AT&T unable to fix broken iPhone voicemail

AT&T is failing to deliver voice mail to iPhones, and has been failing at this for weeks. MG Seigler offers his horror story, which leads him to imagine a world in which Verizon carries the iPhone.

In our own mailbox is a similar tale, from someone who was told by AT&T that it can do little to resolve the issue.

Jean Hagan of the Institute for the Future (Pesco works there) is among those affected, and spent more than an hour prizing information out of customer service. AT&T confirmed that the outage affects users in California: if it’s affecting you, you should call 611 and log a complaint so they “can work efficiently with Apple” to deal with it.

Those affected couldn’t even manually check your messages–they’d get an error message instead–meaning you’d have to dial in, just like in the olden days. Here’s Jean:

She told me they have been having problems for over a week with tons of reports.

I asked her if they plan to notify users and she said “Well, we have been instructed to apologize, log all complaints to escalate with Apple, and if needed negotiate the service for the month”, and I was appalled that she said there was currently no resolution.

Then she recommended that … you could move your sim card to, say an old RAZR, you’d be able to see our message index, etc.

AT&T seems simply unable to deal with the iPhone on its network: its 3G is slower in real-world tests than Sprint and Verizon’s “2.75G” Evdo Rev. A network, and that’s when 3G works at all. For consumers, it’s an inconvenience; for business, it’s a big red banner over the iPhone saying “Do Not Buy This.”

About Rob Beschizza

Rob Beschizza is the Managing Editor of Boing Boing. He's @beschizza on Twitter and can be found on Facebook too. Email is dead, but you can try your luck at besc...@gmail.com
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33 Responses to AT&T unable to fix broken iPhone voicemail

  1. exhilaration says:

    You know, T-Mobile has superb customer service, they’ve been awesome every time I’ve called. Also my jailbroken/unlocked 2G iPhone works perfectly on their network: $65/month (wait, it was $68 this month) for unlimited minutes, unlimited data, 500 texts.

    Sure I don’t have visual voicemail, but I can dial in and listen to it without a problem.

  2. trish says:

    Happened to me on Rogers (in Toronto) last October 2008. I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t received an email referencing the phone call.

    Rogers couldn’t have cared any less, though after quite some time on the phone, eventually retrieved that one message.

  3. Anonymous says:

    it’s a problem and it is ticking me off. it is late wednesday night, i just got voicemails from monday daytime. this happens all the time. pathetic, apple!

  4. yasth says:

    Heh, they should count themselves lucky they can check manually my shiny new 3GS’s voicemail has been broken for a week, and multiple calls to 611 seem to do nothing but get very pleasant people who can’t actually do more than change mysterious settings that make no difference.

  5. topher800 says:

    I am having this problem. Voicemails are showing up 3-9 hours late on the iPhone. Started last weekend approx. No tethering on my phone. Also the ‘does not deliver voicemail over WiFi’ is not my problem, I turn off WiFi at work since it requires vpn. And once incident was while I was bicycling.

    Boulder, CO

  6. circa86 says:

    I am sorry. But that article is ridiculous. The amount of people this is a affecting, just like any issue with a device that is posted on the internet, is wildly blown out of proportion.

    With the amount of new users the AT&T network has been receiving, it is no surprise at all that there are issues. There has never been such a large influx of new users on any network like this. . .ever, really.

    Not only would an iPhone on the Verizon network make very little sense (Ever heard of GSM?, Verizon hasn’t), I am sure such a massive change in the amount of users would bring any network to its knees.

    And back to my main point, if you take a poorly written, poorly cited article like that as truth, and base your own decisions off of that, I pity the way you take in information.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Just followed steps 4-8 above – without the restore steps – and my voicemail is back and working. I typed “wap.cingular.com” in step 5 though in the APN field.

  8. dssstrkl says:

    I have to agree that these stories are blown way out of proportion. Granted, I only have a sample size of 6 (3 original iphones, two of which recently got replaced by 3GS’s and a 3G) and none of us have experienced any of these horror stories. Activation was instant, we haven’t seen any black holes of no network, etc etc etc.

    That’s not to say that people aren’t having problems, but they’re not so widespread as to indicate that AT&T’s network doesn’t work.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I’ve lost voicemail since the 3.0.1 upgrade, so I think it may have something to do with 3.0.1.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Spoke to soon – after following steps 4-8 – voicemail worked – but now internet not working.

