Is The Exclusive Deal Between Apple and AT&T Anticompetitive?
Yes, of course it is. And the Justice Department should be looking into these exclusive agreements. But the administration should go much farther than a Justice Department review.
Mobile phone companies should be required by law to sell an unlocked version of their phones at a price that is equal to the locked price plus whatever subsidy is being paid by the carrier that sells a locked version.
I don't know exactly what that unlocked price would be for the iPhone, but today AT&T and Apple sell the iPhone 3GS for $199 (16gb). I believe the AT&T subsidy is about $200 per phone. So Apple should be required by law to sell an unlocked GSM iPhone for $399.
I've been a T-Mobile customer for over ten years and I never sign a plan with them. I buy my blackberries at full retail value and never get the subsidy. That's because I don't believe phones should come with obligations to use a certain carrier (and I've used the same carrier for over 10 years).
Most people will gladly take the subsidy and buy the locked phone. AT&T will still be able to buy market share through a partnership with Apple. But there is a small (and growing) market of people like me who will pay a premium for an unlocked phone. And the government should let that market grow and flourish. It's in the long term interest of the mobile tech business here in this country.
Just like it is the law of the land that phone numbers are portable from carrier to carrier, it should be the law of the land that phones should be portable from carrier to carrier. Anything else is anti-competitive.