data services are still accessible. Our experts are aware and working to resolve as quickly as possible. Further resolution is expected this evening.”

Perfect timing, right? And perhaps proof that Stross is right? Just ignore for a moment that his primary “source” is financially affiliated with AT&T. I’d love to rant some more about the whole stupid situation but I don’t need to, since I can offer you this perfect conclusion from John Gruber:

So on the one hand we have the simple theory that AT&T’s network stinks, especially in large metro areas, and extra-especially in New York City and San Francisco.

On the other hand, we have the theory that AT&T’s network is just fine because two network consulting companies say so, even though a Consumer Reports customer survey says otherwise, and it is the iPhone that is flawed, but the flaws are for some reason worse on AT&T than other carriers around the world, and just happen to be worse still in some cities than others, and Apple has been unwilling and/or unable to address these flaws in three model years.

Gruber debunks Stross’ claims with a few easy and, it appears, perfectly rational observations. But you can’t trust Gruber. And if you’re an iPhone owner, you can’t trust yourself, either. That’s because, according to a report from Strand Consulting (no, you’re not alone, no-one else has heard of them, either) we’re all delusional, suffering from a condition akin to Stockholm Syndrome. 9to5 Mac summarizes the most salient points from Strand’s report entitled “How will psychologists describe the iPhone syndrome in the future?”:

It is no secret that there has been a great deal of hype surrounding the iPhone and it is also no secret that Apple probably has the most loyal and fantastic customers in the world.

Apple has launched a beautiful phone with a fantastic user interface that has had a number of technological shortcomings that many iPhone users have accepted and defended, despite those shortcomings resulting in limitations in iPhone users’ daily lives.

When we examine the iPhone users’ arguments defending the iPhone, it reminds us of the famous Stockholm Syndrome – a term that was invented by psychologists after a hostage drama in Stockholm. Here hostages reacted to the psychological pressure they were experiencing, by defending the people that had held them hostage for 6 days…

…the iPhone is surrounded by a multitude of people, media and companies that are happy to bend the truth to defend the product they have purchased from Apple.

So there you have it. The take-home message from this weekend’s press is that, broadly speaking, the iPhone is a poorly-designed piece of junk that simultaneously inspires mindless fanaticism in its fans while callously destroying poor old AT&T’s data network infrastructure. That embarrassing outage in San Francisco on Friday? Nothing to do with AT&T. All your fault, you pesky iPhone fanatics, gobbling up all that precious bandwidth. Shame on you.

The good news for AT&T is that they’re still liked by some people — Business Traveller Magazine’s readers have voted AT&T the operator with the Best Mobile Phone Coverage in the World. Naturally, AT&T is keen to milk any positive coverage it gets (which isn’t in great supply these days). Bill Hague, the company’s vice president of International Mobility and Consumer Markets, said in a statement:

We are truly honored that Business Traveler readers have once again chosen AT&T as having the Best Mobile Phone Coverage in the World. AT&T is committed to helping our customers stay connected to their world when traveling abroad.

Shame it’s not quite as committed to keeping its customers connected when they’re at home, too. That statement was released the very same day San Francisco’s iPhone customers lost SMS and Data services. Really, you can’t make this stuff up. There is a silver lining — Fake Steve has already had a chat with the Powers That Be. Let’s hope they listen…

29 Responses to “iPhone Owners Suffer Stockholm Syndrome, AT&T is Actually Awesome (Just Don’t Mention Friday’s Outages)”

  1. Well he has a point to a certain extent. But I think the real point he should be trying to make is that the actual PHONE part of the iPhone, the radios, gps and that stuff is not substandard, but standard. The difference between the iPhone and other phones is that the iPhone is being handled and used more often. My friend has AT&T and she only handles her phone to text and make a few phone calls a day. But I use my iPhone for literally hours through out the day. In those hours I have much more time to notice my network quality, 3g speed and battery life. If I used my iPhone like my friend does I would probably notice the exact same signal quality, and the exact same battery life.

  2. Just remember that AT&T do not have a world wide network. My iPhone has performed flawlessly on the Telstra network in Australia, no dropouts, incredibly fast internet etc. If the iPhone is so terrible it shouldn’t be limited to AT&Ts network.

  3. FYI: The San Francisco AT&T network failure was not just data service — it was voice too. And their definition of degraded service was “you can see 5 bars, but not make or receive any calls or data at all.”

    So, technically, “more bars in more places” is true. ;)

    They just did not acknowledge this in their note on Engadget.

  4. I have to wonder, if the iPhone is causing “air interface” as the article suggests, how did it pass AT&T certification, and FCC certification? Also, why is this only a problem on AT&T, and not O2 in the UK, or Orange, or any number of other providers around the world? Apple ships only two versions of the hardware, with one specific only to China. An iPhone bought in Germany is hardware and software identical to one in the US on AT&T.

    Is this some mass conspiracy where every GSM provider in the world is covering up for Apple’s faulty hardware? I don’t think so…

  5. Apple is known for its elegant product design, which gives it a one-up over everyone else. I think this leads to iPhone users looking over the fact that though it’s a really good phone, it’s not a great one. I own an iPhone myself and wish I could do some things on it that other phones do, but as pointed out, we live with it. Likewise, there were things I couldn’t do on my previous phone and the one before that, but until the day comes when we can customize our own phones, everyone across all providers are pretty much stuck with what they have (or, don’t have). With that said, I’m very much looking forward to hearing about the specs on the next version of iPhone. My 3GS is still fairly new and isn’t going anywhere though.

