Following four days of complaints from current iPhone users who are being quoted prices of $399 and up to upgrade their current handsets to the iPhone 3GS, a crisis communications expert has suggested that AT&T has roughly 24-48 hours to respond to the criticism. “It’s time for AT&T to step forward and be an industry leader,” said Dallas Lawrence, vice president of digital media at New York-based Levick Strategic Communications, in an interview with Computerworld. “The next 48 hours will be very telling. AT&T needs to embrace the message, to acknowledge a mistake’s been made, and to make things good.” The online complaints have culminated in a Twitter petition—now with more than 8,000 supporters—calling for AT&T to offer iPhone 3GS upgrades to all iPhone customers for the same $199 and $299 pricing it offers to new customers. The number of names attached to the petition has nearly doubled in the last 24 hours.
“AT&T has the opportunity to turn a potential negative into a positive,” said Lawrence, adding “[t]hey should forget the immediate gratification [of higher revenue] and invest in the longer term to keep iPhone users.” Lawrence went on to say that this vocal group of users will only get more agitated the longer it takes the U.S. iPhone carrier to respond, and that if the company were his client, he would tell them to immediately apologize and guarantee the cheapest upgrade pricing for all iPhone users. “And they should say they will do that for every iPhone that Apple launches, because they want the iPhone users to be part of the AT&T family for life,” Lawrence added. “That would be the type of statement that would be leading—outside the industry norm—and would let iPhone users know they can make a commitment to AT&T because AT&T has made a commitment to them.”