T-Mobile mercilessly mocks AT&T for 5G claim

Somehow, 5G icons turned up on some AT&T phones. But the phones don't offer 5G.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer
It's so easy. (Screenshot: ZDNet)

I know that some tech companies like to pretend they've created something, um, innovative when they've merely changed its shape, its colors, or made it roll out of a box.

AT&T, though, seems to have taken this concept to slightly absurd heights.

Also: What is 5G? Everything you need to know about the new wireless revolution

It released some updated phones that sported a 5G E icon. 

Those who viewed these phones must have been mightily impressed that AT&T was already offering such an exalted level of connectivity.

There was a minor snag, however. This 5G E isn't 5G. Any type of 5G. Instead, it's just a marginally enhanced 4G. Which isn't, you know, 5G.

You might imagine, therefore, that the carrier's rivals took one look at this and were forced to snort.

T-Mobile drifted onto Twitter and offered a little movie, showing how it was now offering 9G.

The 9G logo is a little inelegant, but it makes the point.

Indeed, I can imagine that someone in T-Mobile's marketing department is wondering whether to produce stickers that customers can apply for themselves.

It does seem a touch tawdry that AT&T is offering this apparent attempt at marketing subterfuge. I contacted the company to ask why it had taken this step, and will update, should I hear.

Also: Verizon reorganizes into 3 groups to leverage 5G

T-Mobile, though, isn't the only AT&T rival that's offered commentary.

Verizon, in a step befitting its highly serious image -- even when it tries to be funny in ads, it's a little gauche -- posted a somber message from its CTO Kyle Malady.

Sounding almost Churchillian, Malady wrote: "The potential for 5G is awesome, but the potential to over-hype and under-deliver on the 5G promise is a temptation that the wireless industry must resist."

Because it's not true? Well, yes.

Malady continued: "If network providers, equipment manufacturers, handset makers, app developers and others in the wireless ecosystem engage in behavior designed to purposefully confuse consumers, public officials and the investment community about what 5G really is, we risk alienating the very people we want most to join in developing and harnessing this exciting new technology."

He does have a point. People do get bothered by manifest mendacity. Although, these days, perhaps not as much as they should.

Worse, AT&T has a little form, as they say in British criminal circles. In 2012, it claimed the iPhone 4S was a 4G phone when that wasn't quite the case.

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Good marketing is supposed to make people feel good, rather than disappointed.

Perhaps AT&T hopes that merely placing the 5G icon in the corner of some phones will make customers feel they're a little ahead of their friends.

Until, that is, they use the phone and realize that nothing has changed.

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