300-page iPhone bill
A 300-page iPhone bill from AT&T Mobility mailed in a box was the subject of a viral video made by YouTube personality Justine Ezarik, best known as iJustine, which became an Internet meme in August 2007. Ezarik's video focused on the unnecessary waste of paper, as the detailed bill itemized all data transfers made during the billing period, including every email and text message. Stories of unexpected billing issues began to circulate in blogs and the technical press after the Apple iPhone's heavily advertised and anticipated release, but this video clip brought the voluminous bills to the attention of the mass media.
Ten days later, after the video had been viewed more than 3 million times on the Internet, and had received international news coverage, AT&T sent iPhone users a text message outlining changes in its billing practices. The information technology magazine Computerworld included this incident in its list of "Technology's 10 Most Mortifying Moments".
Apple released the iPhone in the United States with a software "lock" so it could only be used on the AT&T Mobility network. After purchase, buyers activated their iPhone's AT&T service contract using the Apple iTunes software, during which buyers had the ability to choose their billing preference; however, if no option was specified during activation, AT&T defaulted to detailed billing. Detailed billing itemized every data transfer, including background traffic for e-mail, text messaging, and Web browsing. This generated a large number of entries on the detailed bills.
After a month's time, as early adopters started receiving their first monthly bills, stories of unusually large and expensive iPhone bills began to circulate. The 300-page bill was exceptional, but other heavy users received 50- to 100-page bills. One of the first to attract wider attention was from Ben Kuchera, gaming editor for the technology-related website Ars Technica, who described his 34-sheet, double-sided bill and another 104-page bill sent to a colleague, writing, "While many of us have had smart-phones for some time, we've never seen a bill like this." However, it was the release of Justine Ezarik's video that acted as a catalyst to bring widespread media attention to this aspect of the iPhone story.
Justine Ezarik, then a 23-year-old Pittsburgh-area graphic designer and sketch comedian, who video blogged under the name iJustine, received her 300-page bill on Saturday, August 11, 2007 and decided to use it as a prop for a self-produced video shot in a coffee shop. She posted the edited one-minute clip to several popular Internet video hosting services by the following Monday. In the first week, the video received over 500,000 total views on YouTube, 350,000 views on Revver, 500,000 views on Break.com and 1,100,000 views on Yahoo Video, as self-reported by the four popular internet video sites as of August 22. Total views were reported to exceed 8 million by the end of 2007. Ezarik said she earned $2,000 from the video from Revver.
Portions of the video were also televised along with one-on-one interviews with Ezarik by several national and local news programs in the United States, including CNN, Fox News Channel, WTAE-TV, and WPXI-TV. ABC News Now also included independent reporting by an ABC News Radio reporter in their video interview.
Ezarik's internet video commentary focused on the unnecessary waste of paper billing. In the video she highlights the physical size of the bill, not the amount due. "I have an iPhone and I had to switch to AT&T. So, that's wonderful. Well, I got my first AT&T bill, right here in a box," she says at the start of the video. The rest of the video, set to the distinctive music used in American iPhone television commercials, shows her opening the box and flipping through the pages in fast motion. The clip ends with the on-screen caption, "Use e-billing. Save a forest."
Her other comments also followed along the same lines. In a blog posting, she wrote, "Apparently, they give you a detailed transaction of every text message sent and received. Completely unnecessary." She told a USA Today reporter, "This is so silly, there's no reason they need to send you this much information." Ezarik is a heavy user who typically sends and receives tens of thousands of text messages a month, with her first bill being for $275 sent to her as exceptionally long 300 double-sided pages that had to be sent in a box with postage charges of $7.
She had no complaints about the iPhone itself, saying, "I made the video only to point out the comical aspect of my phone bill being delivered in a box. As for the iPhone? I love it."
