AT&T keeps iPhone exclusivity in Faustian bargain

May 6, 2010

The scent of sulfur permeates the air with the news that Apple may have traded away multiple U.S. carriers for low-cost and truly unlimited data plans for the iPad, which puts the needs of the few ahead of the many.

An AT&T spokeswoman has said the carrier’s relationship with Apple is “great,” but won’t comment on the specifics. Thereupon, Computerworld is reporting that Apple has extended Ma Bell’s exclusive right to service the iPhone in the U.S. in exchange for a sweet deal for iPad 3G owners.

“AT&T had to do something dramatic to get the iPad,” said Brian Marshall, analyst, BroadPoint AmTech, adding that the carrier discounted there regular plan prices by 50 percent for owners of the 3G version of Apple’s latest creation.

“For that pricing [on the iPad], AT&T was able to negotiate a six-month extension on the iPhone exclusive,” Marshall added.

Thereupon, Ma Bell’s 3G data plan pricing and terms, which includes truly unlimited data for $30 per month without contract, are one of the top selling points of Apple’s game-changing tablet computing device.

Stealing from Peter…

One of the unspoken costs of this quid pro is that Verizon, which purportedly was a shoe-in as Apple’s exclusive iPad data partner, won’t be getting the iPhone either until at least the first quarter of 2011. Additionally, with AT&T maintaining its iron grip on Apple’s smartphone in the U.S., long-suffering users in places like San Francisco and New York will continue to, well, suffer.

Nevertheless, truly unlimited 3G data on the iPad, assuming you live someplace with the pipes, is one heckuva deal.

The question is, however, whether it’s a good deal for Apple’s millions of U.S. iPhone users…

What’s your take?

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