Optus' blurry iPhone pics are unacceptable

Summary:Optus' decision to minimise network congestion by reducing the quality of website images displayed on devices like the iPhone, without mentioning the adjustment in its terms and conditions, is unacceptable.

blog Optus' decision to minimise network congestion by reducing the quality of website images displayed on devices like the iPhone, without mentioning the adjustment in its terms and conditions, is unacceptable.

When the carrier talked about a "web accelerator" technology to ZDNet Australia in February last year, it said the idea behind it was to strip out unnecessary IP transactions, caching and protecting against packet loss. "By sending less redundant data, there's more time for the real data," Optus mobile network director Andrew Smith said.

But it does more than this. The "web accelerator" technology also compresses images and serves them in a lower quality, in turn making it faster for users to download images, and there is no way to turn this compression off. The carrier said it was looking at a "workaround" for the "issue".

After ZDNet Australia reported on Optus reducing the quality of images served to customers on devices such as the iPhone, comments left on our site indicated some customers weren't happy.

Screenshots of an iPhone on Vodafone, Optus and Telstra

Screenshots of the ZDNet Australia website as seen on the iPhone via Vodafone (left),
Optus (centre) and Telstra (right)
(Credit: Ben Grubb/ZDNet Australia)

A comment left by user paddy13 stood out. That commenter said they had called Optus late last year about the poor quality of images. According to paddy13, Optus said it was a hardware issue and referred the customer to Apple. "Apple said the phone was out of warranty and the only option to try and rectify this issue was the restore my iPhone," the commenter said. They tried this, they said, but it didn't work.

"Now I find out about Optus lowering the image quality to all iPhones! I definitely won't be renewing my contract with them. Are Optus not breaching any contract conditions in not meeting their service requirements to me?" Good question!

I scanned through Optus' iPhone terms and conditions (found at the bottom of the linked page) and couldn't find anything about Optus reducing the quality of images.

If Optus is going to compete against other carriers in price and data, it should disclaim that it is reducing the quality of the web experience, or it should offer an "opt-out" mechanism for customers who don't want the "web accelerator" experience.

I can understand why the technology has been implemented — with Optus on the cusp of selling its one millionth iPhone, which is a lot, it has the potential to cripple a network if something drastic isn't done. But for the carrier to not offer some sort of "opt-out" option or let customers know what's going on when they first sign up baffles me.

The author of this blog is not an Optus customer.

Topics: Telcos, Apple, iPhone, Optus

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