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Handhelds The Almighty Buck Hardware

Turned Off iPhone Gets $4800 Bill from AT&T 951

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the gotta-hate-when-that-happens dept.
Tech.Luver writes "Jay Levy says he has been stung by Apple's iPhone pact with AT&T after he took an iPhone on a Mediterranean cruise. They didn't use their phones, but when they got back they had a 54-page monthly bill of nearly $4,800 from AT&T Wireless. The problem was that their three iPhones were racking up a bill for data charges using foreign phone charges. The iPhone regularly updates e-mail, even while it's off, so that all the messages will be available when the user turns it on. ""
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Turned Off iPhone Gets $4800 Bill from AT&T

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  • Off means off (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alex777 (1113887) on Monday September 10, 2007 @09:46AM (#20537681)
    This is why things should actually be OFF when you turn them off. What if it interferes with hospital equipment like other cells, even if it's off?
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Monday September 10, 2007 @09:48AM (#20537695) Homepage
    Why should he be hit with a $4,800 bill when he thought that the device was off? If anything, why shouldn't AT&T and Apple be legally liable for deceiving him into thinking that the device was turned off when in fact it wasn't.
  • Re:Off means off (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Monday September 10, 2007 @09:48AM (#20537705)

    This is why things should actually be OFF when you turn them off. What if it interferes with hospital equipment like other cells, even if it's off?

    I'd say hospital equipment shouldn't malfunction when presented with interference on a widely used spectrum, but that's just me.

  • by Gopal.V (532678) on Monday September 10, 2007 @09:50AM (#20537729) Homepage Journal
    The iPhone updates email even when it's off?

    Then how is it legal to carry it on airplane or somewhere where it requires to operate in complete radio-off mode?
  • Soo.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kazymyr (190114) on Monday September 10, 2007 @09:50AM (#20537739) Journal
    If the international data plan charges $24 per 20MB, and they got a bill for $4800, that means the 3 phones, while turned off, downloaded a total of around 4GB. WTF?
  • Re:Off means off (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kazymyr (190114) on Monday September 10, 2007 @09:53AM (#20537789) Journal
    Better yet, how about airplanes? If it's not really off at any time, isn't it illegal to take an iphone on a flight?
  • by CaptainPatent (1087643) on Monday September 10, 2007 @09:53AM (#20537791) Journal
    This was exactly the first thing I thought. I doubt there is a way they are legally liable for such charges when they occurred without the user's knowledge or interaction. The only way they can be charged is if somewhere it was stated that this can/would happen if they took the phones out of country and network range.
  • Re:So (Score:2, Insightful)

    by GeckoX (259575) on Monday September 10, 2007 @09:53AM (#20537803)
    It was OFF.

    How the hell is an END USER supposed to jump to the conclusion that OFF doesn't mean OFF. Every other phone I have EVER seen is actually OFF when you turn it OFF.

    You're completely off base. This is a seriously major design flaw, of that there is no question.
  • Re:Off means off (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cnettel (836611) on Monday September 10, 2007 @09:54AM (#20537811)
    That's easy for many things, but not so easy when you are doing non-invasive monitoring of electric signals from the body. A false alarm would still cause problems, and I can understand why you want that type of equipment to be sensitive to the limit that it can detect spurious signals.
  • by phayes (202222) on Monday September 10, 2007 @09:54AM (#20537817) Homepage
    If Apple wants to sell more than a token number of iPhones to people outside the USA as it is planning to. Given that countries elsewhere are smaller, the likelihood that a user is not in their home country is much larger. If the iPhone cannot be taken outside your home country - even when off - what use is it?

    The only correct resolution is for Apple & ATT to eat these charges until the iPhone's GSM radio can be set to OFF when not inside the coverage of the selected carrier.

  • Re:Off means off (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ichelo (690294) on Monday September 10, 2007 @09:58AM (#20537873)
    http://www.newsday.com/business/ny-bzappl0908,0,29 29341.story?coll=ny_home_rail_headlines [newsday.com]

    Levy said he didn't expect data transfer charges internationally because he believed the data network in Europe wasn't compatible with the iPhone. The Levys brought their phones with them for voice calls


    I know the article says they were off, but it also says the took the phones for voice calls, so where they really off? or did they just not use the data part?
  • Re:So (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Carbonite (183181) on Monday September 10, 2007 @09:59AM (#20537877)
    He deserves a huge bill simply because he brought his iPhone(s) to another country? I don't think so. I'm all for personal responsibility, but it's not like he was intentionally using the phone. He had them turned off and could reasonably have assumed it wasn't going to be accessing the network.
  • Re:Soo.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MaestroRC (190789) on Monday September 10, 2007 @09:59AM (#20537893) Homepage
    That's the *in-plan* rate. And, that probably only covers the first 20MB anyhow. Read the linked article (not the inquirer, the original), and it mentions that data rates can be as high as $20/MB in some countries, and that one data session was over $200 (10MBish? Seems reasonable for some attachments).
  • Re:Soo.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by devnullkac (223246) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:00AM (#20537905) Homepage

    He probably didn't have the international data plan; that's why he left the phones turned off.

  • by MistaE (776169) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:03AM (#20537957) Homepage
    The whole article is FUD. The iPhone wasn't "OFF" -- it was just asleep. If users want to be stupid and pretend that sleep is off, then they pay the consequences.

    Besides, there's three legitimate ways they could have avoided the charges, you can just turn it off, but that wouldn't make much sense since you couldn't use it as an iPod. You can also go into the email settings and turn off auto-check, but since you obviously don't want any roaming charges, it wouldn't make much sense to keep the radio on. That's why there's the airplane mode which will shut off the radio and everything that has to do with it.

    Seriously, what else does Apple need to do. Does Airplane mode need to be in big bold letters on the main menu with a note that says, "Hey! USE THIS IF YOU GO OVERSEAS." I would hope that if you buy an iPhone you're knowledgeable enough to look up the airplane mode.

