1. dellguy's Avatar
    On November 3, 2008 I completed the forms on the Apple web page to order three family plan iPhones. It all began with "To buy your iPhone 3G, start here and finish at the Apple retail store."

    It cost $971 to buy three iPhones with 16MB of storage in each; with cases, car chargers and sales tax.

    I selected a family rate plan of 2,100 minutes per month for $100 and 1,600 text messages for $15. I set up an appointment to pick up my phones at the Apple store later that day.

    At the Apple retail store the employee who was assigned to set up and activate my three iPhones informed me the 1,600 text messages for $15 was for only one of the three iPhones. I would still have to order text messaging for the other two iPhones. He said I would have to call AT&T later and straighten that out on my rate plan. The Apple employee downloaded the Apple iTunes program on to the three iPhones. I did not receive any instruction on how to use the iPhones other than how to turn them on and off. He helped me select the iPhone accessories and I was on my way home. It took about one hour at the Apple store.

    I called AT&T to explain about the confusion on the Apple web site: that I ordered 1,600 text messages for phone one, thinking I was ordering 1,600 text messages for the family plan---as I had ordered 2,100 minutes for the family plan. It was then I learned that AT&T had an unlimited text messages option for all three iPhones on the family plan for $30 a month. I choose that option.
    It was then I learned that the 2,100 minutes a month for $100 for the family family only covered phone one. It would cost $9.99 for phone two and $9.99 for phone three to be covered by the 2,100 minutes for one month.

    Now, AT&T calls these 2,100 minutes "anytime minutes" but that's a lie. They are anything but any time. They are, in fact, day time minutes. These minutes are utilized from 6:00am to 9:00pm Monday thru Friday. The family plan includes unlimited minutes during evenings and weekends (from 9:00pm to 6:00am M-F). Calls to other AT&T wireless phones are unlimited. Nationwide long distance called is also included in the family plan at no additional charge.

    The next day I had made several attempts to set up my voice mail by recording a custom greeting. I was unable to do this so I called AT&T for help. It was then I learned about Visual Voice Mail and the charges associated with it. It would cost $30 a month per iPhone or an additional $90 a month on the family plan. This charge also provided unlimited internet access for all three iPhones. But, again, another hidden, unexplained charge. And the charges were really piling up now. So I emailed AT&T customer service to verify what my monthly bill was going to be. What I originally thought was going to cost about $130 a month for cell phones had now climbed to about $240 a month.

    On Nov. 6, 2008 AT&T customer service rep. Blanca Olivas confirmed in writing..."This brings your monthly service charges to $239.98 plus taxes." This works out to about $80 a month per iPhone plus taxes. I decided this was acceptable considering what the family members had been paying for individual Sprint, Cricket and Verizon cell phones. (My Sprint cell phone alone was $50 a month for 400 minutes with no internet or text messaging capability.)

    On December 7, 2008 (Sunday) I received an email from AT&T that my online bill was available for viewing. When I accessed the bill I almost had a heart attack. The first month's bill totaled $612.54.

    I immediately sent AT&T an email requesting an explanation. I followed up the next day---Monday---with a call to AT&T customer service to demand an explanation. It was then I learned about PRO RATING. AT&T charges their customers two months bills on the first month. That's to make sure you can't ever stiff AT&T for any charges. I explained to the customer service representative that I had set up auto bill pay by having them auto charge my credit card each month. That made no difference. Double charging customers on the first month's bill is "corporate policy" and they would not budge an inch.

    It was then I learned about the "activation fees." Included in my $612.54 bill were $88 in activation fee charges for all three iPhones on my family plan. After threatening to cancel my service---which would cost $175 per iPhone because I was beyond the 30 day trial period---the customer service rep offered to delete the $88 activation fees.

    I eventually got my first month's bill lowered to $513.20.

    Gee, don't you want to rush out and buy an iPhone for Christmas?
    12-08-2008 04:37 PM
  2. Rene Ritchie's Avatar
    Wow, that's a really frustrating!

    I had almost an opposite experience. I did tons of research on the internet prior to walking into Rogers (Canada) on launch day, and while the reps were super-friendly, they weren't informed about all the last-minute plans and rates, and I know people who hadn't done research like myself likely got less than ideal plans.