AT&T Mobility, the mobile phone service provider for the iPhone, said through spokesman Mark Siegel that the size of this bill was exceptional. "We're not sending lots of boxed bills to customers," he told USA Today. The billing is the same for all AT&T mobile users, but the popularity and functionality of the iPhone has given it new visibility. "It's no different than with any other bill for any other device or any other service that we offer," Siegel said.
Later, on August 18, ATT issued a statement saying: "Our customers have the option of receiving a bill that is detail-free. Also, we have for years encouraged our customers to switch to online billing because it is convenient, secure and environmentally friendly." Then, on August 22, AT&T announced via text message to iPhone users that it was removing itemized detail from paper bills. Ezarik responded, "Looks like they may have got the message," in response to AT&T's action. Company spokeswoman Lauren Garner, however, said public reaction was not the reason for the company's switch from detailed to summary billing, saying, "This was something we planned all along."
Internet reporter Dana Blankenhorn stated that the size of the bill illustrated a problem with the telephone companies' "event based" or connection-oriented business model, and used it to argue for open spectrum in a radio frequency spectrum auction in the U.S. scheduled for 2008. He contrasted how in telephone billing every action is a separately billable event, while the Internet model is based on a flat fee for best-effort delivery in connectionless mode transmission.
Rob Enderle, a Silicon Valley tech analyst, also echoed Ezarik's environmental activism, saying, "AT&T should get a new tagline — use AT&T, kill a tree." The USA Today story was also titled "How many trees did your iPhone bill kill?" According to blogger Muhammad Saleem, Apple's aim to have 10 million iPhone users by the end of 2008 would require the logging of about 74,535 trees annually, assuming an average 100 page monthly bill. An editorial in The Blade, an independent newspaper in Toledo, Ohio, called the detailed billing "absurd and environmentally wasteful".
One security conscious commenter on the Engadget consumer electronics blog addressed the privacy implications of the oversize bills given the limitations of personal paper shredders, by speculating on whether it would be more practical to dispose of these large bills by burning them to protect personal information. An editor for the libertarian monthly Reason also speculated about the usefulness of the detailed information to government investigators. The original Ars Technica blog posting, on the other hand, dismissed privacy concerns, showing that the detail pages do not contain sensitive information.
Other outsized iPhone bills
Press accounts of this story also included related details and comments:
- The founder of a Tampa, Florida think tank received a 42-page bill, and told a reporter, "It's ridiculous."
- An Oak Harbor, Ohio teacher called his 52-page bill "the biggest phone bill I've ever gotten in my life".
- A partner of a Macintosh consulting firm called his bill "60 pages of nothingness".
- A business consultant from Virginia received a 62-page bill and asked a reporter, "Why would you send bills that large?"
- A software company owner near Seattle, Washington posted on his blog a picture of a Maltese dog sitting on his 127-page bill spread out on the floor. and asked, "Has anyone on the Apple Environmental Team seen an AT&T bill?"
- "The Packet Rat" columnist wrote in Government Computer News that his wife received a 150-page boxed iPhone bill, and commented, "OK, how many trees did they have to kill to send out the first month's bills?"
- Martin, James A. (September 5, 2007). "Sexy Portable Storage : The 300-Page iPhone Bill". Washington Post. Retrieved October 2, 2007.
- Keizer, Gregg (August 16, 2007). "A 300-page iPhone Bill?". PC World. ISSN 0737-8939. Archived from the original on April 26, 2012. Retrieved August 19, 2007.
- Graham, Jefferson (August 15, 2007). "How many trees did your iPhone bill kill?". USA Today. Retrieved August 19, 2007.
- "Pittsburgh Ranked Third 'Bloggiest' City". WTAE-TV News. November 9, 2007. Archived from the original on November 12, 2007. Retrieved November 18, 2007.
- Ho, David (August 16, 2007). "A 300-page iPhone bill? Too much information, users say". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. p. C1. Archived from the original on October 12, 2007. Retrieved October 2, 2007.