    Sheesh.
  • by struppi (576767) <`struppi' `at' `guglhupf.net'> on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:06AM (#20538007) Homepage

    User error, nothing to see here.

    You are kidding, right? This is absolutely no user error. It should be safe to assume that turning the thing off implies radio off.

  • by csnydermvpsoft (596111) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:06AM (#20538009) Homepage
    My guess is that phone plans in those other countries (especially small, non-island ones) have much better roaming terms than US plans.
  • by kevinadi (191992) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:07AM (#20538021)
    The TFA said it all: Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris points out in its terms and conditions that it will cost an arm an a leg to use an Iphone out of the US even if no services are intentionally used.

    IANAL, but the customer is most likely out of luck if he tries to challenge this. After all, this is in the terms & conditions that he supposedly agreed upon.

    This is another major blow to iPhone, on top of the recent price cut. Now we have an Apple spokeswoman admitting freely that the simple act of bringing it out of the country without using it actually cost "and arm and a leg". I have to point the blame to ATT for greed and Apple for letting this happen. How much more can you rip off from your early adopters (which are presumably loyal Apple customers)?
  • Re:ihpones (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:08AM (#20538033)
    No, people just have to learn the difference between "sleep" and "power off".
  • Surfing the Med (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Somegeek (624100) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:10AM (#20538055)
    From the grandfather article:

    "In countries outside the plan, charges can run from $5 to $20 per megabyte, said Ben Wilson, editor of iPhone Atlas, a Web site owned by the online news company CNet."

    I'm guessing that the middle of the Mediterranean is outside of the covered countries. It also says they were checking a total of seven different email accounts. 7 accounts * 20$/MB could add up pretty quickly, 35MB per email account would do it.
  • by sholden (12227) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:12AM (#20538071) Homepage
    So I can charge Westinghouse for the electricity used by the TV they made, since when I press the "off" button on the remote is goes into a standby mode?

    I mean who would have thunk that the button the iphone manual labels "Sleep/Wake button" would actually put the device in "sleep" mode and not turn it off?
  • Re:Off means off (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jrumney (197329) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:13AM (#20538101) Homepage

    The user here is an idiot and deserves what he gets.

    Really? So you think that $4800 is perfectly reasonable for taking your phone abroad for a month with the default settings as supplied by the phone company, and not actually using it at all?

  • by CronoCloud (590650) <cronocloudauron@nOspam.gmail.com> on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:14AM (#20538115)
    Well perhaps they should call Airplane Mode, "radio off/disable radio" mode. Because normal people might not realize what Airplane mode does and only think of using it on an airplane.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:14AM (#20538125)
    I've used Cingular for three years now, with no surprises and no unpleasantness. I alsays got an itemized bill showing calls placed and minutes used in those calls, and never went over my minutes.

    Then AT&T bought them out, and I got a nasty surprise in the mail - instead of my normal <$50 bill, it was doubled. And the bill was no longer itemized; there was no way to do the math myself.

    Then the next bill came - GULP! Four hundred God damned dollars! And still not itemized.

    AT&T is run by thieves. I'm using a cheap Trac phone now until I can find another carrier. AT&T are now in my "Die, damn you" list of evil corporations. Sony replaced Microsoft as first place in my list of Pure Evil (TM) corporations when they trojaned my PC with their BMG XCP rootkit, now MS has slid to #3. AT&T is now a very close second to Sony. May their President, CEO, board of directors, and stockholders all catch cancer and aids and die horribly, and may that God damned company go bankrupt and be liquidated.

    Mods, this isn't flamebait it's an informative FLAME. As I'm posting AC you know I'm not karma-whoring.

    As I'm too busy unsucsessfully chasing women [slashdot.org] to blog about evil corporations [mcgrew.info] lately, this is probably all I'll have to say about these bastards.

    -mcgrew (sm62704)
  • by sholden (12227) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:16AM (#20538145) Homepage
    It should be safe to assume that pressing the "sleep" doesn't turn it off, but puts it in whatever sleep mode is.
  • Re:Simple solution (Score:2, Insightful)

    by that IT girl (864406) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:17AM (#20538155) Journal
    I would say "because he shouldn't have to". I mean, you and I would think of that if we realized that it was accessing the network even when "off" but I wouldn't expect an average person to think that far into it. And since Apple is trying to create a product to be marketed to the average person, they should make some relatively simple option for saying "off means off".
  • Airplane mode? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:19AM (#20538183)
    Many here have commented that there is an 'airplane mode' for the thing, and that's what he should have used. Maybe so, but that is counterintuitive to the average user. He's not on the plane anymore!

    If there were a selection called "Hotel Mode" that did the same thing, would you expect him to choose that when boarding an aircraft? No.

    How about a simple "Off". Trying to be too cute with the operations makes people like this frustrated. And gives the company bad press.
  • Re:Off means off (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phoenixwade (997892) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:20AM (#20538187)

    2. Even if it was well-shielded, you'd have the airline problem.
    Which airline problem would that be? You aren't suggesting that cell phones cause a problem with an Airplane, are you?

    My .02: There is no possible way that everyone will always remember to turn off a cell phone. The chances that a bit of equipment in a hospital will be exposed to cellphone signals approaches 100% unless the equipment in question is unusually isolated from the public (Surgery maybe?) This has been true for over ten years.
      So yes, I expect life-saving equipment to ignore and reject cellular signals, just like I expect the equipment to handle any other exposure to which it would commonly be subjected, Like electrical surge, static discharges (to the case, obviously), elevated Oxygen levels, and fluid splashes.
  • by poot_rootbeer (188613) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:21AM (#20538211)
    The problem is that the users who buy these things are too hip and smart and cool to spend 45 seconds with the manual. User error, nothing to see here.

    "User didn't realize 'Off' doesn't actually mean 'Off'" is an example of awful interface design, not user error.