    The process is needlessly complicated.

    I hope, at least, after so much aggravation, your family is enjoying their iPhones?

    If you or they have any questions, please ask away!
    12-08-2008 08:23 PM
  3. dellguy's Avatar
    Nov. 3rd was my 3rd trip to the Apple store since the July introduction of the new 3G model. Every time I went there was a line out the door of people trying to buy iPhones.

    My Apple Retail experience was in Austin, Texas. The employee was new. The product training was poor. Apple's website and store staff are there to sell you Apple products. Thus, the AT&T rate plan info is skimpy. They need something like AT&T "kiosk" personnel in the stores to hand off to after the hardware purchase is done. (Also just there to answer pre-sales questions too.)

    Apple assumes their product is intuitive. It is not to a 58 year old man. I wanted to read the iPhone manual. You have to download it and pay in paper, ink & time to print out a 157 page manual. I wanted to buy the manual from Apple but they don't sell it. So I ordered a book from Amazon---iPhone The Missing Manual---for $13.59 plus shipping. Great Book!

    Yes, the process is needlessly complicated because there is no seemless handoff from Apple to AT&T personnel. Apple just sells you the iron and expects you to go home, call AT&T several times to make it all work right.

    Then comes the sticker shock of bill #1, (which arrives by email 33 days after opening your AT&T acct.) but by then your 30 days are up and your stuck.

    Yes, the family is all enjoying the iPhone. I've decided that even though it's terribly expensive, it's worth it. It has brought our family closer together via the iPhone link. We communicate better. We are better organized. We are less stressed in our interactions. We also share photos, songs, applications, and music videos among all our iPhones---like we have our little iPhone family club.
    12-08-2008 09:19 PM
  4. mustangr2's Avatar
    I had similar problem with AT&T. Everytime I changed something on my plan. They prorated the charges so they charged me what was used for the month then charge the changes I made. Bill was way too much. I finally complianed and someone finally told me that not to make any changes till the end of the bill cycle so u don't hit twice.
    12-09-2008 05:05 PM
  5. xandrex#IM's Avatar
    Frustrating, but it seems to me that all of those charges are quite typical. None of them seemed to be new. Activation fees, data plan (which seems to be the $30/month internet + visual voicemail), anytime minutes (this confused me as you seemed to be angry that they only applied between 6AM and 9PM?), and night and weekend minutes.

    Overall, for three iPhones, that seems like a pretty fair price. Hope you're enjoying them!
    12-10-2008 07:56 PM
  6. Jeremy's Avatar
    Frustrating, but it seems to me that all of those charges are quite typical. None of them seemed to be new. Activation fees, data plan (which seems to be the $30/month internet + visual voicemail), anytime minutes (this confused me as you seemed to be angry that they only applied between 6AM and 9PM?), and night and weekend minutes.

    Overall, for three iPhones, that seems like a pretty fair price. Hope you're enjoying them!
    Exactly, none of this is out of the ordinary. Completely normal actually. Sorry you were shocked with the bill. The internet is your friend. Enjoy the phones!
    12-10-2008 09:40 PM
  7. kilsey's Avatar
    As an aside, I'd say the providing of the 157 page manual as a download only is actually a good move on Apple's part. Not only does it make the iPhone cheaper (printing costs not included), but it shows an eco-friendly stance to avoid printing needlessly and wasting paper.

    I do, of course, empathize with anyone who is not willing or able to read the documentation on the screen, and I've pointed a few people at the Missing Manual book with great results.

    Enjoy the phones!
    12-11-2008 07:48 PM
  8. BB-fan's Avatar
    Wow so sorry you had to go through all that. We all got shocked at the first bill and thought something was not right.
    12-15-2008 09:06 AM
  9. sting7k's Avatar
    I don't know, none of that seems out of the ordinary or unexpected. I would say it's Apple's fault and they did not tell you everything they should have when you were going through the paper work in the store. It is well known there is an activation fee when you activate a new phone, been that way for years. It's also well known that the iPhone requires the data plan at $30/month for the 3G service.

