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November 27, 2007

AT&T vs Nokia - I'm Calling BS!

by Darla Mack

This morning, with my morning coffee I sat down to read Engadget's interview with CEO of AT&T Mobility, Ralph de la Vega.  At this end of this interview, my coffee was no longer enjoyable.

I know you are probably saying "damn there she goes spewing nonsense again" but the interview just irked me to the extreme.  I don't expect people to agree with me, but I've found that in my years of blogging I've surprisingly found that there are some people out there that do.

Please note that the boldface is questioned by Ryan Block of Engadget. 

"I want to talk a little bit about some of this consumer choice you're referencing in some of these handsets. Specifically with regard to Symbian, I think that's actually a really good example of where AT&T and other carriers desire to have control over platform software and release, which has really held things back. When the E62 was due for launch, it was delayed continuously. Same thing with the N75. Symbian has had a really difficult time making its way into America. Especially on AT&T. So, what is it about releasing these types of devices? Why is it that the process that's in place right now for releasing advanced devices is so effective at keeping us behind in the wireless world--

Actually that is my pet peeve, but it's not because it's not because it keeps us behind. In the case of Nokia, you can talk to their executives. My biggest pet peeves is saying purposefully releasing the devices in Europe first and then we get them months or years after they have been released in Europe because that's their biggest market. And so my biggest pet peeve with Nokia in particular, and you can talk to them -- because I've certainly talked to them on this -- is, why are you releasing that device in Europe first, and then letting us having it device 6 months or even later in the US? And their reason is that's their core market. So they release and develop everything to work in Europe first. Now as a result of our complaining they have built a development lab in San Diego to begin to develop devices for the US. They are still not on par with other companies, but that is my biggest pet peeve. Why are you doing these things for Europe first, as opposed to us. So its not that we have been holding it up. They have not been giving it to us at the same time that they have been giving them to European operators."

I will definitely agree and give him credit for noticing the time lapse between Europe and the US when it comes to device releases and yes this is something that Nokia needs to work on, but lets not hide the issue. This comment is from the PROVIDER perspective.  How can this be true, when the devices that have been released in the US have not even been picked up by AT&T?  Nokia has released devices that are compatible with US 3G that AT&T never picked up.  What happened to the N80-3, and the newly released N95-3?  Perfect S60 devices aimed at the US market.  And the Nokia 6282, another 3G slider aimed at the US market.  Where are they? 

Yes we are aware that Europe is the core market so to speak, but we have the devices here and AT&T still shakes their heads at them. Here's a funny tid-bit... the N75 sells unlocked at the Nokia flagship store, but if you use it with AT&T you can't download content from MediaNet because it says "device not supported".  I haven't seen that in action, but thats what I heard.

"The N75 is a device that Nokia developed specifically for AT&T, for US spectrum and with your 3G network. And that was a device that was held up continuously. It wasn't on their head, right? I mean, they developed it specifically for this market. So the holdup can only be at AT&T.

No, not really. We spend a lot of time testing devices to make sure that they work and they do what they are supposed to do. And most often times when we get a device we reject it because the device doesn't work and they have to go in and tweak the software. I don't know the specifics on the N76 because at time that was released I was running our wired business, so I can't speak to that one in detail. But I can speak to the E62 because I was there when that device was launched, and it was full of flaws. We have a very strong commitment that we are not going to put out a phone that has flaws in it. So our customers don't end up calling us and getting upset with us when it doesn't do what it's supposed to do. We do have a very rigorous process to make sure that the phones work right, but not because we are trying to keep anybody out.

In fact, one of our key strategic imperatives is to develop and deliver compelling products and services to our customers. Compelling meaning, they are the coolest, they are the latest, and that's why you've seen us lead the market with the RAZR, the Blackjack, the iPhone with the HTC Tilt, and the Pantech Duo, and those kinds of cool devices. But they have got to step over the bar that says when I put them in a customer's hands they do what they are supposed to do. We are very, very focused on that, and I guess we've paid the price on that when we try to get some devices out to the market. Without going through the testing they invariably have bugs and I don't want my customers to find those bugs."

I first saw the Nokia N75 in September of last year at Open Studio. Seemed to be working fine to me, but then again I'm no technical expert.  I don't think that Nokia should take the blame for this alone.  There is more to this that is not being said.  I'm not sure that I believe all of that.  "Tweak the software"... wouldn't that mean that because AT&T was so specific in requesting what they want on the device that it prompted a delay in releasing the device?  He didn't say anything was wrong with the hardware, he said software.