    Apple's design philosophy has generally been to make everything intuitive enough that a user doesn't NEED to memorize a series of arcane printed instructions in order to perform basic tasks. And what task is more basic than powering the device on or off?
  • by toQDuj (806112) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:27AM (#20538321) Homepage Journal
    And he brought it with him, because... why, exactly? You're on a mediterranean cruise and alledgedly your phone just happened to be there too. Switched off all the time.

    Yea right. MY guess is that he did indeed switch it on occasionally. If only to show it off to his fellow iPassengers.

    B.
  • Re:Off means off (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phoenixwade (997892) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:29AM (#20538359)

    For how much of every hospital do you want to require shielding? Each intensive care ward and operating room has one or more heart monitors. Shielding still doesn't solve the problem. If a whole floor is an intensive care unit, even if it's shielded everyone on that floor with a cell phone is potentially interfering.
    I agree, shielding the FLOOR or the Building won't, ever, fix this. It has to be fixed where the failure is, i.e. the equipment that will fail.
  • Re:Off means off (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ktappe (747125) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:30AM (#20538373)

    Medical equipment manufacturers have a lot of things to worry about already. They have tons of hoops to jump through to make sure that it never endangers people under normal operating conditions.
    Cell phone signals have become "normal operating conditions" in our society.
  • by whyde (123448) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:30AM (#20538379)
    Unless you have a simple pay-as-you-go phone or device, it's too easy to overspend in a situation like this where you just have NO IDEA how much your device is costing you on a moment-by-moment basis.

    What I'd appreciate is a device that lets you enter an EXPECTED monetary budget for its use, and safeguards to make sure you don't use the device in a manner that exceeds your expectations for how expensive its use should be.

    The instant it began international data roaming, sirens should have sounded alerting the user that the device is now operating in a mode contrary to the user's financial expectations.

    I'm sure it has an alert when it's battery needs recharging. No such luck when it starts draining your bank account.

  • by dattaway (3088) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:36AM (#20538465) Homepage Journal
    The problem with hospital equipment is that the sensors often use very low voltages and act like antennas. Cell phones put out almost a watt of power. Just 1,000,000/th of that can overwhelm a machine that's supposed to be reading your heart.

    How many people has the iPhone killed when it was supposed to be off?
  • Re:Off means off (Score:5, Insightful)

    by apparently (756613) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:40AM (#20538521)
    Just because the screen is black doesn't mean the device is off.

    and that's totally acceptable. A user shouldn't be able to just glance at their phone to determine if it's off, or if it's "sleeping", but not sleeping so soundly that it won't rack up a $4800 bill.
    Defective by design, my friend.

  • Re:Off means off (Score:2, Insightful)

    by NinjaTariq (1034260) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:42AM (#20538549)
    Digital phones don't interfere with hospital equipment, how do you think doctors pagers work, the force?

    The policy was introduced way back when they had analogue phones, because they may have done (not too sure, but thats what i heard), but they keep it because phones are just annoying. I have used my phone in an ICU with the permission of consultants and nurses without a problem, the operating theatre was next door.

    I am pretty sure the same applies for aircraft too, but you can't normally get signal at 30k feet anyway so why bother, and you might miss annoucements if you are on the phone during takeoff and landing.
  • Re:Off means off (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:42AM (#20538555)

    User interface design 101: a UI should be intuitive for users and not contain surprises.

    Strange, Apple's UI people are usually pretty good. But if you really can have a phone that looks like it's switched off but isn't, and it really does require a counter-intuitive and confusing alternative action by the user to switch it off fully, then they dropped the ball big time on this one and the user is quite right to feel aggrieved at the small fortune in costs he has personally incurred as a result.

  • by Dzimas (547818) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:43AM (#20538563)
    Why on earth would three "businessmen" bother to take their iPhones abroad but switched off? These are expensive gadgets, and if I wasn't planning to use my iPhone on my trip to Tangiers I would simply leave it and its charger at home.
  • by jschloer (896182) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:44AM (#20538597)
    I've seen a lot of people talking about airplane mode or how to turn the phone off, but how about if you just want to leave the phone on to receive emergency phone calls, but not rack up huge data charges? What's the accepted method of doing that?
  • Re:Airplane mode? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:45AM (#20538617)
    How about he reads the manual. It's not that hard. If you have time to file a lawsuit and read your 54 page bill, then you should have had time to read your manual.
  • by uglydog (944971) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:46AM (#20538633)
    Maybe they brought the iPhones with them because the iPhone isn't just a phone. Maybe they wanted to listen to music, or look at pictures.

    Now, the "switched off all the time" part... I got nothing on that.
  • Re:So (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ak3ldama (554026) <james_akeldama.yahoo@com> on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:48AM (#20538657) Homepage Journal

    ***How the hell is an END USER supposed to jump to the conclusion that OFF doesn't mean OFF.***
    You, sir, have permission to design consumer devices. A lot of other people posting to this thread seem to have flunked this snap quiz in User Interface Desgin 1A.

    Yea, but they're all mac users so they will never admit to it.

  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:49AM (#20538671)

    For the same reason that someone who signs a contract without reading it and/or insisting on changes, deserves to be screwed.

    Just out of interest, how long do you think it would take the average person to read in full, understand, and if necessary seek legal advice on every binding agreement they enter into during their lifetime?

    There is a reason that legal systems recognise concepts like unequal bargaining power, contracts of adhesion, and unconscionable terms: they do it because if the legal system took the same naive view that you propose, the world would grind to a halt.

