But Ma Bell requires you to sign up for a shared data plan before enjoying FaceTime over 3G networks.
This move wasn't welcome at all. Mobile enthusiast site Boy Genius Report compares this to leasing a car where the bank decides how fast you can go or where you can park. DailyTech calls the limits "mind-boggling," and points out that Microsoft's
Crucially, several of these critics wonder if the new rules don't run afoul of the FCC's network neutrality policies.
So here comes AT&T's damage control squad. In an official blog post, AT&T explains that everything is kosher:
- The service plan requirement doesn't violate any FCC rules, which only require the carrier not to stop customers from installing communications apps on their own.
- Indeed, we should thank AT&T for preinstalling FaceTime on its iPhones, even if that gives the company the power to limit what you can do with it.
The article doesn't address accusations that AT&T is forcing people to use the new and more lucrative data plans. But ignoring the critics doesn't make their slams any less valid, and AT&T may end up losing customers over this blunder.
With iPhones available from nearly every network that matters nowadays, consumers aren't locked into Ma Bell's policies. Rival Sprint Nextel
The coming couple of quarters will show whether AT&T stumbled on a profit center -- or a new way to lose revenue and alienate customers.
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Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies mentioned. Check out Anders' holdings and bio, or follow him on Twitter and Google+. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Microsoft and Apple, creating a synthetic covered call position in Microsoft, and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. We Fools don't all hold the same opinion, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.