Helping to Ease AT&T’s Network Pains — Goodbye iPhone!

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Last week I detailed how I’m retooling my mobile toolkit and today I took another step towards simplicity. I just got in from a trip to the local AT&T and T-Mobile stores and I’m essentially down another phone. That’s good for AT&T since their CEO, Randall Stephenson, today said that the carrier handles half of data traffic generated in the U.S. No need to thank me, Randall — just doing my part to ease the network congestion. Technically, AT&T didn’t even lose the account, but I’ll explain that in a few. For now, suffice it to say that I’m only going to carry one phone again. Last month, the Palm Pre went away and today for the first time since July of 2007, I have no iPhone.

What I did was actually a little convoluted though and here’s where AT&T still comes out ahead. I found a location that had both an AT&T store and a T-Mobile shop within walking distance because I had a unique situation. I wanted to port my AT&T number over to my Google Nexus One, but I didn’t want to close my AT&T account. That’s a problem because porting a number from one carrier to another generally shuts down an account. I couldn’t do that because my wife also has an iPhone with AT&T on the same family plan. So I really wanted to port my number from AT&T but then have them assign a new number to my iPhone. This would allow me to avoid the ETF on my line so that one of our kids — who is now ready for a phone — could use my iPhone 3GS for the remainder of the contract. Like I said — a little convoluted.

In the end it actually took two trips to the same AT&T store, but it all worked out. T-Mobile snagged my AT&T phone number in five minutes, which was key for me. I’ve had that number for nearly 10 years. While in the T-Mobile store, I increased my month-to-month plan from $59 to $79 a month in order to boost my minutes from 500 to unlimited. AT&T then assigned my iPhone a new number which is what my step-daughter will use when her birthday rolls around next week. Yes, she’s getting a used iPhone 3GS, but I have no doubt she’ll be happy. And Randall Stephenson wins as well, since technically, AT&T didn’t lose a customer. Of course, I wouldn’t expect my step-daughter to use gobs of 3G bandwidth, so AT&T probably comes out ahead on this deal.

It may sound like I’m leaving the Apple ecosystem and its mobile platform, but I’m not. The fact is, I only use the phone function of my iPhone about 1% of the time and I have a perfectly good phone with Google Voice in the Nexus One. As mentioned in my toolkit post last week, I’m going to give the iPad a serious look to see if it will meet my work needs, which are activities like blogging, browsing, email and reading RSS. If I find that it will work, I’ll likely grab a Wi-Fi unit. If not, I’ll wait for an iPod Touch refresh which I expect to hit in a few months. This way I can still enjoy the platform and the apps I’ve purchased over the past two years. And there’s simply no point in buying an iPad with 3G when I have a perfectly good, nearly new Verizon MiFi on a month-to-month 3G plan. That little gadget offers online capability to the iPad, iPod Touch, my netbooks, notebooks and more.

So goodbye for now iPhone. Maybe I’ll see you again real soon in a larger package!

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

How AT&T Will Deal with iPad Data Traffic
Company Profile: AT&T
(free)
Company Profile: T-Mobile (free)

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