NEW YORK: Following reports that AT&T halted then reinstated online iPhone sales in New York City, the carrier's muted response fueled further speculation.
The blackout was first reported on December 27 by The Consumerist, which quoted an online sales representative named “Daphne” who e-mailed that “the phone is not offered to you because New York is not ready for the iPhone…You don't have enough towers to handle the phone.”
In recent months, AT&T has been dogged with complaints of dropped calls, particularly in New York and other metropolitan area where use of the data-guzzling phones are more popular with residents. Reports that followed Consumerist speculated that this is why AT&T pulled the phone from New Yorkers.
Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst with San Jose, CA-based Enderle Group, said AT&T's refusal to openly acknowledge its challenge in handling the bandwidth demands of the device in the city will hurt its brand.
“Typically with a problem like this, you stonewall until you can fix it. In this case, it has gone on too long, been too noticeable, and it's inflicting some serious damage on their brand,” Enderle said. “AT&T needs to come clean and say, ‘Listen, we have a problem, this is what we're trying to do to mitigate it, by limiting the sales of iPhones in your area to keep current customers at the best possible efficiency.' By sacrificing their sales to make sure they're not killing existing customers, that may be seen as goodness [on AT&T's part] and restore a little customer trust and confidence in the brand.”
In a statement, Fletcher Cook, an SVP at AT&T AOR Fleishman-Hillard and acting spokesperson for the carrier, reiterated the company's response to the incident which was issued to other media outlets as well.
“We periodically modify our promotions and distribution channels,” he told PRWeek. “The iPhone is available in our New York retail stores and those of our partners.”
Cook, who has been responding to media requests on the issue, declined to provide further comment on how the communications team is handling the situation. Apple, maker of the iPhone, has not commented on the online sales blackout.
Enderle suggested that AT&T's ongoing duel with Verizon, or perhaps limitations in its contract with Apple, could also be preventing it from being more forthcoming. “AT&T is in this war with Verizon, and they don't want to jump up and down and say, ‘We have problems,'” he said.
It appeared by Monday afternoon that AT&T had resumed online sales to Manhattan residents, though. When PRWeek typed in various NYC zip codes, the site told customers that the package was now available.