Listen up U.S. iPhoners: The French may love l’iPhone even more than you, since over three quarters of phones sold over Christmas on one network were Apple ones. And that company’s chief is merely shrugging off the extra data load.
With admirable Gallic cheek, the CEO of Orange owner France Telecom, Didier Lombard, revealed the surprising sales stats to newspaper Les Echos, but noted that the company and its 3G network are sturdy, and not “at the mercy of Apple.” He admitted that the new Apple phones (comprising 77% of all contract phone sales on the Orange network over Christmas) were indeed burdening the grid, but the system remained live and serving data to all those new customers because unlike some foreign mobile phone operators Orange has “not hesitated to invest in infrastructure.”
Here, of course, Lombard is pointing an extremely unsubtle finger at AT&T (and O2 in the U.K. to a lesser extent) which has so far failed miserably in keeping up with the new modes of 3G data consumption sparked off by the Web connectivity of the iPhone. His words come at just about the same time as information direct from AT&T that it has completed upgrading its entire 3G grid to the faster 7.2Mbps HSPA 3G capability ahead of schedule. Which might have sounded like a success for the company, except for the fact that much of Europe has enjoyed this sort of 3G speed for ages already. And there’s also the question of AT&T’s broken promise to get iPhone data tethering to work “in 2009” and the embarrassing delay between promising iPhone MMS and actually delivering it. Meanwhile, my Euro 3GS had MMS out of the box the day I bought it last year.
And don’t go defending AT&T (and even T-Mobile, which also confirmed its 3G grid update to 7.2Mbps yesterday, and teased a 21Mbps system due in the Summer) with an argument along the lines of “well, they’ve got a bigger area to serve, and more customers,” because that also means the company has more revenues and more employees to get the job done too.
On second thought, so many U.S. iPhoners are disgruntled with AT&T’s poor performance I doubt anyone will even attempt that defense. That in turn has me wondering, now we’re in a new decade, and Google’s fronting up to Apple with the Nexus One on several networks, whether this will be the year we see the end of AT&T iPhone exclusivity in the States? Could be. It might even be kicked off with a multi-carrier model for the iSlate (assuming some of the rumors of built-in 3G powers are true.) Because if that device sells like hotcakes, and it too is tied to AT&T, then that company is going to be seriously up the famous creek and paddle-free.