How Apple Broke My iPhone


(and How Their Policies Prevent Them from Fixing It)

Update 12/18/2013: Here is the conclusion to this drama.

Hello. I’ve been an otherwise happy iPhone user since 2008. I use my iPhone with an MVNO carrier in the U.S. called Straight Talk, which runs over AT&T’s network. This is my story.

“Book report” version: iOS prevents customers of MVNOs whose parent carrier restricts on-device APN editing from being able to configure their phones to properly work with the MVNO service, even if it is an officially unlocked iPhone. There were unofficial workarounds to this (ones that did not require rooting/jailbreaking the phone) which Apple ended up patching in iOS 6 without giving customers who relied on them an officially-supported alternative. Thus, when I upgraded my phone to iOS 6, internet data and MMS broke. I was able to get internet data working again using Apple-provided tools, but MMS remains broken, and Apple cannot will not help me.

FIRST, Apple won’t help me because they agreed to block on-device APN editing for certain carriers, including AT&T, even though this negatively impacts people who are not direct customers of AT&T, and even though there is not one single other unlocked GSM phone model on the market besides iPhone that imposes this restriction on users or hands over this kind of control to carriers.

SECOND, Apple won’t help me fix this problem by means of allowing me to downgrade to iOS 5. iOS is specifically engineered to prevent downgrades on a per-device basis; see this Wikipedia article. Apple has refused to whitelist my device’s serial number on their TSS server even though we both know that allowing me to go back to iOS 5 would address my immediate need.

I have interacted with Apple on a number of levels:

  1. Opened a ticket with AppleCare support (October 16); after a week of this, I was advised by my support agent to…
  2. Write a (long) letter to Apple Product Feedback (October 22). I knew I’d probably never see a response, so a couple days later I…
  3. Wrote a letter to Tim Cook, CC: Phil Schiller, Scott Forstall (October 24). This resulted in a call back from…
  4. Apple Executive Relations, whom I have been in constant contact with since.

I also go into more detail about the history of this support case and some of the issues surrounding it in discussion threads I’ve started on a couple of web forums (linked at the top).

Although everyone I have interacted with at Apple has been sympathetic with my plight, and even though my Apple Executive Relations handler has been willing to repeatedly go to bat for me after every time we have talked on the phone, nothing substantive has changed. I don’t know what else to do other than to inform others about this, and to urge others who are in a similar position (unlocked iPhone user, and Straight Talk or other MVNO customer who can’t use MMS) to complain loudly as well. Really, anybody who has been negatively impacted by the draconian downgrade enforcement policy Apple has pushed onto iOS should be complaining.