Bulky iPhone Bills Land in Mailboxes

Some users annoyed at bills that seem excessively long and wasteful.

ByAshley Phillips
January 08, 2009, 1:20 AM

Aug. 14, 2007 — -- When Pittsburgh-based blogger and freelance graphic designer Justine Ezarik discovered an inches-thick bulging envelope in her mailbox, she was initially excited by the prospect of receiving a gift.

Instead, it was a 300-page iPhone service bill from AT&T, Ezarik's first monthly statement for the new and much-touted service.

"I was like, 'Oh, cool, I got a package,'" Ezarik told ABCNEWS.com. "I honestly had no idea it was my phone bill."

Ezarik is just one of many iPhone users who received itemized bills over the weekend, some of whom are amused at the bulk of the billing and annoyed by its wastefulness.

Unlike most cell phone bills, the statement for the iPhone, which was released at the end of June to unparalleled frenzy from gadget geeks across the country, itemizes every data item -- including every text message, every Internet log in and every e-mail.

For a heavy user like Ezarik -- she typically sends 30,000 text messages a month -- an itemized bill was incredibly long and heavy. The postage on her bill was $7.

"I thought it was hilarious," Ezarik said. "Prior to that, I had Sprint. I'd send 35,000 to 40,000 text messages and not even think anything of it."

Rob Enderle, a Silicon Valley tech analyst, calls the voluminous bills just another problem with the iPhone.

"The major problems that have caught up the iPhone have almost all come from AT&T," Enderle said, citing connection problems, customer support, coverage and "now bills that look like books."

"AT&T should get a new tagline -- use AT&T, kill a tree," he said.

But to Enderle, the biggest incentive for AT&T to change its itemized billing is financial.

"You would hope that a manager at AT&T is looking into this. It's a huge waste of money for them. It's not like this cost of paper is passed through the user. This is straight cost to AT&T," he said. "Not only is this costing more money, but it's pissing off users."

Itemized billing, however, is de rigueur at the company.

"What's happening with the iPhone is no different than what we find with any of other phones or plans," said Mark Siegel, AT&T's executive director of media relations. "When you use wireless data, whether it's to take a photo, send a photo, send an e-mail, whatever, you'll have that detail as well. There are people who want to see it."

Customers who don't want to see that amount of detail can simply call customer service and tell the company they want a simplified bill, Siegel said. Customers can also receive their bills online to eliminate a mailed bill altogether.

"Nothing unusual is going on here," he said.

But to Ben Kuchera, the gaming editor at tech news site Ars Technica, the company's billing "default" is just plain wasteful.

"If you were to sit there with Wi-Fi and be surfing, I can't even imagine what the bill would look like," he said. "A 30-page bill is a small one, and it just goes up from there, depending on what you do."

Kuchera, who calls himself a "light user," received his bill this weekend. It was 54 pages front and back, or 108 single pages. He uses his iPhone only to send text messages to his co-workers and to e-mail.

"The amount of paper that it is, it's really mindboggling," Kuchera said. "Even if it happens once or twice, it's a ridiculous amount of waste. Some people will be lazy," and not change the billing, "and that paper will go straight from [AT&T's] printers into their garbage can."

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