  • Re:ihpones (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:49AM (#20538673) Homepage
    Yeah, so you can carry an iBrick with you on vacation? Maybe they want to use their iPhone for mobile web surfing while connected to WiFi, using the digital camera feature, or just listening to music? Why shouldn't they be able tell the phone-third of the iPhone to shut down while keeping the rest of their features up? Convergence shouldn't have to suck...
  • by Hatta (162192) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:51AM (#20538711) Journal
    If the "OFF" button doesn't turn it OFF, there is deception involved.
  • Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mikey-San (582838) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:51AM (#20538721) Homepage Journal
    The problem was that their three Iphones were racking up a bill for data charges using foreign phone charges. The Iphone regularly updates e-mail, even while it's off, so that all the messages will be available when the user turns it on.

    This is bullshit.

    It doesn't sound like the unit was powered off. It sounds like the screen was off, and like my old RAZR, the unit will continue to operate in the background while the screen is off. Stupid, lazy consumer didn't bother reading the manual, which clearly discusses how to POWER THE PHONE OFF COMPLETELY and WHAT AIRPLANE MODE IS, which accomplishes the same task this guy required.

    Seriously, who the fuck thinks a phone is "off" just because the screen isn't lit up? This is 2007, right? The age of the cell phone cowboy.

    There's no flaw here. The vast, vast majority of iPhone users are satisfied that it will happily do its thing while the screen is off, in your pocket. Otherwise, I couldn't be notified of mail whenever I got it.

    Next time, if you spend $600 on something, read the motherfucking manual. Apple goes out of their way to write clear, simple manuals for the very reason that people don't want to have to be computer scientists to understand them. Sucks to be you, dude.
  • by dintech (998802) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:52AM (#20538731)
    Either way, it does seem to be contradictory to Apple's policy of being user friendly where possible.
  • by _14k4 (5085) <sullivan.t@gmFREEBSDail.com minus bsd> on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:54AM (#20538757)
    I am fully aware that wireless turns off the radio, and that the thing operates through radio waves. However, why call it a phone when wireless is off; it is, essentially, a brick wrapped in plastic when wireless is off. Yes, you can play brickbreaker (no pun intended) and write things to be sent later...

    But the person who had the device before me couldn't see how wireless and "phone" were so interconnected; thinking "wireless" meant Internet related functions and "phone" meant... well, ring ring related functions...

  • Re:ihpones (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:54AM (#20538773) Homepage
    No, people just have to learn the difference between "sleep" and "a kind of sleep which isn't actually sleep because the phone is actively using the wireless connection without you realizing it".

    My phone, a treo, functions basically the same and like basically every phone with a "standby" mode -- when you hit the power button, it turns off, but as the anonying blinky light indicates the cell phone function is still active, meaning it's communicating with the base station. It will receive incoming calls, and receive other updates from the network. However what it doesn't do is automatically make phone calls, or activate GPRS and start downloading crap off the internet, or otherwise doing anything that will cost me money.

    That is what is broken about this. Not the difference between "off with wireless enabled" and "really off". It's the difference between "wireless enabled but not used" and "wireless enabled and being used with no consideration of where you are and how much it's going to cost you". It's the difference between merely being connected to the cell network, and using the cell network in ways that result in charges.

    It sounds like a matter of defaults. Setting up the phone to by default automatically download emails is a bad decision, because it causes the phone to work contrary to how most people expect -- which is that in standby mode, you aren't accruing data transfer charges.

  • by fredklein (532096) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:55AM (#20538777)
    Do you automatically communicate with others when you are 'sleeping'?

    Then why should an iPhone?
  • Missing the point? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:56AM (#20538801)
    Isn't this whole "off" vs "sleep mode" thing missing the point. From the POV of the average user, if he isn't making calls, receiving calls, reading email, sending email, etc... if *he* isn't using the phone, should he really expect a bill of $4,800?! Most people don't know about whether their phone is connected via WiFi or via the tower. From their perspective, if they aren't using it, they shouldn't be charged for it.

    This is the sort of thing an average user would notice a $3-$4 charge for on their bill and call the company and then get the explanation. But to suddenly get hit with a $4,800 bill is simply ridiculous...
  • by eck011219 (851729) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:56AM (#20538811)
    As has been pointed out elsewhere, the iPhone isn't just a phone. It's a PDA, mp3 player, and so on.

    Moreover, when I travel I very often need to have a phone immediately upon arrival at home (whoever is picking me up usually has to wait at a staging area a few minutes away from baggage claim, so I have to call them and tell them to come on ahead).

    "Airplane Mode" isn't a proper name for having all external signals turned off. On my Treo, you can turn off the phone portion very easily and still use the rest of the PDA. Sounds like the iPhone is far less intuitive.
  • AT&T Growing Pains (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gary W. Longsine (124661) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:56AM (#20538815) Homepage Journal
    I suspect this problem is related in a curious way to the 300 page phone bill issue, in that it reveals billing-process (or, arguably, "user training") issues which are unintended consequences of the success of some of the design goals of the device. This may sound a bit odd, but let me explain.
    1. Sleep/Wake vs. Power Off for iPhone
      People have been using their iPhone for weeks without realizing that there is a difference between sleep/wake and power-off. That's really pretty interesting. iPhone is not different from other devices in maintaining this distinction, PalmOS devices have it, for example. However, with a Palm OS device one learns pretty quickly about the difference because they lock up and you gotta reboot 'em. Even people who have owned an iPhone since June 29 may never have had to power cycle their iPhone, and may not realize that the little Sleep/Wake button is not a "Power Off" button. It would be pretty hard to own a PalmOS device for eight or nine weeks without learning that distinction. Probably nobody at Apple thought of that, because they are all geeks and they are intimately familiar with the intended behavior of the device (e.g. how to turn it off when roaming) so they never saw this happen.

      The really interesting part is that nobody at AT&T realized this would happen to people, because it probably doesn't happen to other people using other devices. Why not? Well, it certainly isn't because they don't have devices that automatically fetch IMAP or POP email. It's because they were trained by other quirks of the device to learn the difference between OFF and Sleep right away. This "trained" the users to overcome deficiencies in the AT&T billing process (and policies, really). It shouldn't cost that much to use your iPhone anywhere in the world at this point. Those rates are "rape and pillage" rates and phone companies will need to fix that by coming up with more reasonable roaming policies and prices.

