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Wait a minute – 2010? What happened to the Apple/AT&T 5 Year deal?

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This weekend USA Today posted an interview with AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson. Several other blogs posted about it – and all of them have focused on one thing — the idea that the iPhone exclusivity deal has been “extended” to 2010.

There’s only one real problem with the report. 2010 isn’t an extension of anything…depending on which USA Today article you believe.

When the Apple/AT&T deal was originally made, it was a five year deal. (My source for that? A USA Today article from May 2007). Now Apple and AT&T originally began their discussions in 2005. So even if you wanted to go back and claim that the exclusive began from the time they began working together, and not from the time the first phone was released – it would still be 2010 when it expired…and not an extension.

It is doubtful, though, that the exclusivity deal began at that time. It is an “exclusive distribution” deal, so it would only make sense for it to start when the the first iPhone was released. That was last year. Which means that the iPhone is locked in with AT&T until 2012 (or the end of time if you believe the Mayan calendar).

The new article that was posted this weekend says “In exchange for its payout, AT&T got a year extension, into 2010, on its exclusive distribution deal with Apple, people familiar with the matter say. Sources asked to not be named because the terms are confidential.”

The original article states “AT&T has exclusive U.S. distribution rights for five years — an eternity in the go-go cellphone world.”

Now, where this becomes really kind of confusing is when you look at the fact that both of these USA Today articles were written by Leslie Cauley. If it were two different reporters I would be less surprised that they contradict one another. You would think, however, if she broke the story about the 5 year deal last year – that she would remember it when her new “people familiar with the matter” contradict her initial reporting.

So maybe its 2010 – maybe its 2012. Either way, if you want an iPhone you’re either going to have to use AT&T or find one unlocked somewhere that fell off the back of a truck…or ebay. Whichever.
So which is it Leslie?

Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo is a stalwart in the tech journalism community, has been chronicling the ever-evolving world of Apple products and innovations for over a decade. As a Senior Author at Apple Gazette, Kokou combines a deep passion for technology with an innate ability to translate complex tech jargon into relatable insights for everyday users.

4 thoughts on “Wait a minute – 2010? What happened to the Apple/AT&T 5 Year deal?

  1. I was always under the impression that it was a 5 year deal. I saw many an article to this effect. Maybe it was another case of if everyone says it and agrees on it then it must be true.

  2. No one knew or sure that it was a five year deal. Five years was nothing more then an analyst predicting how long the exclusivity deal was, they never knew and no one who did know ever confirmed the five years. Everyone has been assuming that that five years was right without ever doing any real investigations to confirm it (although they wouldn’t have been able to confirm it since no one who did know the details of the agreement would be able to talk about it).

  3. I think the original 5-year deal included an option for Apple to end the 5-year deal early in 2009, although this was not ever made public. With the new agreement, Apple’s option has been shifted to 2010. In other words, AT&T is now assured of exclusivity until 2010.

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