At&t needs help. Botched rebranding aside, they just can’t get anything right. Not even a kiss from Apple’s ultracool iPhone can turn this frog into a prince. They were given a gift – the most highly touted product in the history of the world – and they can’t gain an ounce of street cred. As I observed the launch of the iPhone I was really surprised by how poorly at&t handled their part of the deal.
As a current at&t customer I visited at&t’s website last week to see how much it would add to my monthly bill. I couldn’t find any info about the iPhone anywhere on the site. I am not sure if I just didn’t look in the right places or if it wasn’t there, but it surely wasn’t being promoted. Think about that: The iPhone, the hottest product on Earth, was not visible on at&t’s website! Unbelievable.
Today I checked back at at&t’s site and saw that the homepage finally has a small blurb about the iPhone. You can find it right above the disclaimers. Click on the homepage button and you are directed to at&t’s wireless page. It is a Frankenstein hybrid of at&t logos and Cingular’s old site. Not to cut at&t any slack, but they are obviously going through a transition as they absorb the remains of Cingular. It looks to me like they just did a “find and replace” on Cingular’s website and switched out some logos. In contrast to Apple’s iPhone web pages, this is a cluttered mess. By the time they finally redirected me to Apple’s site I had three browser windows open and more questions than answers. Luckly, Apple’s website does a fantastic job of explaining things and simplifying the process.
[One funny sidenote about at&t is that they don't own www.at&t.com. Don't believe me? Type it in for yourself and see what you get. This isn't an oversite, rather it is a limitation of the internet. You can't register a domain name with a symbol (like an ampersand) in the name. I would love to know how much web traffic at&t loses and how many customers get frustrated every day by having such a poorly designed company name.]
The at&t website is actually not as bad as the at&t store experience. These are Cingular stores that are slowly transitioning to at&t stores and they are pretty much a clutter of Cingular leftovers combined with both new and old at&t logos. It is no wonder that Apple came up with an elegant solution to help their customers avoid these stores all together. When you purchase an iPhone you can activate it at your convenience. This is done simply and quickly through iTunes.
The launch of the iPhone went relatively smoothly. The only major flaw in the system was due to, you guessed it, at&t. People are complaining about really long activation times. With months of time to prepare for the surge of iPhone activations it is unacceptable to be caught unprepared. The tragedy of the whole Apple and at&t partnership is that despite the incompetance of at&t they still benefit from the iPhone. If you want the best phone on the market you have to put up with at&t. We can only hope that some of Apple’s design sense rubs off.
Update: I got a mailing today from at&t. It is a 16 page 8.5 x 11 brochure talking exclusively about at&t’s wireless service. Absent from the entire piece is even the smallest mention of the iPhone. Somebody must not have gotten the iPhone memo.