Over two years ago a BestMVNO site reader informed me that they were locked out of the part of their iPhone's settings menu that would allow them to setup an APN. They noticed that the issue occurred when they tried to use a SIM card for an AT&T MVNO, but it did not happen when they inserted the same SIM card into an Android phone. For those of you who don't know, when you don't have the right APN setting for your phone, you can't do such things as connect to the internet or even send or receive MMS picture messages. So in essence, you aren't able to get what you pay for.
At that time it was not known why this was happening. I speculated that perhaps Apple had some sort of agreement with AT&T to try and push customers towards service with AT&T directly or with specific AT&T MVNO's that may have been more profitable for AT&T. I had also wondered if there was no agreement at all, and perhaps Apple just wanted AT&T to pay up to unlock the settings profile for its customers. I reached out to both companies for comment, and never heard back from either.
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Yesterday, that same reader from a few years ago pointed out to me a specific comment that AT&T MVNO H2O wireless recently made in a forum in regards to recent changes they had made to try and fix some long known issues.
One such issue was that the company was finally able to get conditional call forwarding working. This is something that likely only impacted a minimal amount of subscribers. The real "cat out of the bag" moment came however when H2O Wireless left this curious message:
iPhone MMS (Pending) - Currently in negotiations with Apple.
Currently in negotiations with Apple?
While we don't know for sure exactly what that means, Apple has a long track record of milking everyone and everything out of every last cent that it possibly can. Take what it did with Spotify for instance. Apple charged Spotify subscribers who signed up for the service through iTunes $12.99/month whereas if the subscriber signed up directly from Spotify, they'd only pay $9.99/month. It wasn't just Spotify that Apple did this to, Tidal also faced the same problem. This all stems from the fact that Apple charges a 30% commission on all in-app purchases made through the iTunes/app store.
So based on that statement from H2O Wireless and Apple's track record, it does appear that Apple may be charging at least some MVNO's or carriers for the "privilege" of having access to the iOS settings menu that allows them to configure an APN. This would explain why many AT&T MVNO's still don't have MMS working with Apple, because they won't pay to play. If this is in fact the case, I say good for them for not caving into Apple. Of course at the same time, it must be hard for them to not be able to service that potential customer base.
There could of course be other reasons that are not financially based as to why Apple still has the settings menu locked down for many AT&T MVNO's, although they are certainly hard to imagine.
(Updated: 7/20/2017)- A recent comment left by someone who says that they are an employee of another AT&T MVNO, has stated that Apple wanted them to purchase a large number of iPhones priced in the low seven figure range in exchange for providing the correct APN settings to the MVNO's iPhone using customer base. Even with the agreement in place, iPhone users on iOS 9 or below would still be unable to receive MMS!
What makes this whole thing even more ridiculous if true, is that this happens with UNLOCKED iPhones!! How is it even legal to sell a device as being "unlocked" when it can't really be used on all carriers because it is in fact partially locked down?