    2. 300 page phone bill
      It's interesting that none of the trade press analysts like that keen John C. Dvorak dude haven't stopped to ponder why nobody else in the history of AT&T customer smart phone users ever got a 300 page phone bill. The billing system was the same, iPhone users were just a type of customer with a type of device in the system.

      As with the sleep/wake issue, again here nobody at AT&T realized this would happen because users of other smart phone devices are clearly not using them the way iPhone users use the iPhone. iPhone users caught AT&T by surprise because they are clearly surfing the web more often than users of other smart phones, as evidenced by the scale of the paper bill problem. This difference will probably start showing up in the web browser usage statistics within a few months once there are a couple million iPhone users, enough to compare to other platforms. The stats will reveal undeniably different usage patterns, as though it were not a pain in the ass and they could actually read the web pages they fetched.
    These issues are really more interesting than they seem on the surface, not merely as iPhone/AT&T/Apple screw-ups (which they admittedly are) but as a really curious class of screw-ups: growing pains. iPhone is causing AT&T some pain because it's bringing a whole bunch of new users to their expensive cell network services who actually use the service, not merely pay for having the service available for rare occasions where the need is so high it overcomes the pain in the ass factor. Sure, there were a handful of geek Treo users who checked email and surfed web pages every day, but they probably turned their paper-bills off after the first big one and moved on, problem "solved" for them because they really were gadget geeks.

    Suddenly AT&T has a million ordinary non-geek users surfing the web on their phone every day (including google maps). That's what broke their billing system. The sleep/wake issue is just like that. A million smartphone users who haven't had to power cycle their device in two months so they don't even realize that sleep mode isn't "off". It hasn't happened before, apparently.
  • Re:iphones (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:58AM (#20538861)
    Well that's not easy when "sleep" is deliberately designed to appear as "off". Is it clear when you "sleep" it that it might be accruing charges? Having to read a fucking manual to find that out is UNACCEPTABLE. What crappy product design.
  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday September 10, 2007 @11:06AM (#20538993) Homepage
    You can actually turn an iPhone off. These people left their iPhones on standby and thought they were turned off. Just because the screen is black doesn't mean the device is off.

    That's not the problem. Standby vs truly off should not matter other than 1) battery life and 2) receiving network updates and the delay to reconnect to the network when you decide you need to use the phone function. Standby should not result in $4,800 worth of charges, and I say that knowing full well the difference between standby and off. I'd be pissed as hell if I found out my phone was racking up data charges "on my behalf".

    THIS is the problem:

    "The iPhone regularly updates e-mail, even while it's off, so that all the messages will be available when the user turns it on."

    Making that the default behavior is a stupid decision, and it's one that is even as we speak costing customers money when they may not be realizing it. Automatically using the data connection without regard to the cell phone plan is completely stupid. Does it know the difference between peak and off-peak hours? Does it know what the customer's monthly data quota is? It apparently doesn't know when the customer is in international roaming!

    Having that default behavior may have been sensible if Apple knew that the only plans that would work with an iPhone were 100% global unlimited plans. Then they could assume it's okay to download things whenever it feels like. But with the reality of cell phone plans? No way. That's retarded. And it is not these peoples' fault that they didn't expect their phone to work that way.
  • by quantum bit (225091) on Monday September 10, 2007 @11:07AM (#20539009) Journal
    You could have had a +5 funny if only you had said "up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start"
  • by king-manic (409855) on Monday September 10, 2007 @11:15AM (#20539129)
    The iPhone has a radio-off mode, where it disables its cellphone antennae and wifi antennae. Its called 'airplane mode' and accessible through the settings.

    It also has a power-off, where it essentially turns off everything except the sensor to turn it back on again. Not too many people even know this exists, even if they own an iPhone. If you press and hold the lock button at the top right, a screen will appear that says 'slide to turn off'... this is the only way to reboot the iPhone, I think.

    Most people press the 'sleep' hold button once, thinking that 'turns it off', but all it does is disable the screen. its still running, and using its antennae.


    I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of interface designers suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.
  • by Gary W. Longsine (124661) on Monday September 10, 2007 @11:18AM (#20539177) Homepage Journal
    Yes, I think lots of devices in hospitals go through very long design cycles. There undoubtedly many devices in hospitals today which suffer from design assumptions that are no longer true (e.g. people now carry transmitting radios with them everywhere). I'm aware that it's a problem, I simply suggest that the right place to fix the problem is in the device design with proper shielding. Relying on the millions of worried people to remember when they can and can't use their device, and relying on them to know how to turn it off when they have other things weighing heavily on their minds is a poor strategy which can only fail, over and over and over.
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Monday September 10, 2007 @11:23AM (#20539251)
    When you shut your phone, does it turn off? Or when you stop using a candybar, doesn't the screen go off? Yet the phone is not off. People know they have to press something to really turn "off" a phone, as per every other phone ever made.

    After all, how is a phone supposed to receive calls if it's really off? There needs to be a difference between a sleep mode and off, and this is obvious on the iPhone.
  • Re:Off means off (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CPE1704TKS (995414) on Monday September 10, 2007 @11:29AM (#20539359)
    Have you not seen how strong a cell phone's wireless signal is? I've had my cell phone near speakers that have been turned off and you can still hear a "click-click-click" sound on the speakers. Think about that for a second... how strong must the EM signal be to drive a current through speaker wires that have been turned off? I would say those are incredibly strong signals. It's not as easy as it seems to deal with something that emits such a strong signal at close proximity.
  • Re:ihpones (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dk.r*nger (460754) on Monday September 10, 2007 @11:29AM (#20539363)
    I agree with the comments further down that this is a user-error. But I also think that there is a usability-issue on part of Apple here.

