Despite being joined at the hip (thanks to a little gizmo called the iPhone — maybe you've heard of it?), Apple and AT&T wound up 2009 with wildly different results, both in the marketplace and the eye of the public.
- First, Apple sat back and looked on with amazed glee as the App Store blew up HUGE. In July, we reported that after only a year of operation, over 1.5 BEELLION free and pay apps had been downloaded. (We even tried to put that number into perspective by imagining how many old-school Nintendo game cartridges that would be…) Certainly they weren't the only store in town — Blackberries, Pre's, and even Droids offered up their fair share of software — but the sheer, mind-blowing quantity of iPhone apps couldn't even be touched.
- Believe it or not, Apple was NOT the top-selling handset manufacturer of '09. Both Nokia and RIM/Blackberry (Numbers 1 and 2, respectively) trounced them in sheer numbers, owing to the fact that both companies offered multiple handset models. But the House of Jobs got the last laugh: their 32% total industry profitability put them at the head of the pack.
- The big surprise came at Christmas '09, when iPod Touches given as presents drove Xmas Day app downloads to a whopping 1000% increase over normal volume. (This on top of a 51% increase the preceding month…)
- Now the bad news: Apple finally activated push technology in the latest iPhone OS — but the public greeted it with a collective shrug, aware that it was no substitute for true multitasking.
Still, all things considered, the House of Jobs had a far, far better year than the Death Star did:
- AT&T failed to deliver MMS on time — and when they did (slowly) roll it out, it came with a whimpered "Please don't overload our network…"
- AT&T also failed to deliver tethering service. At any price. Which became another reason to jailbreak your iPhone.
- In December, AT&T publicly admitted that their 3G network sucked, especially in the NY and Frisco markets. Unfortunately, they then decided to play the Blame Game and laid the fault at the feet of online power users hogging the bandwidth — even hinting they might issue surcharges for excessive web surfing. (Uh, hello — what part of "unlimited access data plan" does this apply to?) It became such a publicity boondoggle that when the author of the Fake Steve Jobs blog called for — with tongue firmly in cheek — a nationwide let's-overload-AT&T's-network protest, the real-life Operation Chokehold was born.
- Last but not least, Verizon's "There's a map for that" ads comparing their 3G coverage in the US to AT&T's was a serious bit of bitch-slappery. The best the Death Star could fire back with was the always affable Luke Wilson pointing out that you couldn't phone and web-surf at the same time on a Verizon handset. Touche', Luke, but at least Verizon's calls and messages get through…