From the beginning of the S60 US device appearance, AT&T AND Cingular made those same statements.  The device didn't work.  There is some hidden agenda to that because the Nokia 3650 went to T-Mobile.  It briefly went to Cingular, but then they removed it and came out with a completely different "created" version.  The 3620 went to Cingular and the 3660 went to AT&T (or vice versa), both spin-offs of the original.  But why? It shouldn't have been a big issue since the 3650 was tri-band.   I don't recall anyone from T-Mobile having any complaints.

And my last question... why the hell does AT&T need their own specific devices created anyway!!!


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I read the article and I'm confused as to what you're mad about? Could you elaborate on what irked you about the article so I could see it from your perspective?

The rep was totally right that Nokia ignores the US market. That has always annoyed me too.

As far as his remarks for the phone being delayed on AT&T due to software flaws, I think I have to agree with him as well. Symbian may have been around for a while, but my Nokia N95 is still full of bugs. With constant reboots and other frustrating things, I can easily see how a cell company would think: "There's no way the average customer is going to be happy with this. It's going to turn into a return nightmare."

I deal with it because I deal with technology. I know how to work things out when my phone hard locks. The average Joe is going to be stuck and either tying up tech support lines, or the lines at your local AT&T store.

Just my 2 cents. I am curious to know what made you upset about that article though...

Ordxpres - Maciek

Sign me up under your BS list. This guy is an idiot. He keeps talking about his pet peeves yet has no clue about the whole thing. GSM is a world standard. If the carrier provides the details about the network to handset manufacturer then it just works. How come unlocked devices do not need tweaking and work on at&t yet customized (read crippled) ones need the "network tweaking". If he's so afraid that the at&t customized phones won't work on "His" network, then perhaps he should direct people to Nokia flagship stores where they can purchase the devices that work out of the box and no tweaking necessary. Another proof that he's a complete moron is when he immediately connects Symbian to Nokia. Nokia is the major holder..it can be said Nokia is Symbian but Symbian is NOT Nokia. I see where you get ticked off...he blames everything on Nokia but washes his hands off of anything that can be traced back to the network operator. I don't think I'd be a good journalist as I'd LAUGH in this guy's face if he wold make comments like this in my presence....and he's BUTT UGLY too.

Abdullah R

Pisses me off. This is very similar to Microsoft kind of mentality which is always make others bend for you.

While i agree N95 has its instabilities but i must say it is way stable than many WM6 crippled devices that AT&T carry.

Stefan Constantinescu

I didn't want to say anything, but I really wanted to punch this guy in the face after reading that interview. Why the hell should AT&T connect the consumer to their world. Shouldn't AT&T just let consumers connect themselves to their world and find the best solution that suites them?

It is all marketing BS and I can't believe he shit on Nokia for no reason.


i had the e62 and it only had flaws because it was a crappy broken down version of the 61. it was missing a lot of very important features....little things that u would expect a smartphone to have. things like adding attachments to emails were a no-go. now im not sure if this was a nokia idea to release this crappy attempt of a phone to the US market considering the 61 was available in europe only, or if at&t crippled it themselves. i will say though that i think nokia should step it up and make thier devices more compatible with our networks....such as my current device, 61, which cant run US 3G even though it is the US model. that in and of itself makes no sense to me. i dont necessarily want them to be locked/proprietary but i do want them to work properly. maybe now considering their flagship store is in the states will mean more devices for the states. we shall see.


You go get 'em, Darla!

This guy is just blowing smoke. He is trying to blame Nokia for AT&T internal decisions that have nothing to do with Nokia. Total telco BS.


Yeah, he totally dodged Ryan Block's questions... I call BS too!

AT&T, I have a question for you: Why is there an early termination fee for a monthly voice/data plan when I open an account and supply my own unsubsidized, unlocked GSM device?