    In the home network, there's free data, as I understand, and the roaming charges are high. I have cheap data in my home network, and expensive when roaming abroad. So when I step out of a plane and turn on my phone, I get a nice warning: "You're not in your homenetwork. MMS reception is off". MMS reception is the only automatic data-service on the phone.

    Look in the configuration, surely enough: "MMS reception: Automatic (only home network) / Manual / Always".

    It would make pretty good sense to add a similar option for the automatic email checking.
  • Re:Off means off (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Monday September 10, 2007 @11:32AM (#20539407)
    I don't blame the guy at all. I had been thinking of getting an iphone but this episode makes it pretty clear that the iphone is best avoided. If I have to study a manual to avoid an unexpected bill for $4800, then no thanks. The device is not ready to sell. It shouldn't be on the market.
  • by MrPerfekt (414248) on Monday September 10, 2007 @11:32AM (#20539417) Homepage Journal
    I'm sorry but this is pure bs. Why would someone think because the screen is off and the device is sleeping that the device is off? My tiny brain would bring up the following points to alert me that the device is still actually on:

    1) Device returns instantaneously when pressing the WAKE button
    2) Carrier already attached at full when pressing the WAKE button
    3) The ability to recieve phone calls while the device is sleeping.

    Those might be some hints that "hey, just because the screen is off, it's still on." And I suppose you could also add to the list that standby eats up battery because the transmitters are on. I don't buy the ignorance excuse. To rack up charges that large, you'd have to on one mighty long cruise and if that were the case, the fact that you have to charge your iPhone that's been "off" every couple days might be a clue.

    Further bunk in this article:

    1) Calls the device "off", actually sleeping. Most other Smartphones have the same way of sleeping, only they have LEDs. Maybe that will be in rev B.
    2) Says automatically checks email. It can be configured to do so, but it doesn't otherwise. I've heard of people complaining that the iPhone grabs other data while sleeping, I've never experienced this. Only mail when configured to do so.
  • Re:Off means off (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aug24 (38229) on Monday September 10, 2007 @11:45AM (#20539653) Homepage
    Example:

    Your plan involves getting on a plane, telling everyone to turn off their phones, then trusting your life to their obedience.

    My plan involves making sure that the plane won't fall out of the sky and kill everyone if someone forgets they have a phone in their bag.

    Still think my plan is bad?

    I say systems should be robust in themselves, not just trusting that all the other people have followed the spec.

    J.
  • Re:Off means off (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sumdumass (711423) on Monday September 10, 2007 @12:02PM (#20539997) Journal
    To what expense? Wouldn't it be easier and cheaper to just have the phone shut off completely then to retrofit every hospital and emergency center that might be using these machines with a EM mesh and maintain it?

    Your already spending more for a heart attack then your parents probably paid for their house. Should it end up costing more then your house too? Well, we could just get public health and have to deal with waiting lists and such, increase the taxes of everyone to pay for this. Yea, that sounds more likely instead of saying that electronic devices that report as being off should really be off and then waiting 4 or 5 years to have the new devices rotated in replacing the old ones.

    It is an interesting situation. In one hand, the doctors even need the stuff. In the other, well whatever.
  • by haystor (102186) on Monday September 10, 2007 @12:18PM (#20540203)
    An unlimited open credit line is the other major problem here. I refuse to open an unlimited credit line just for a phone.
  • by flyingfsck (986395) on Monday September 10, 2007 @12:21PM (#20540233)
    So when you put your desk phone on the cradle it is off and no-one can call you?
  • Blame the User! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by BooRolla (824295) on Monday September 10, 2007 @12:35PM (#20540473)
    Yes, Blame the user! Why didn't everyone think of that? What an amazing point of view.

    The iPhone is a phone. How complicated should one expect phones to be? How expensive should a simple mistake cost? Is it really unimaginable for someone to look at the black screen of the iPhone and think it's "off"?

    Here is where you outlined how a user should handle the phones power management (emphasis mine):

    I suspect Mr. Levy never bothered to RTFM on his device, and then left his phone(s) in the "sleep" mode (display off, radios on), for the duration of his cruise. From Page 14 of the iPhone User Guide:

            To Lock iPhone -- Press the Sleep/Wake button.
            To Unlock iPhone -- Press the Home button or the Sleep/Wake button, then drag the slider.
            To Turn iPhone completely off -- Press and hold the Sleep/Wake button for a few seconds until the red slider appears, then drag the slider. When iPhone is off, incoming calls go straight to voicemail.
            To Turn iPhone on -- Press and hold the Sleep/Wake button until the Apple logo appears.

    Note that they call it a "Sleep/Wake button", not an "on/off" button, or a "power" button.

    You don't see problems with any of this?

    First off, you have people reading manuals for phones. Yes I know, RTFM, etc. Really, you need to get over that. People don't read manuals for common items. Moreover, who has the time? You would not want to live in the world where you were forced to read the manual for every device, tool, or piece of software for every new function you envisioned using. That would be a major pain in the ass. I am 100% certain that you have used some piece of technology without reading 100% of the documentation. Not to mention you listed it as page 14 of the manual. 14 pages doesn't sound like much, but it is when I just want to turn off a phone.

    Then you go on to list 4 power management functions, which does not appear exhaustive. So we have 4+ ways of "almost but probably not" turning a phone off. That seems clear as day.

    Finally, you point out that it is called a "sleep/wake" button and neither an "on/off" nor "power" button. With that sentence you are implying the users are dumb for thinking that button should turn off the phone. However, 2 statements above it you are telling people how to turn off the phone with that same button. So are the users dumb for thinking a power-esque button should manage the power settings including on/off? Or are you dumb for thinking users are dumb for having assumptions that map back to what you just explained?

    One final thought. You mentioned this pearl as well:

    Other than that, he could have enabled "Airplane Mode", which does the following (User Guide, page 22):

    Yes, maybe he should have enabled "Airplane Mode" despite the obvious fact he was no where near a plane. I often think of applying modal techniques specifically labeled outside of those specifications. Brilliant!


