AT&T and T-Mobile. It's impossible to love any carrier, as they are masters of exploiting and extorting customers such as through iPad data plans that autorenew without notice to you, justifying early termination fees as a way to recoup the smartphone subsidy through a monthly hidden charge that never ends, and claiming unlimited data plans that are quite clearly limited by capacity, speed, or both. Unfortunately, these are perennial misdeeds in the industry. But this year, AT&T and T-Mobile deserve extra attention as Turkey Award inductees for their deceptive claims that they offer 4G cellular data service -- they don't. What they offer is a 3G network (technically, HSPA+) augmented (allegedly) through a faster backbone pipe. Faster than what? Who knows.
The International Telecommunications a year ago called out such 4G claims as false, but as it is a carrier-dominated club, the organization quickly backed down and said 4G means whatever the carriers want it to mean. Let's be clear: To be 4G by the most charitable (former) official definition, it has to run on an LTE or WiMax network. Verizon Wireless has been rolling out 4G via LTE for a year now, with years more to go, and Sprint has offered WiMax for a few years in some markets and is now embarking on its own decade-long LTE rollout. Late this year, AT&T rolled out LTE in a handful of cities, so technically it offers real 4G, but what it advertises as 4G is still mainly its backbone-boosted 3G network. T-Mobile has no LTE deployments at all.
When the U.S. carriers got Congress to exempt themselves from state regulation, deceptive practices became the norm, as both the FCC and FTC are disinclined to watch out for consumer interests, especially given Congress's heightened aversion to consumer protection in the last two decades. As a result, carriers get away with lying about their 4G (and unlimited) offerings. These turkeys are rotten to the core.
The Mobile Edge Giblets Dishonorable Mentions Award
Not all ill-advised behavior warrants a turkey award, of course. That's what the Mobile Edge Giblets Dishonorable Mentions are for: those not-so-smart incidents that make you start looking for the whole turkey. Apple gains a dishonorable mention this year.
A couple weeks ago, Apple chucked security researcher Charles Miller out of its iOS developers program. His sin: Creating and submitting an app (that Apple accepted) that demonstrated a flaw allowing unapproved code into an app later on.
Miller is a "white hat" hacker who loves to find weaknesses in technology systems, to the great annoyance of vendors like Apple. He's exposed iOS flaws before, but this time he intentionally put one into the App Store, which seemed to be a bridge too far for Apple. OK, so it was a stunt to prove Apple wouldn't catch such issues and thus revealing the threat to be more than theoretical. He did expose his actions quickly, so his stunt had limited damage beyond the PR problems it caused, and Apple patched the flaw a week later. Apple should apologize to Miller, then work out a way he can help iOS security through such efforts so that Apple won't feel bitch-slapped. It's to both of their benefits to work together to keep iOS secure.
Enough of the chopping blade -- as I said at the beginning of this post, we have very much to be thankful for in mobile technology this year. And after we leave the turkey carcass behind, we'll still have all the good that the year has brought. Be sure to enjoy that reality.
This article, "Off with their heads! Mobile Edge's 2011 Turkey Awards," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.