I call BS times 3! First, the E62 should have never been. E61 with US 3G should. Simple. Next is at&t wants control of us. Ummm...excuse me. You're a service provider. So provide service or else you are fired and T-Mo is hired. This guy did not answer the questions and just made my feelings about at&t as a company solid. If they had it their way you would have only Dell computers slapped with an at&t logo at your house and no P2P networking. Could you imagine if your cable company told you that your Samsung TV is not supported and that you have to purchase a brand provided by them? Contracts with your gas stations?! This is out of control; consumer control. at&t can take their locked down, useless devices and shove it up their rear. And as for somebody's above comment about Nokia not caring about their US customers...how can they cater to you if your service provider moderates everything and gets in the way? Nokia can't say screw at&t seeing it is their biggest customer. I wish Nokia and Apple would take power away from the carriers. So...why doesn't at&t do what at&t does best? (or an attempt at least) Provide service and silence yourselfs. Nokia...make devices and at&t provide service. End of story. Done. Europe will continue to be ahead as long as the consumer controls growth and the carriers stick together on standards.


Very difficult article to read did you write it before or after you had your coffee? On top of that, you have a poor choice for fonts. Why not make it easier to the reader?

loose the OPS

Guess that the only thing that would help the US mobile business, is a consumer revolution. Loose or diminish the power of the US operators (or carriers), as they are holding you back with poor services and walled gardens.


Well, I will agree that we get older nokia phones than what they have. I blame both parties, but I gotta blame Nokia more. After the success of the iPhone, the only support for mac users is some media crap?? When will us mac owners get a mac suite?? When will we be Able to get an upgrade without using a pc?? Nokia's not really worried about the US like that, but hopefully Apple lit a lil fire under their foot. I as a Mac owner would LOVE a fully-compatible Nokia without spending extra just to catch up to everyone (pc owners) else!


You are absolutely right, Darla! I just don't understand how people can be so slimy and not expect people to see through their games. And, besides, isn't "ME FIRST" a playground game for children??? I am an AT&T customer. I have had several conversations with at least 6 different AT&T customer service reps-of various management levels-in reference to my mobile-service and my Nokia N95. I have been dismayed by the boldness and consistency of the most ludicrous lies, half-truths, and misinformation offered in efforts to dissuade me both from purchasing an unlocked phone for use on their network. The sheer consistency of their deception suggests that it is a corporate training mandate for all employees. Multiple AT&T employees have used belligerence, hostility, and even profanity to promote the notion that unlocked phones "will NOT work with any regularity or consistency with the network." This despite oceans of evidence and documentation by a variety of resources to the contrary. Mr. Block's verbal vomit is only the latest example of AT&T's ongoing corporate propaganda.


Well my comment to this is that the U.S. whole way of thinking and doing cellular is wrong why do I come from a country that thinks that it has to be so much differant than every other country out there its crazy since I have been living in asia I have been opened up to a whole new range of devices that put ours at home to shame....along with new services "that actually work" Our country needs to wake up and get with the program....its a new world .....


While Nokia does often release phones in Europe first, it's a bit of a chicken and egg situation. Also, we got the N95-1 the same time Europe did, and are only a few weeks behind in terms of firmware updates. There's no reason now that the ultra-stable v20 is out that AT&T (or T-Mobile, for that matter) couldn't pick up the N95-1. Also, the N95-3 is very stable, and "just works" on the AT&T network the way it is supposed to (except for the annoying proxy workaround, which is easily fixed), and we got it (and its extra RAM and bigger battery) a few weeks before Europe got the N95 8GB sporting many of the same improvements.

Now that Verizon is switching to LTE and opening up the network, it's possible Nokia will give them a second look, perhaps building some CDMA-specific devices. Nokia has also said it sees the US as its next big growth opportunity (since it has 10% market share here vs. 40% everywhere else). Something's got to give, and iPhone has demonstrated that carriers are at a weak point right now, so perhaps we'll see AT&T bite the bullet and pick up more Nokia phones.

mr nokia

I am in the industry that has something to do with AT&T and Nokia and my 2 cents are that if Nokia brought the N95, N93i, or just any plain old Symbian device, the reps over at AT&T would not even now how to sell them! Everyone else around the world see value in their phone and wont blink an eye to by an $700-$800 Nokia phone AND know how to use it!--Americans want something for nothing and until we change the mentality of the American consumer--you will see AT&T keep getting those horrible Razr's, a million Samsungs, and Blackberries, Blackberries and more Blackberries. It's not Nokia's fault that the 8801, E61i, and possibly the N95 didnt come to Cingular/AT&T....and..these 3 ARE American configured phones. Hmmm.

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