Is Apple Charging MVNO's For Customer Access To The APN Settings Menu
Is Apple Charging MVNO's For Customer Access To The APN Settings Menu?


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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.


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?

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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!

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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?

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14 Comments on "Is Apple The Reason Why Your Cell Phone Bill Is Higher Than It Should Be?"

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This was an informative article. I have been looking at forums and searching articles for over a year to try and learn what was at the root of this seemingly unanswerable question . I did read one writer who said money might be at the heart of the matter. His requests for clarity went unanswered by both ATT and the Apple.


I went with puretalk for a month and switched back to a tmob mvno over the mms issue .
Never would have bought an iphone except that their iphone se kept a small frame with newer os. my old galaxy exhibit ii worked fine but was out dated . If any one will build a new small smartphone I will gladly leave the apple behind .Never would have tried puretalk either if they had been upfront about the apn blocking .

Sybil McCuistion
Thank you so much for this great article…I have spent hours online researching this subject, with very little success. I currently have a Blackberry Q10 on AT&T prepaid (previously postpaid), that works perfectly. However, I want to move to an AT&T MVNO for the better rates…and here is where it gets interesting. And maddening! I bought a new Blackberry Z30 last month, and decided to take advantage of Pure Talk USA’s free month offer…it was a great way to try out the carrier and my new phone at the same time! Both have exceeded my very high expectations! My BB… Read more »
Aaqib Ismail

One work around I can think of is to Port your number to Google voice and then get a new number on pure talk. You’ll receive all your texts and MMS through Google voice so you shouldn’t have any issues.

I too am on Blackberry. I know that Blackberry has a very strict implementation of the SIM settings, so a given SIM may not allow MMS settings on Blackberry, but the same SIM will allow MMS on Android, I assume because Android has a looser following of the rules. The issue is with AT&T not allowing MMS settings on certain MVNOs (or certain sets of SIMS on certain MVNOs). Think about it, if it was due to the phone manufacturer, then this issue would be across all providers, not just AT&T. As for requiring a certain number of sales to… Read more »
Getting an agreement with Apple to obtain carrier settings may or may not require a monetary payment/agreement just for the settings alone. I am an employee of another AT&T MVNO and we were in the same boat as H2O until we one day had an agreement in place with Apple. I’m not sure what the exact details of the agreement are, but I do know it involved our company taking on a lot of iPhones (at full price) that are not easy to sell at full price. Even with third party financing available, we still found it difficult to move… Read more »