Apple had to know that signing a deal with AT&T would lead to disgruntled customers. By definition, any customer of AT&T is an unhappy customer, right?

It started when the first AT&T bills were delivered to iPhone users. AT&T chose to itemize each and every bit of data to and from the phone – each text message, each individual ad graphic on each web page. There were reports of 300-page bills delivered in boxes, with completely useless amounts of detail on too much paper. As one tech site put it, “Apple’s renown for elegance and simplicity has been ironically mocked by this ridiculous document of excess.” Or as David Pogue put it, “It’s a staggeringly, hatefully complex document, designed by some Monty Pythoneseque committee in charge of consumer confusion.”

Now the phones have been available for long enough that a few people have carried them overseas. The horror, the horror! The most appalling story concerns a family that took its iPhones on a Mediterranean cruise and got a bill for $4,800 shortly after they got back. The kicker is that the phones were turned off the whole time. It turns out iPhones helpfully check for mail and messages constantly even when they’re turned off, and the “unlimited data” plan from AT&T is billed at sixteen billion dollars per kilobyte in Europe, or something like that. There’s other reports – a bill for three thousand dollars, a bill for five thousand dollars, and more. Of course there are people who think people in this position are stupid and it’s completely obvious that iPhones have to be put in cryogenic stasis in Belgium and every moron knows about subsection 27 stroke I in the AT&T license agreement so it’s their own fault.

More helpful are long advice pages that basically say, the iPhone’s international capabilities and charges are a complete mess. And there’s reason to suspect that AT&T knows it full well, since reportedly the first thing that AT&T does if you ask for international roaming on an iPhone is run a credit check on you. (Honest! That’s what the article says.)

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