    What bothers me more is not that you blame this guy for a very makable mistake, but that somehow you think the costs associated with this "mistake" is justifiable. I'd better hear you say "It was my fault. I should have RTFM. I will wire the funds instantly!" when your next bill comes close to 50x your normal rate.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 10, 2007 @12:38PM (#20540523)
    and avoiding the inevitably annoying conversation with an insufficiently knowledgable customer when the first month's bill arrives with huge data charges is the main reason cell companies like verizon won't let you activate a smartphone unless you also subscribe to some sort of data plan that doesn't charge you for every data transmission.
  • Re:ihpones (Score:4, Insightful)

    by James McP (3700) on Monday September 10, 2007 @12:49PM (#20540719)
    I just read the iPhone manual. Most mail requires you to set the "manual check/autcheck every 15/30/60 minutes" flag. Not too sure about Yahoo, which it states "If you have a Yahoo! email account, email is instantly transferred to iPhone as it arrives at the Yahoo! server." If the guy had a yahoo! account, it could be quite difficult to disable the email check feature. Either way, the guy had to set up the email on the machines. I thought the magic Itunes registration process configured the email.

    I am a little surprised that you apparently can't disable the GSM/GPRS without also killing the WiFi. Were I on a foreign trip I might find it worthwhile to have my favorite WiFi enabled gizmo handy for websurfing in Starbucks and the like even when I didn't want to use plan minutes.
  • Re:ihpones (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday September 10, 2007 @12:51PM (#20540745) Homepage
    The default is in fact to check for mail manually - these people set it to automatically check mail. Of course the real problem here is the insane roaming charges for mobile data, which is no more costly than voice for the operators.

    Yeah, someone else said that it wasn't the default behavior, which makes a lot of my argument moot.

    And I agree completely that the ultimate blame lies with AT&T and the other cell providers and their crazy rate plans. Because even if the guy manually turned on automatic downloads, then forgot about it when he traveled abroad and left his phone in standby (which makes sense; if you want to use the phone you don't always want to have to wait to connect to the network first), I find it hard to believe that anyone would associate that behavior with a nearly $5k phone bill.
  • Re:ihpones (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ryanov (193048) on Monday September 10, 2007 @12:57PM (#20540827)
    Don't regular cellular phones have the same premise? One press for screen off, hold down for power off?
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Monday September 10, 2007 @01:18PM (#20541183)

    The *only* difference is that the iPhone has no visible indicator of being on when the screen is black.

    Well, that and the fact that with the iPhone you can apparently be racking up thousands of dollars of charges while your phone is visually indistinguishable from being switched off. According to the source material cited, the only way you'd know that is if you read small print that runs to nearly 7,000 words, since the summary of the plan features doesn't indicate it.

    However, these people didn't even try to turn their phones off. They simply set them down and assumed that a darkened screen meant it was off.

    Where does it say that in TFA or any of the stories from other sources linked from it?

  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Monday September 10, 2007 @01:21PM (#20541247)

    Yes, it does require a button to be held. But on my phone, if it's on, you can clearly see this from the time display on the LCD and the "on" light flashing every couple of seconds, and when you turn it off, you get a clear indication both audibly and from the screens and lights going off.

    The usability problem here isn't requiring the user to switch a phone off, it's the fact that there is apparently no way to distinguish whether the phone is currently off or just in stand-by mode, unless you do something that would bring it out of stand-by or someone happens to call you. That and the fact that this phone's "stand-by" mode isn't really standing by at all, because it's doing very significant, very expensive things in the background.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 10, 2007 @01:23PM (#20541275)
    The other mobile devices use a style of email called Push. The Internet protocols, including IMAP and POP3, are a different style called Pull.

    Pull is not necessarily a bad thing, provided that it is used as intended. Pull has some definite advantages. The problem comes in when Pull is (ab)used to act like Push, by having the mobile device continuously poll. Even worse is to download content that the user never wanted downloaded. The whole point of IMAP is selective download with the user being part of the selection process.

    Blackberry is a Push based process, and (unlike Internet) email it does not do huge content.

    iPhone imitates the user experience of Blackberry's Push with Internet email, without any adjustment for the realities of mobile devices. That works only when you have lots of free bandwidth.

    The IETF LEMONADE working group, mobile device manufacturers, and mobile phone service companies, have spent considerable effort at defining procedures for using IETF protocols with mobile devices. Critical to this is a mechanism called notification, which in effect is a Push that tells the mobile device to Pull. Done right, it combines the benefit of both strategies.

    iPhone doesn't use any of that. Apple thinks that it knows better than anyone else.
  • Re:Off means off (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rycross (836649) on Monday September 10, 2007 @01:23PM (#20541279)
    No, that would be ridiculous. When the phone is off, its *off*.

    Now if your phone is in sleep mode (screen isn't active, but the phone can still receive calls), then it will receive emails. My perspective is that its fairly obvious that when you set the phone to poll for emails, it will do so even if the phone is not actively being used. Thats pretty much the entire point of setting it to poll for emails.

    Plus, when you get an email, the phone will alert you that it has done so.

    And yes, I agree that being able to rack up a $4800 bill passively is unacceptable.
  • Re:Off means off (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZorinLynx (31751) on Monday September 10, 2007 @01:25PM (#20541333) Homepage
    It's not even that! The pricing structure shouldn't even ALLOW for a $4800 bill. What the heck?

    Come on. There should be a cap on the bill, say, $500. After that it can be considered flat rate. Why does AT&T need to charge $4800 for this? Do people actually use this much data service abroad on a routine basis?

    If anything, cut service when it gets to $500. Because at that point, something is obviously up. Especially if the customer has never had this high a bill before. Credit card companies do this sort of statistical scanning all the time to combat fraud.

