If they charge him for the whole amount, his once-in-a-lifetime backpacking trip is over. He'll have to leave immediately in order to afford paying for the use of an iPhone in Europe for a day and a half.
Studies have shown that iPhone users do far more Internet surfing that users of other phones. The wonderful qualities of the iPhone become merely a trap for those using it abroad -- especially when AT&T isn't capable of providing iPhone users with timely feedback about how much data they're using.
This is just one small example. You can find hundreds of other examples online of AT&T's horrible customer service.
When Apple's Phil Schiller announced the iPhone 3GS earlier this month, it appeared that the whole pricing and upgrade plan was very clear. He said the iPhone 3GS is just $199, and the 32 GB version just $299. Those with an existing contract would pay $200 more.
It turns out to not be that clear at all. AT&T in fact has set up a three-tier structure for iPhone 3GS pricing. If you don't own an iPhone, you get the prices Schiller specified. If you're a current user and qualify for an upgrade, you have to pay $200 more than the new-user price for each of the models ($399 and $499, respectively). And if you don't qualify for an upgrade, you pay yet another $200 for each ($599 and $699).
That's right: Some of Apple's best, most loyal customers will actually be paying $700 for an iPhone.
Both Apple and AT&T were slammed by many users about the carrier's upgrade policy, which was viewed by many as a kind of "loyalty tax." Many expected that users who qualify for an upgrade could get the same subsidized price on the iPhone handset as new customers. After all, they qualify for an upgrade, and are also signing up for a new, 2-year contract.
Angry iPhone users circulated a petition via Twitter, which at press time had gathered more than 14,500 "signatures."
As a result of the petition and other pressure, AT&T modified its upgrade plan by saying that any iPhone user eligible for an upgrade by September 30 could get the upgrade up to three months early.
This insulting offer does little more than add more confusion and uncertainty into the price people will be paying for their iPhone upgrade. All it does is shave a few weeks or, at most, three months off of the time a tiny handful of users will have to wait before getting a phone at $200 higher than new users will pay.
Thanks to AT&T's slow execution on support for new iPhone features, its horrible customer service, and its high and confusing prices, yet another iPhone launch has been compromised.
It's mildly gratifying to rail against AT&T. But ultimately, we have to blame Apple.
It's Apple that chose to grant an iPhone monopoly to a single carrier. It's Apple that chose AT&T. And it's Apple that has failed to convince AT&T to keep up with technology, service and pricing.
It's time for Apple to do us all a favor and drop AT&T as the exclusive US carrier -- or, at least offer us an alternative company to do business with.
The iPhone is just too good for AT&T.