The will-they-or-won’t-they iPhone saga took another turn Monday when it was “confirmed” that Apple and AT&T signed a five-year exclusivity deal for the device back in 2007. Tech Web site Engadget says it’s uncovered court documents that prove it.
The information comes from a class-action lawsuit which accuses Apple and AT&T of forming a monopoly. It was filed by plaintiffs who were concerned they’d be forced to sign a three-year deal for the iPhone once their two-year deal was up in order to continue using the device. Evidently, in order to defend their stance, Apple attorneys have had to repeatedly confirm that a five-year deal exists. USA Today originally reported the five-year agreement in 2007, but there hasn’t been any corroboration from the companies since. Here’s one quote from Apple in the court transcript:
"[T]here was widespread disclosure of [AT&T's] five-year exclusivity and no suggestion by Apple or anyone else that iPhones would become unlocked after two years ... Moreover, it is sheer speculation – and illogical – that failing to disclose the five-year exclusivity term would produce monopoly power..."
Ah, but just when you thought it was open and shut ... there might be some wiggle room. What you just read was from October 2008, and since most of the paperwork from this case has been under seal since 2009, there’s been plenty of time to change the terms of the contract. After all, a lot has happened in the smartphone world in the past year. AT&T has taken some major public-relations hits for its wireless service in recent months, and the two companies recently sat down and hammered out a deal for the iPad. It was reported last week that, as part of the iPad deal, AT&T would maintain exclusivity of the iPhone until 2011 – which would mean that the original, five-year deal was already moot.
Of course, we probably won’t know anything for sure until another carrier actually gets its hands on the iPhone.