AT&T denies ‘vacation blackout’ rumors

Reports emerged over the weekend about AT&T forcing its employees into a Sept. 21 to Sept. 30 “Vacation Blackout”.

According to an AT&T sales rep, AT&T staff has been given a vacation blackout from September 21 to September 30, just like Verizon employees. Our source also mentioned that blue carrier employees are undergoing training for an “iconic release.”

“Not true!” we’ve heard. We reached out to AT&T to see what it had to say regarding the above. An AT&T spokesperson told us this morning that there is no company-wide vacation blackout for the end of September.

We also talked to AT&T reps at other stores who implied more people are being put on duty, depending on staffing levels of that particular store, but there is no “blackout.” One New York employee will even sit out the first week of the iPhone launch due to a long-planned vacation.

TechCrunch sourced one rep from a single AT&T store, which may have its own little under-staffed blackout, but, as we heard, the policy is not nationwide.

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Verizon again tops J.D. Power and Associates Network Quality Performance report

J.D. Power and Associates is out with the second half of its 2012 “U.S. Wireless Network Quality Performance Study”, and Verizon once again come out on top for network performance in five of the six regions included in the report. Only second to U.S. Cellular in the North Central region, Verizon posted the best overall network performance among the other carriers in the remaining regions based on 10 key problem areas that could impact the customer experience.

For a 16th consecutive reporting period, Verizon Wireless ranks highest in the Northeast region. Verizon Wireless achieves fewer customer-reported problems with dropped calls, initial connections, transmission failures and late text messages, compared with the regional average. Verizon Wireless also ranks highest in the Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Southwest and West regions… U.S. Cellular ranks highest in the North Central region for a 14th consecutive reporting period. Compared with the regional average, U.S. Cellular has fewer customer-reported problems with dropped calls, failed initial connections, audio problems, failed voice mails and lost calls.

The study also covered the customer experience specifically for data-related problems. Not surprisingly, LTE device users experienced significantly less issues than older 3G devices like the iPhone:

The study finds that the number of data-related problems, especially those related to slow connection speeds, is significantly lower among customers using 4G LTE-enabled devices than among those using devices with older 3G/4G technology standards, such as WiMAX and HSPA+… For example, among customers with 4G LTE-enabled devices, the problem incidence for excessively slow mobile Web loading is 15 PP100, compared with the industry average of 20 PP100. Furthermore, the overall problem incidence for excessively slow mobile Web loading is even higher among customers with WiMAX and HSPA+ technology

Based on responses from over 26,000 U.S. wireless customers, the report explained how network performance was calculated:
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Verizon spanked by FCC for charging extra for tethering/apps, should drop extra fee in short order

Verizon iPhone Personal Hotspot settings (Image: TechCrunch)

Verizon was fined a measly $1.25 million today for blocking access to tethering apps mostly on the Android platform. That does not apply to most iOS users (currently), however. That is because this ruling —for now— only affects LTE 4G devices. With the next-generation iPhone, which will launch in mid-September, heavily rumored to be the first iPhone to include LTE access, this will affect those choosing to go with Verizon Wireless for their fancy new iPhone.

The ruling asserts that Verizon must not charge an additional fee for tethering on its devices—so long as they are not on the grandfathered unlimited data plans. The iPhone has included tethering support since iOS 3.0, and the feature was taken to the next level by Apple and Verizon Wireless with the launch of the Verizon iPhone 4 and the wireless Personal Hotspot feature in early 2011. The feature was soon spread to iPhone carriers globally with iOS 4.3.

Earlier this year, Apple brought the Personal Hotspot feature to its tablet with the LTE iPad. Something notable with Apple and Verizon’s agreement for the iPad is that the wireless tethering feature is included in the pre-paid data plans. If a user pays a certain amount for data, they will not have to pay anything extra to access the wireless tethering system. With the LTE iPhone, according to today’s FCC ruling, users will have the same, great experience.

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AT&T activated 4.3M iPhones last quarter, over 78 percent of its smartphone activations

AT&T is still the “iPhone network,” according to numbers  from its quarterly earnings report. AT&T sold 5.5 million smartphones in the quarter, but 4.3 million of the smartphones activated were iPhones. That means the iPhone represented a whopping 78 percent of total smartphone sales (although some “iPhone activations” could have been hand me downs). Additionally, AT&T’s postpaid customers are almost 60 percent smartphone customers, which means AT&T’s iPhone customers represent a huge percentage of its base—nearly 5o percent and growing.

Verizon announced numbers last week including 3.2 million iPhones sold. While the iPhone is down significantly from the holiday quarter, it is up from 3.6 million activations in Q1 2011. Apple’s earnings will be reported at the end of the day today.

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Consumer Reports: Forget what we said before, new iPad is the best we’ve ever seen

Consumer Reports took a beating for measuring the new iPad’s heat and charging non-issues under intense loads. However, it still overwhelmingly recommended Apple’s new device.

The high-resolution screen of the new iPad establishes a new benchmark in excellence, providing the best rendering of detail and color accuracy we’ve ever seen on a tablet display. As a result, the iPad tops our new tablet Ratings, posted today.

Performance on the new iPad ($500 to $830) was superb in virtually every other way as well. The 5-megapixel camera took very good photos. Verizon’s 4G network yielded very fast, dependable connectivity to a 4G-compatible version of the iPad in our informal tests. And despite the energy-intensive display and graphics, the iPad still has longer battery life than all other tablets.

Responding to consumer comments on the new device, and to coverage from other reviewers, we also carried out further tests that confirmed the new iPad is warmer in its hottest spots than the iPad 2. But we didn’t find those temperatures to be cause for concern. In addition, further tests of observations we made that the new iPad was not recharging when playing a demanding, intense video game, showed that the problem was limited to times when the device was playing a demanding game with the screen fully bright. Our high overall judgment of the new iPad was not affected by the results of either battery of tests.

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Verizon teases “Something is Coming” ahead of iPad launch (Update: AT&T too)

It is interesting how little Verizon has to provide, yet the splash page they put up today still screams “iPad!”.

Notably, the graphic image file name is:766x385_HP_pre_NO_optin.jpg but somehow we don’t think Verizon’s big surprise is the recently discontinued HP Pre.

Update: Now AT&T has their version up:

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