- "Singing the iPhone Billing Blues". TelecomWeb News. Free Press. August 17, 2007. Retrieved September 20, 2007.
- Richards, Jonathan (August 23, 2007). "Dear iPhone owner: your 300-page bill". The Times.
- Hafner, Katie (August 23, 2007). "AT&T's Overstuffed iPhone Bills Annoy Customers". The New York Times. Retrieved August 23, 2007.
- Cheng, Jacqui (August 22, 2007). "AT&T says "No more 300-page iPhone bills"". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on August 23, 2007. Retrieved August 22, 2007.
- Haskin, David (October 17, 2007). "Technology's 10 Most Mortifying Moments : iPhone Bills Kill Trees". Computerworld. Archived from the original on November 19, 2007. Retrieved November 30, 2007.
- Reedy, Sarah (August 15, 2008). "Billing confusion a pain for wireless customers and customer service". Telephony Online. Penton Media. Archived from the original on August 23, 2008. Retrieved August 17, 2008. "When the first version of the iPhone came out, in what Computerworld called one of "technology's 10 most mortifying moments", consumers with 300-page bills voiced their disdain in what became a viral video on the Internet."
- Krazit, Tom; Jennifer Guevin; Michelle Meyers (January 9, 2007). "Finally, Apple answers call for iPhone". CNET News. Retrieved September 17, 2007.
- Pogue, David (June 27, 2007). "The iPhone Matches Most of Its Hype". The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 12, 2007. Retrieved September 22, 2007.
- Perenson, Melissa J. (August 23, 2007). "The 300-page iPhone bill to disappear". PC World. Archived from the original on September 3, 2007. Retrieved September 22, 2007.
- "Opinion : Phone service". Daily News & Analysis, India. Diligent Media Corporation Ltd. August 27, 2007. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved September 4, 2007. "The new iPhone has been staggering users, first with its gizmo-good-looks, then with its functionality and now, about a month after it was launched, with its bills."
- O'Brien, Terrence (August 14, 2007). "Girl Videotapes 300-Page iPhone Bill — Switched: Gadgets, Tech, Digital Stuff for the Rest of Us". Switched. AOL. Retrieved December 28, 2007.
- Ayres, Chris (August 27, 2004). "The iPhone bill that's as thick as a novel". The Times. Retrieved December 28, 2007.
- Lyons, Kim (August 16, 2007). "The blog is on". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved August 19, 2007.
- Ragan, Steve (August 17, 2007). "Thirty thousand text messages equal a forest killing 300-page phone bill". Monsters and Critics. Retrieved August 19, 2007.
- Stockey, Andrew (August 15, 2007). "Pittsburgh Blogger's 300-Page iPhone Bill Mailed In Box". WTAE-TV News, Pittsburgh. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved August 19, 2007.
- Whitney, Daisy (December 8, 2007). "Online Fame Easy; Ads Harder to Get". TVWeek. Archived from the original on December 15, 2007. Retrieved December 15, 2007.
- Glenn Beck (August 16, 2007). "Transcripts". CNN. Archived from the original on October 12, 2007. Retrieved September 18, 2007.
- Shepard Smith (August 17, 2007). "Video: iSurprise : Blogger shocked after receiving 300-page iPhone bill". Fox News Channel. Archived from the original on October 15, 2007. Retrieved September 13, 2007.
- "Local iPhone Customer Gets 300-Page Phone Bill". WPXI Pittsburgh. August 15, 2007. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved September 4, 2007.
- "Getting the iPhone Bill". ABC News. Archived from the original on August 30, 2007. Retrieved September 22, 2007. "First billing cycle arrives looking more like a novel then a bill."
- Levine, Barry (August 24, 2007). "AT&T Decides To Kill the iPhone Bill". CIO Today. Retrieved September 14, 2007.
- Phillips, Ashley (August 14, 2007). "Bulky iPhone Bills Can Top 300 Pages". ABC News. Archived from the original on September 11, 2007. Retrieved August 19, 2007.