  11. remmelt says:

    611? Seriously? The digit right next to 911?

    It’s no better here, we have 112 as the emergency number and voicemail is usually 1233. Yes, I’ve made calls to the emergency line after short nights and early rises.

    What’s the deal here?

  12. For anyone who has had their visual voicemail broken since the 3.1 update try this solution. I do not know if this will work outside of AT&T.

    So the problem seems to be that if you installed the hacked ipcc file (either through help.benm.at or manually uploading the file through iTunes) and then updated to 3.1, not only would the 3.1 update disable the tethering/mms, but it would also corrupt the carrier file, therefore breaking visual voicemail. I have tried every method out there including resetting the network settings, removing Profile settings, restoring my iPhone (seven restores including a downgrade to 3.0) as well as spent more than four hours on the phone with AT&T and Apple but to no avail. Here is what finally worked for me. And for those interested, this was done on my iPhone 3GS 3.1OS.

    1. Perform a system restore on your iPhone.
    2. After the restore, choose the option to setup as a NEW iPhone.
    3. Perform a “Restore from Backup…” in iTunes (in iTunes, right click on your iPhone and select Restore from Backup…)
    4. Open safari on your iPhone and navigate to http://help.benm.at/generator.php
    5. Enter wap.cingular in the APN field for both Mobile Internet and Visual Voicemail. Leave the rest of the fields BLANK and click GENERATE!.
    6. When the Install Profile page opens, click Install and the then Install Now on the confirmation warning.
    7. After it finished install, go back to your home screen.
    8. Perform a HARD RESET by holding down the Lock and Menu buttons (power and home buttons)until the iPhone reboots and the Apple logo appears on the screen.

    You should now have visual voicemail AND mms working on your 3.1 updated iPhone! I understand the frustration of the whole process and sincerely hope this works for you!

  13. tvspotz says:

    All these comments are really true.
    Suddenly last week I stopped getting voice mails.

    I thought no one was calling me but there were 26 vm’s!!! This is crazy.
    I had tried to use tethering on the day it stopped. There might be something to the earlier comments. I reset network settings and they started coming in again.

    give it a try!

  14. hokano says:

    With all apologies to circa86 requisite to confer respect from one human being to another, I must say that this article comports with my experience as a customer of that most execrable corporation AT&T.

    Speaking for my own human self, I look forward to the day when some entity that gives the slightest shit about quality of service and who understands even a little bit how human beings use phones takes over this business. I will then be happy to give my hard-earned cash over to them. Until that day, my money will be given over only begrudgingly.

    Mighty begrudgingly, and with my congresscritter’s name and number always close at hand.

    Good day, foul AT&T. I said good day!

  15. Andy says:

    Ive had this problem ever since 3.0. I now have a 3GS 32GB on 3.01 and sometimes get a voicemail days after it was left. I wont even begin to mention the amount of incoming calls that go straight through to voicemail with out the phone even ringing.

    This isnt blown out of proportion as Circa68 suggested. You sir, are not putting this into perspective, their are thousands of people this is affecting and confirming industry fears that the Iphone is NOT a tool you can put in the hands of business leadership. You may think this is a silly issue, but a lost voicemail to your boss or client might just cost you your job, so sit back down and get real.

    Oh and if anyone want a 3GS, I’m ebaying it. Going back to a real business phone, Blackberry. This thing is for kids.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Does this have something to do with the 3.0.1 update?

  17. Jim says:

    Same problem here. AT&T store wont deal with it. After over an hour on the phone I was given a URL :
    http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1414
    and told I wouls have to reinstall my iPhone as a new device. That also means I have to reload 10 gigs of music from several drives, photos, ringtones etc… Oh yes, and I would have to reload my 80 apps ONE AT A TIME! Holy cow! Do they think I’ve got all the time in the world for this %^%^ or what!?!

    Santa Barbara, CA.

  18. Gene says:

    I landed here because I’ve suddenly got this “no service” in the upper left corner. Now, from all the Google entries, I see it’s a major issue.

    For someone to come on and claim it’s “overblown” is the height of self-centered stupidity. Or worse.

  19. Gene says:

    CNET had a clear fix that worked for me:

    Launch the Settings app
    Select General
    Select Reset
    Select Reset Network Settings
    Allow the iPhone to reboot

  20. Notawesome says:

    I haven’t had voicemail on my 3GS since I got it a few days after launch. :-(

    Dozens of phone calls with AT&T, some with Apple, and the most information I’ve been given is that there’s “an issue in my area” that’s the cause. No more detail, no time line for when it will be resolved.