    -Z
  • Re:ihpones (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rycross (836649) on Monday September 10, 2007 @01:30PM (#20541441)
    I think that the phone should "know" that it is roaming and warn/deactivate stuff like email, or make an option for it to behave like that. I'd also like the ability to turn off the phone portion and leave the WiFi on. Now that theres been a public incident like this, I hope Apple adds these options.

    As far as AT&T goes, I'm betting that they cut a deal with the guy, and he upgrades his plan instead of paying the cash. At least when I hear of cases like this, thats what the mobile carrier has usually done. I think that being able to rack up a $5k charge in the first place is pretty absurd. I can't think of any situation where that kind of a bill is acceptable, and they should really put limits too how high your bill can go.
  • by stewbacca (1033764) on Monday September 10, 2007 @01:31PM (#20541461)
    You just don't get it, do you? 99% of the people that have a phone don't want it to be off, otherwise, they'd not have the phone in the first place. 1% of the people have to turn their phone off for various job and security related purposes. These people have to go through a specific series of steps to turn their phones off, which is MORE than enough of an indication whether the phone is OFF or in standby mode. I don't need to know if my iPhone is off or in standby, because I know it isn't off, because I didn't go through the steps required to turn it off. I guess if I had a 5 second memory this would be an issue.



    The person in this article is guilty of not understanding how cell phones in general work and there is nothing to the story that the iPhone's allegedly poor UI is the culprit here. This is just more iFud spin that seems to be so popular with the insecure masses that can't stand the fact that Apple makes a lot of great products.

  • by CodeBuster (516420) on Monday September 10, 2007 @02:36PM (#20542447)
    If you go to Ireland with your brand new Nokia E70 or Treo 650, and leave it on, charging, and set to automatically check email periodically, you're going to have the same fucking problem.

    True, but there should be a setting for "only enable this feature while on AT&T network" so that the user would have to explicitly go into the options and enable certain features for roaming (knowing full well that it may incur extra charges...the menu should have a footnote or warning dialog to confirm when this setting is set). The iPhone could even come on with a dialog box when it is on roaming saying something to the effect of:

    "The phone is scheduled to check e-mail but it cannot because the phone is currently roaming. What would you like to do?"

    Then there could be a number of options ranging from "No, and don't ask me again (i.e. always no until I go into the options to turn it back on" to "Sure, go ahead and don't ask me again (i.e. I am a billionaire and I don't care how much they charge per megabyte here in Ireland...turn on everything for roaming)". It needs to be like firewall software, guiding the user through the options as situations come up and offering advice in a context relevant way. The problem with RTFM is that you are reading everything out of context and then trying to remember what to do when certain situations come up. Most people, engineers excluded, do not work or think that way.
  • by PygmySurfer (442860) on Monday September 10, 2007 @02:56PM (#20542781)
    Off may be really "Off", but if there's no way to tell if an iPhone is "Off" or "Sleeping" at first glance, then it's a UI design flaw.

    There is, it's called pushing the Sleep/Wake button. Just like on my Sony Ericsson W810i, I have to push a key (any key) to see if it's on - when the display sleeps, its indistinguishable from being off. Of course, I know it's on, because I didn't turn it off! If this is a design flaw, practically every cell phone out there is flawed.
  • Re:ihpones (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mr. Mindless (259403) on Monday September 10, 2007 @03:28PM (#20543305)
    >I'd also like the ability to turn off the phone portion and leave the WiFi on.

    me too, or an option to "limit data to WiFi only" That would be ideal for roaming situations since the default (and really only) behavior is that if an 802.11 connection is dropped it falls back to EDGE. That's great in an unlimited data area, it sucks when you are roaming

    >
  • Re:Off means off (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcrbids (148650) on Monday September 10, 2007 @04:08PM (#20543941) Journal
    It's not even that! The pricing structure shouldn't even ALLOW for a $4800 bill. What the heck? ... Credit card companies do this sort of statistical scanning all the time to combat fraud.

    The difference is... who pays? If a credit card is fraudulently used, the credit card company pays. So they have every incentive to give a damn.

    But guess who's going to pay the $4,800? It sure as hell won't be AT&T. As I write this, my wife is on the phone to discuss a $900 Verizon bill my daughter rang up "saving money on the minutes" with text messaging. The only thing they seem willing to do is very politely tell us to screw off.

    They are used to it.
  • by OgGreeb (35588) <og@digimark.net> on Monday September 10, 2007 @04:13PM (#20544039) Homepage
    Since the iPhone is a converged phone, media player, picture viewer, etc... I can easily
    see many people wanting to use the gadget out of the US for the other purposes without
    expecting to run up a huge data bill. Otherwise, why would the poster have taken their iPhones with them, but not using them...

    This is a serious hole in the procedures that needs to be highlighted far and wide before AT&T and Apple unreasonably extract megabucks.
  • Re:Off means off (Score:4, Insightful)

    by monopole (44023) on Monday September 10, 2007 @06:20PM (#20545659)
    I am a PhD in Physics and have designed closely related electromyographic (EMG) systems with bluetooth. I can tell you that yes it is a problem of basic physics. An EMG or ECG consists of a high impeadence amplifier which is built to pick up very small currents between electrodes. While the desired signal is the impulses within the muscles, the currents induced by an electromagnetic wave acting upon a conductor (including sweaty skin) will generate a stronger signal. Getting EMGs to work under any conditions is a flaming b**ch on wheels, even in the presence of simple things such as mains currents. When you toss in RFI things get much worse especially if some component of the system is acting as a rectifier. You can shield the circuit and filter the signal but RFI/EMI is going to play hell with the system in the best of circumstances.

    By my definition a machine is "broken" when it does not accomplish the task it is designed for. Very nice, but in the real world everything has limitations and tradeoffs and outside of the brains of PHBs you gotta stick to the cold equations, and not the fantasy of arbitrary semantic definitions.

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