Does The iPhone Break AT&T's Terms Of Service?

from the read-the-fine-print dept

Many mobile operators use restrictive terms of service to limit the types of things users can do with their supposedly unlimited data connections. Typically, these ban the use of things like VoIP and streaming video, and in this case, AT&T is no different, saying its customers can’t use streaming services “except for content formatted in accordance with AT&T’s wireless content standards” (and those standards aren’t defined, of course). However, Apple has announced that YouTube videos will be available on the iPhone (as they now are on a wide range of handsets) — but as IP Democracy notes, there’s no mention of AT&T anywhere in the news, so will this service fall foul of its rules? While it would seem unlikely for AT&T to try and crack down on Apple, given how badly it’s hoping the iPhone will help lure new customers, this situation again highlights the restrictive, one-sided terms of service operators force on their customers, and their selective enforcement of them.

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Comments on “Does The iPhone Break AT&T's Terms Of Service?”

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Kanna says:

You said it yourself

AT&T allow streaming services for content “formatted in accordance with AT&T’s wireless content standards (and those standards aren’t defined, of course).” If the standards aren’t defined, then it seems a short step for AT&T to just come out and say “streaming YouTube to your iPhone is within our standards”. Why would they disable any feature of what is shaping up to be a rather robust cash-cow for their company? It seems to me that having undefined standards (in a world where corporations seem to be calling all the shots) is about the best way to go about getting everything you want without mentioning it first.

UrBear says:

Not so fast

Buried in the hype about the iPhone and YouTube is a little technical detail: YouTube is re-encoding all their videos using the H.264 codec, a process that will take several months. H.264 is optimized for low-bandwidth devices; the YouTube applet on the iPhone will play only H.264 videos. Sounds like this is “formatted in accordance with AT&T’s wireless content standards”… no conflict with their TOS.

His Shadow says:

As a Canadian living in Edmonton, I have a choice of several providers, but this concerns only two: Telus and Bell.

There is a Motorola phone available on both networks called the E815. It has slightly different model numbers depending on who you get it from.

On Telus, which has a ton of money invested in their crappy ringtone services, and charges you to get the pictures off your phone, the Bluetooth allows headsets but that it. It’s otherwise useless.

On Bell, which doesn’t really have much in the way of content they want to try to force you to use, the Bluetooth is wide open. I get files and pictures and contact syncing with Motorola’s software. I also get to load custom ringtones I edited myself. But their data and text messaging services are expensive. Prohibitively so.

If Apple can break the back of the phone provider’s kingdoms, then it doesn’t matter if they sell any more than the 3 million iPhones they supposedly have in stock. Apple will still have done every one a huge favour.

Cleverboy (user link) says:


Very surprising that I’ve heard this is both EDGE and Wi-Fi supported. My guess? Apple will happily tell you you can use EDGE as well, knowing that one “taste” and most Tubers will go scrambling for a Wi-Fi signal. It’s interesting, some months ago, there was an article from an AT&T exec, and he was discussing how this deal has worked out.

In doing so, he made reference to there being some “low moments” and then neglected to elucidate on just what those might have been (although, no surprise). Here’s hoping this works out for everyone, and doesn’t just “BLOW UP”. Recently Helio Ocean users were treated to “redirects” instead of their mobile YouTube page. The redirects hit a “paid sign-up” form, and speculation has been that unrestricted, unsurcharged access to such features conflicted with Helio’s agreements. I’m wondering when users will start identifying Apple’s iPhone “seams” and start rending clothes and gnashing teeth.

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