- Littlejohn, Georgina (August 25, 2007). "300-page iPhone Bill". Hispanic Business News (ProQuest Information and Learning Company). Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved September 4, 2007.
- Brady, Jeff (August 18, 2007). "Woman mocks 300-page bill-in-a-box". WFAA-TV news (Dallas/Fort Worth). Archived from the original on August 19, 2007. Retrieved August 22, 2007.
- Swett, Clint (August 23, 2007). "Long iPhone bills go away". The Sacramento Bee. Archived from the original on January 21, 2008. Retrieved August 23, 2007.
- Quinn, Michelle (August 23, 2007). "AT & T to keep iPhone bills brief". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 4, 2007.
- McNevin, Greg (August 29, 2007). "No More 300 Page Bills for iPhone Customers". Image and Data Manager, Australia. Knapp Communications. Archived from the original on October 12, 2007. Retrieved September 4, 2007.
- "300-page iPhone bill that's as thick as a novel". Daily Mail. August 28, 2007. Retrieved September 4, 2007.
- Blankenhorn, Dana. "The iPhone bill demonstrates need for open spectrum". ZDNet. CNET Networks. Archived from the original on August 17, 2007. Retrieved August 19, 2007.
- Brenn, Max. "Massive AT&T iPhone Bills Considered Useless". eFluxMedia. Retrieved August 19, 2007.
- Brown, Jorg (August 17, 2007). "iPhone Billing and International Issues". TidBITS. Archived from the original on August 29, 2007. Retrieved August 19, 2007.
- "A bill in a box is a waste". Toledo Blade. August 23, 2007. Archived from the original on October 12, 2007. Retrieved September 14, 2007.
- Smit, Martina (August 24, 2007). "iPhone bill is as thick as a novel". Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on October 12, 2007. Retrieved September 7, 2007.
- Weigel, David (August 16, 2007). "Hit & Run > The Feeding of the 300". Reason Magazine. Archived from the original on September 12, 2007. Retrieved September 20, 2007.
- Kuchera, Ben (August 11, 2007). "iPhone bill is surprisingly Xbox HUGE (lol)". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on September 10, 2007. Retrieved September 20, 2007.
- Bora, Madhusmita (August 16, 2007). "Business: iPhone bills land with a thump". St. Petersburg Times. Archived from the original on August 18, 2007. Retrieved August 19, 2007.
- Barnett, Megan (August 14, 2007). "Daily Brief: Little Phone, Big Bill". Portfolio.com. Condé Nast. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved August 19, 2007. "At the end of the bill, if anyone actually reads that far, the phone company has an announcement to make. "The New AT&T is going green"."
- Kelley, Jeffrey (August 16, 2007). "AT&T users, may find a big bill in the mail". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
- "AT&T drops iPhone bills that ran hundreds of pages". CNNMoney.com. August 23, 2007. Archived from the original on October 14, 2007. Retrieved September 22, 2007. "Brophy's blog post asked "Has anyone on the Apple Environmental Team seen an AT&T bill?" Former Vice President Al Gore, an environmental activist, sits on the Apple board."
- Fink, R. (August 27, 2007). "The Packet Rat: Commentary: The other shoe — measured by the ton — drops with the iPhone bill". Government Computer News. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved September 4, 2007.
- "IPHONE BILL" on YouTube, Justine Ezarik's video, on YouTube
- Justine Ezarik's blog entry regarding the August 13, 2007 iPhone bill
- Raw Interview Of Blogger Who Got 300-Page iPhone Bill on YouTube from WTAE-TV News, Pittsburgh
- Pittsburgh Blogger's 300-Page iPhone Bill Mailed In Box on YouTube news story from WTAE-TV News
- iBill Madness - Story about Justine (CBS 2 News) on YouTube[dead link] news coverage from WBBM-TV Chicago