First bills for iPhone go into pages of detail

Monday, August 27, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO -- The iPhone has given its owners a bad case of information overload.

When his first iPhone bill arrived in the mail from AT&T Inc., Dan Sokol got nervous. At more than 30 pages long, it not only itemized every call the Silicon Valley-based consultant had made in July but also every time he used the Internet or sent e-mail.

"This is probably the same kind of stuff the National Security Agency gets on suspected terrorists," Sokol said.

He is not alone. Some bills for Apple Inc.'s new iPhone have been hundreds of pages long, arriving in boxes that have to be pried open with a knife.

That's because unless customers requested bills merely summarizing their spending, AT&T's practice was to mail bills that itemize phone usage in intricate detail. But the company hadn't anticipated how much iPhone users would do with their new gadgets, which combine a cell phone, Web-surfing device and iPod.

A video showing blogger Justine Ezarik paging through her 300-page iPhone bill has been viewed on YouTube and her Web site, www.justineezarik.com, hundreds of thousands of times.

"Use e-billing," her video encourages. "Save a forest." On Wednesday, AT&T, Apple's wireless partner, sent text messages to iPhone customers telling them that they would receive summary bills as a default option. If they want itemized bills, or online billing, they should contact AT&T.

Starting Sept. 28, new AT&T wireless customers will receive the summary bill. Detailed paper bills will cost $1.99 per phone line.

"This is something we've been planning for months, not only for the iPhone but also for the customer base as a whole," said Mark Siegel, a spokesman for AT&T's wireless business. "IPhone users are heavy data users, not surprisingly. We thought the time was right to move iPhone customers over."

For some, the bill's physical heft was matched by a whopping charge, thousands of dollars from carrying the iPhone to Europe or Asia and showing it off like the Hope diamond. AT&T offers plans for international calling and data use, but some people were caught off guard.

Before traveling to Australia with his son earlier this month, Ted Cohen, a digital media consultant, called AT&T to find out what he should do about their iPhones.

The customer service representative advised Cohen to turn it off if he didn't want to buy the international plan. If Cohen used the iPhone in Australia as he had been using it in the United States, the bill would be about $4,000.

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