    Two of my friend's also had similar experiences getting their iPhone's from an Apple store. The rep didn't really tell them anything other than sign here and then activated their iPhones and out the door we went. They didn't go over any paper work or details of the plan they just seemed to want too get the money and get them out the door.

    My experience with AT&T was a lot different. The AT&T rep gave me a sheet that had every possible choice I would have to make reguarding the iPhone. I checked how many minutes I wanted. It was spelled out that the $30 data plan was required right there. I picked the amount of text messages. It then had a section at the bottom which had my total bill line by line including the activation fee that I would see and they told me what my first bill would include. I was out the door in 10 minutes and knew everything that was important about my service with my iPhone working.

    Part of the problem could be the stores, when I was in the AT&T store there were only 4 other people in there. At the Apple store with my friend's there was a line out the door and you could barely move in the store without bumping into 4 other people.
    12-15-2008 09:23 AM
  10. bvilly's Avatar
    I just had a pleasant experience with AT&T customer service. Some background:

    I currently have a Blackberry Curve(sigh) but expecting the iPhone for Christmas. I am on my own plan currently paying approx $95.00 in total for the Blackberry($40 voice plan + 40$ data plan which includes 1500 texts + $15 in taxes). I was looking into the plans for the iPhone and was extremely disappointed. Being that I will lose Blackberry Messenger, I would need unlimited text messages to compensate for the lost messaging between Blackberry users(I'm gonna miss BBM actually). In order for my iPhone to be comparible(in rate plan) to my Blackberry, I would need the following: $40 voice plan + $30 data plan + $20 text plan + $15 taxes = $105. Only a $10 monthly increase but still disappointing. HOWEVER, luckily for me, the rest of my family is on a family plan. They currently have 3 lines and none of them talk much. As it turns out, I will be intruding on their minutes because none of us are heavy talkers(I am more of a texter). I will only be paying for the $10 extra line + $30 data plan + $20 text plan + $15 in taxes. Now my total is $75. The AT&T rep was extremely helpful. They even carried 1000 of my rollover minutes from my single plan to the family plan.

    Once I get the iPhone, some time next week, I will just switch my blackberry data plan and texts for the iPhone data and text plans and voila!

    Now I am really looking forward to the iPhone. I wish I would have thought of this months ago, I could have been saving $30 a month in phone bills!
    12-15-2008 02:24 PM
  11. Roo Zilla's Avatar
    I used to have a BB Curve on T-Mobile. I was paying about $$90 a month for service, like $50 for talk time, $20 for BB service, $5 for texting, $10 for UMA and taxes. T-Mobile pissed me off though by charging me $600 for data roaming even though I had changed plans to allow for unlimited data roaming. Turns out that if you do it on the website, it doesn't take effect until the next billing cycle, whereas if you call, it takes effect immediately. Anyway, I was pissed at T-Mobile.

    I swapped to AT&T and the unlimited talk plan which was $99 plus $30 for the data and $5 for text, and a few bucks for taxes. Previously with T-Mobile, with the Fave-5 thing, Grand Central, Skype, and UMA, I would rack up like 5000-8000 a month in talk time, so I had to go with the unlimited plan. I knew going in though, what I was going to pay. I knew I would wind up paying an extra $50 a month, have to pay an ETF, and another $300 for the phone. Even though in the long run, I would end up paying a lot more to swap services, I was pissed enough to do it.

    In the end though, I have to say, I'm glad I made the change. The unlimited plan is cool as hell. I used to have it a while back and when I first switched to T-Mo from AT&T to save a few bucks, I had to do with a bunch of work-arounds to make it work. In retrospect, the convenience of unlimited is worth the extra $50 I'm paying and I never should have went to T-Mobile. Furthermore, AT&T has better reception in my area so it's even more worth it.

    As for the iPhone.... SHYTE, I love it. I'm a gadget guy at heart and although I passed on the first iPhone, T-Mobile gave me sufficient incentive to try it out and I'm glad they did. Over the next two years I'm probably going to end up spending an extra $1700 by switching to AT&T and iPhone. You know what? Best phone move I ever made.
    12-17-2008 05:33 PM
  12. PeerB's Avatar
    It really is a shame that Apple can't do more to make the cell phone contract experience more transparent. Well, at least the hardware is amazing.
    01-06-2009 11:04 AM