iPhone bills being delivered in boxes

August 16, 2007|By Cox News Service

NEW YORK -- First came the iPhone. Now comes the iBill.

Many AT&T wireless subscribers who slapped down $500 or more for the must-have Apple gadget are just now discovering how big that bill can be. Not the dollar amount, but the sheer physical size.

Internet message boards and blogs are buzzing with talk of paper iPhone bills dozens and even hundreds of pages long. So why is a phone bill so big it needs to be delivered in a box?

AT&T Inc. itemizes not just phone calls and text messages on its bills, but every data transfer when the handset connects to the network. Much of that happens invisibly as people automatically check e-mail or visit Web sites composed of many small files such as images.

With all the iPhone's online capabilities, that can add up to a lot of paper.

Justine Ezarik, a graphic designer and blogger from Pittsburgh, posted a video of herself unpacking a 300-page iPhone bill that came in a cardboard box. Her video, set to the music used in iPhone TV commercials, has been viewed more than 196,000 times through the video sharing sites Revver and Google's YouTube.

Her video ends with the note: "Use e-billing. Save a forest."

Ben Kuchera, gaming editor for the technology Web site Ars Technica in Chicago, said he received a 34-page double-sided bill. He describes himself as a "light" iPhone user and said his bill is likely typical.

"It's this mind-numbingly long itemized list that tells you nothing," Kuchera said. He said the bill refers to almost every item simply as "data" that costs nothing under the unlimited access plan.

With Apple being known for elegant design and for being "control freaks making sure they have a hand in every step of the product, I have to imagine somewhere [Apple CEO] Steve Jobs is just aghast at this," Kuchera said.

While the iPhone's popularity has drawn attention to these monthly statements, AT&T has long used this billing method.

"It's no different than with any other bill for any other device or any other service that we offer," said Mark Siegel, a spokesman for AT&T's wireless division in Atlanta. "If you do a lot of wireless data and consume a lot of bandwidth, that part of your bill is going to be bigger."

Receiving the detailed bill is the default option for AT&T subscribers unless they specify otherwise, Siegel said. He said customers can sign up by phone or online for electronic billing or a less detailed paper bill that summarizes charges.

AT&T offered electronic-only billing to new iPhone customers when they signed up, Siegel said.

"It needs to be up to the customer - how much or how little detail they want," he said. "If you don't want it, that's fine. Just let us know."

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