    I do know one thing’s for sure though: if the phone does expand to Verizon, I’m not jumping the AT&T ship too fast. If anything, it’ll be interesting to see if issues with AT&T are alleviated with less users. My phone works flawlessly where I live and work (from Ohio), so I’m depending on articles like these to report the difference. :)

    • Tyler "Mac"Culley

      i agree. i like the iPhone, Apple stuff is designed in cali and built overseas. but the diffeence between apple and other “cheap” overseas crap is the quality control and amazing design and engineering that goes into it. i just bought a maxed out (except RAM at 4GB) 15″ MacBook Pro, 3.06 GHz, 500GB 7200 RPM HD. on Black Friday. Apple now uses custom designed built in batteries that give u more battery capacity than removable ones. Do Windows laptops have that? NO. Plus Apple Computers are both way more energy efficient and resource efficient (4GB RAM on a Mac does alot more that 4GB on windows because Mac software is better).

    • Tyler “Mac”Culley, This article has nothing to do with computers. Stop with the emo fanboy ranting……good lord, get over yourself. Apple is not perfect, but the stockholm syndrome you are suffering from is clouding that in your head. And yes, there are portable computers with non-removeable batteries. Its just a retarded idea, because when your cells lose capacity and you need a new battery, it costs a whole lot more, because your computer has to be disassembled. But of course that dosn’t matter because it has an Apple logo right? That makes it perfect and flawless right? Nothing could ever go wrong with it and no one could ever make a better product right? I wish there truly was products like that, but there are not.

  6. AT&T faults notwithstanding, there are indeed iPhone limitations and concerns that are just waved away. Is there not some irony in the fact that the new ads tout the ability to run apps in the background… as long as that app is a phone call?

    The question is, increasingly, do you care whether your smartphone is an iPod touch? Everyone uses the same ten apps, it’s not the difference maker.

    • Bingo.

      I am on AT&T, but I use a Windows Mobile device. I absolutely LOVE being able to be on the phone with my wife, while surfing to find an answer to her question, or thumbing through Google Maps.

      At. The. Same. Time.

      iPhone can’t.

      I used to think that’s what 3G meant, being able to talk and get data at the same time. And THAT is the most misleading part of Verizon’s ad campaign for me. They had ME believing that if I switched to their 3G, that it could do everything AT&T’s could.

    • @Ike Piggott

      The iPhone allows users to be on a call and use Google Maps. Or the web browser. Or any app installed on the phone. At. The. Same. Time. via 3G or WiFi.

      Hence why Apple now has ads showing this capability off, something the iPhone wouldn’t be able to do on Verizon’s network.

      So in this particular case, your Windows Mobile phone has the same capabilities as the iPhone. When trolling, please try to use accurate statements. :-)

    • Tom, I am not trolling.

      I am merely going by what I see in the ad, where the iPhone user has a call on hold to go visit Urban Spoon, or some other app.

      Any way you look at it, we’d be under the assumption that Verizon’s 3G would be similarly capable, WHICH IT IS CLEARLY NOT.

      “3G” is nothing more than a marketing term, and there is nothing stopping T-Mobile from rolling out 8G coverage tomorrow. (We’re twice as good as Sprint’s 4G.)

      I am preparing for the eventual backlash against Verizon, from people who feel like they made a jump to something that isn’t as good as what they had.

  7. Um, did you read the story? Stross acknowledges the problems in SF. And he’s the one who pointed out the Consumer Reports feedback that Gruber cited. Seriously, why does a guy who likes the iPhone but thinks there’s reason to question whether this is just an AT&T problem, cause people like you and Gruber to get your panties in a knot and try to undermine the guy’s credibility and motivation?

  8. I’m curious, what are the things the iPhone doesn’t do that limit my daily life? I have perfect coverage where I live and work, so it’s not that.

    I would certainly switch phones and carriers if there were a better phone for me out there, just like I would switch operating systems and computers if there were something better than os x for the things I do on a computer.


  9. That said, I still think there is a serious world of disappointment awaiting those who switch to Verizon iPhones in a few months. Verizon’s network will not withstand the additional bandwidth with anything resembling grace and elegance.

    And somehow, they will blame AT&T.

    Grass is always greener…

    • Dustin Deal

      I dont know about that, Verizon realizes the iPhone is a data hog and would most likely put a cap on the data usage on it. Anyways ,with Verizon and ATT for people to choose from it would be easier on BOTH networks.

    • Tyler "Mac"Culley

      i like the fact that the iPhone has status symbolism to it. it has a higher “cool” factor because it is 3 models of phone on one network. not everyone has one. for the ppl out there who are so pro blackberry as we are pro iPhone, it means nothing to have a blackberry these days, they have like 8 models of blackberry on any network u choose. stupid. iPhones rock. i love mine.

    • Quote from Tyler “Mac”Culley: ” i like the fact that the iPhone has status symbolism to it. it has a higher “cool” factor because it is 3 models of phone on one network. ”

      Eh? Cool factor…wow…get over it, it’s a phone. Lol. Besides, according to some studies and a lot of peoples opinions IPhone users are mostly far from cool, and more like the kid who thinks they are cool, but everyone laughs at them. I just love how many people totally missed the context of the article and started ranting in normal fanboy fashion shows that what the article says has merit.

  10. I love Apple, I like my iPhone, AT&T sucks, but most of all it is not worth the $150.00 a month especially given the lame service. (I live in San Francisco were service is notoriously bad. Dropped calls and no service where I live and shop. My Glen Park hood is off AT&T’s grid (or the places I hang out most). So I’m over it. I’m actively looking for a cheaper alternative. It was a luxury–an iPhone, but I’, not working now and I need to save money. I’m also damn tired of AT&T’s empty promises of “upgrading soon” and they never come. I want to see the new Google phone but by the end of Janurary it’s bye, bye AT&T. I’m over it.