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Apple v. AT&T: The MMS Blame Game

MMS. Who would have known that one little abbreviation could cause such an uproar in the technology community?

AT&T released Multimedia Messaging Service, or MMS, for Apple iPhone users on September 25, 2009, allowing customers to send pictures and videos through text messaging. It seems like good news, so what is all the fuss about?

According to the Apple Insider Web site, Apple announced iPhone’s capability to support multimedia messaging in June, but the actual service would not be available for use until “late summer” through iPhone’s only carrier: AT&T. Most iPhone users assumed “late summer” meant July or August, but those months came and went without the slightest hint of MMS availability.

Since then, AT&T and Apple have endured harsh criticism from customers, bloggers and technology enthusiasts about such a delayed release of a feature that has been promised since June and available in most other smart phones for years. Some customers have even gone so far as to file lawsuits against AT&T and Apple for breach of contract and deceptive and illegal trade practices.

But the real question remains: who is to blame for this mess, Apple or AT&T?

Most customers seem to blame AT&T for their MMS distress. While Apple announced the MMS capability in June, it was AT&T that delayed the release until three months later to ensure their service would be compatible with the new iPhone MMS software and could handle the increased data usage.

Customers sued AT&T for deceptive practices when sales representatives made false assurances about the availability of MMS to customers who purchased iPhones. AT&T customer Kyle Irving of Minnesota claims AT&T sales representatives assured him the MMS service on his new iPhone would work by the end of July, when it actually became available only last week.

Clearly, AT&T is in the middle of a public relations crisis. But they are not shying away from the criticisms and challenges.

On September 3, AT&T released a YouTube video featuring “Seth the Blogger Guy” to respond to the negative criticism surrounding the delayed MMS update. The video explained that AT&T is aware of the negative criticism surrounding the company and dealt with the negativity “head-on.” In the video, Seth, an AT&T employee, addressed the technical problems associated with the new service, including the recent dramatic increase in smart phone usage that is pushing the system to its limit and the complexity of updating the network to support MMS for the iPhone.

Although AT&T may be the likely contender for blame in this situation, one thing is certain: AT&T is not backing away from the challenge of saving its public image. Not only did AT&T release the YouTube video, but the MMS update launched successfully. I have already sent numerous MMS messages on my iPhone without a single glitch. While AT&T’s public relations battle is far from over, the company continues to take steps in the right direction.

by Jessica Boyd

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