Trendy electronic gadget maker Apple (AAPL) has done a pretty good job at putting an iPhone in the hands of everyone who wants one. But over the weekend, New York City residents found buying them online impossible. AT&T (T) halted online sales of the smart phone in the city, citing lack of capacity on its cellular network, the only one which the über-popular device is able to use in the U.S. (Update: AT&T resumed online sales of the gadget to Manhattan customers Monday afternoon.)AT&T's lack of cell towers in the Big Apple is the cause of the problem, The Consumerist blog has learned. The quick solution, it appears, was to halt online sales of iPhones in ZIP codes within city limits, as well as those in the nearby suburbs of tony Westchester and northern New Jersey, it reports.
%%DynaPub-Enhancement class="enhancement contentType-HTML Content fragmentId-1 payloadId-61603 alignment-right size-small"%% Consumerist learned of AT&T's decision to stop Internet sale after a Brooklyn reader named Stephen discovered he wasn't able to buy an iPhone at AT&T Wireless's website. He tried inputting his home ZIP code, 11231, but the site told him that the iPhone was unavailable. Finding that outcome odd, Stephen input other ZIP codes for cities such as Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago and found that the iPhone was available in those communities.
"Then I started putting in more NYC ZIP codes: Midtown, Staten Island, the Bronx ... no iPhone available," Stephen wrote, adding, "This is weird ... AT&T has cut off New York City."
AT&T confirmed that it has halted sales of iPhones in the nation's most populous city, telling Consumerist that the device isn't available to Big Apple residents because the city isn't ready for the iPhone. "You don't have enough towers to handle the phone," an AT&T customer-service representative told the blog's reporter.
A more official, if equally incoherent, response came in written form from AT&T spokesman Fletcher Cook, who told Consumerist: "We periodically modify our promotions and distribution channels."
AT&T has acknowledged that its data network is overburdened with iPhone users in New York City and San Francisco, sparking online speculation that the sales suspension is a means of managing traffic, according to the Associated Press.
Wired.com reports that other shoppers have received "mixed information about the possibilities of fraud," leading to speculation that the hold on sales in New York City is a security measure to curb credit-card fraud. Further, the online tech publication noted that AT&T has been looking for ways to curb usage by its heaviest network users: Just 3% of AT&T's users consume 40% of its data capacity.
At the beginning of December, Wired noted, AT&T's mobile boss Ralph de la Vega told Reuters news agency that "the company is ... working on getting the data hogs to cut down their usage."
Further, Wired opined that "curbing data use is the wrong thing to do, but even by AT&T's standards, refusing to sell phones to customers would be an extreme move."
Still, New York City residents do have options if they really want a new iPhone, including buying it online at Apple's website, or by shopping the old fashion way -- at AT&T and Apple brick-and-mortar retail stores.
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