Talking tech since 2003

When FaceTime over cellular first launched as a feature on iPhones and iPads back in September 2012, Apple allowed wireless carriers to determine how they’d implement it. Verizon Wireless and Sprint simply opened it up to all customers with a data plan. But AT&T, not exactly known for outstanding customer service, decided to limit FaceTime only to those customers who paid for shared data plans. The move drew the ire of iPhone and iPad users on the carrier and even drew the attention of the FCC. After public pressure mounted, AT&T took a step back and opened up FaceTime to users with LTE-equipped iDevices, but those on older models were still out of luck.

Today, the company has seemingly come to its senses, announcing on its consumer blog that FaceTime over cellular will be made available to all iPhone and iPad owners with a data plan.

The explanation offered up by AT&T’s Mark Collins is that the delay was necessary in order for AT&T to properly determine how much strain the FaceTime over cellular feature would cause its network. Apparently, the extra data coming from FaceTime users wasn’t placing a great burden on the network, leaving AT&T free to open it up. Unfortunately, the roll-out for the update that will enable the feature for the rest of AT&T’s customers might take a while.

We have already begun updating our systems and processes and expect to start rolling the update out to customers on an ongoing basis beginning in the next couple of weeks.  Customers do not need to do anything—the update will be applied automatically over the next few months.

In gadget time, a couple of months is almost a year, and most of AT&T’s iPhone and iPad customers have already been without the feature since September. AT&T really isn’t doing itself any favors by making people wait even longer, especially with a rumored iPhone 5S coming in either May or June. Should an AT&T customer get to that point with their contract fulfilled and a desire to own the next iPhone, staying with a carrier that purposely keeps them behind the rest of their iPhone-using buddies won’t be an appealing option.

AT&T concluded its blog post with this: “Only AT&T offers benefits like the ability to talk and surf at the same time, the fastest download speeds using AT&T 4G LTE, and a variety of flexible plan options to meet customers’ needs.” That’s nice, but sometimes, it’s the things you leave out that really matter to your customers. Keep that in mind the next time around, AT&T.

Edit (3:06PM): Changed the initial headline to be more accurate. FaceTime is not available *now*, but will instead be rolled out over the “next few months.”

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