Thanks to statements in legal documents, Apple has confirmed that its exclusive iPhone distribution deal with AT&T was originally set to run into 2012. The confirmation was found in documents Apple filed as part of a class action lawsuit against the company that launched in 2007, according to Engadget.
The lawsuit alleged that Apple and AT&T used monopoly power to trick consumers into buying an iPhone with a two-year contract, but in reality requiring five years since the smartphone can’t be used with other carriers.
“[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,” Apple’s filing said. “Moreover, it is sheer speculation — and illogical — that failing to disclose the five-year exclusivity term would produce monopoly power.”
While the general consensus has been that Apple’s five year deal with AT&T was speculation, Apple claimed it has been public knowledge for some time. “The duration of the exclusive Apple-[AT&T] agreement was not ‘secret’ either. The [plaintiff] quotes a May 21, 2007 USA Today article – published over a month before the iPhone’s release – stating, ‘AT&T has exclusive U.S. distribution rights for five years-an eternity in the go-go cellphone world,’” Apple said.
While Apple’s statements seem pretty clear cut — and fly in the face of the ongoing rumors that the iPhone is coming to Verizon — there’s always a chance that the Cupertino company could’ve renegotiated the deal at some point after the iPhone was launched. If so, there’s a chance consumers hoping for any carrier other than AT&T won’t have to wait until 2012 to get their iPhone.