    They gave me this ticket number for the issue that was already in the system:

    TT000010923573

    Instructed me that all I could do was call periodically to check on the progress. Just called 20 min. ago (again) and they gave me some crap excuse that something’s wrong with a cell tower in my area.

    After asking for it to be escalated, and being put on hold while they talked to tech support, they came back to say it’s all over the place, even the East Coast.

    Last time I called, I asked for credit and got $25 off (still have to confirm that this was applied). This time, they offered 600 rollover minutes.

    I just want my voicemail to work. WTF?

  21. Anonymous says:

    It turns out that the iPhone downloads voicemail messages over its 3G (or 2G) data connection, but not over WiFi, per http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2008/08/on-disabling-voicemail-on-the-iphone.ars

  22. dmbream says:

    QUESTION: Did those of you having this issue install the different carrier settings file to enable tethering? Please respond.

    Having the same issue.

    Just checked voicemail manually (press and hold the ’1′ key) while on with AT&T customer support and had messages from June 21.

    It’s now July 30.

    Bit of a problem.

    No progress on their end, it seems.

    I tried resetting network settings as per Gene, #15. No luck.

    In NYC.

  23. Zan says:

    @REMMELT: 611 isn’t the voicemail number, on US and Canadian phones it is the number for Customer Service. It goes along with 211 (Community Information and Referral Services), 311 (Non-Emergency Police and Other Governmental Services), 411 (local directory assistance), 511 (traffic and weather), 711 (relay service for the deaf), and 811 (in the US it’s Dig Safe, who you are supposed to call before doing any digging to ensure that you don’t cut into underground utilities; in Canada it’s Non-Urgent Health Teletriage Services).

  24. Dave says:

    I have the 3GS in New York City, and am having the same problem regarding voice mail. Just called AT&T and they have no idea what’s going on (although the woman I’m speaking with is incredibly nice and pleasant). I hope they fix this soon!

  25. BillyShears says:

    AT&T’s been the iPhone’s (official) home in the US since 2007. AT&T is a company big enough to employ staff whose only job is to analyze growth rates, forecast future growth rates, and generally crunch a whole lot of numbers that tell them how many users their systems can support, and, in a pinch, how much to upgrade to support more. To say that, at this point, AT&T was simply blindsided and this VM issue is just another manifestation of it is at worst unsubstantiated, two-dimensional damage control or at best, yet another line item on the list of damning evidence that Apple picked the wrong US partner.

    My thoughts? The issue is worse than them being blindsided; AT&T is simply too cheap to get their network up to snuff and they’re trying to get their infrastructure to choke down the torrent of iPhone users while doing minimal upgrades. This is a direct result of that philosophy.

    If Verizon didn’t just announce that they wanted to be the only out-of-the-box app store on every device they sold, I’d say an LTE-based iPhone for their network in a few years would be a no-brainer. Now I’m not so sure, as the only other viable option would be T-Mobile, and they were so late to the 3G party that they’ll likely be equally late to whatever comes next.

  26. steeef says:

    Exhilaration’s suggestion is looking better an better. Keep in mind that you can’t use 3G on T-Mobile with an iPhone, as they use a different part of the spectrum for their own 3G. Other than that, it’s supposed to work great, and T-Mobile even provides support for iPhone users. Google Voice could probably even replace the shitty visual voicemail from AT&T. There are already a few iPhone apps that provide decent front-ends for GV, and Google is in the process of getting their own approved.

  27. j says:

    After at&t attempted to resolve my voicemail issue the problem was not resolved.

    Issue original iphone with current recommended updates by apple. Unable to get voicemail consistently when they are sent. example;
    Voicemail sent at 1400 received at 2100 hrs.

    Text message from AT&T on 8-17-09;
    THIS IS HEATHER FROM ATT TECH TALKED TO APPLE AND YOU HAVE TO CALL AND THEY WILL REPLACE THE DEVICE ITS SINCE THEY KNOW THEIR IS AKNOWN ISSUE W PHONE

    At&T was unable to resolve the voicemail issue. They continue to say its a known issue with the original iphone and the 3.1 software upgrade. Apple said, “you have an old phone get a new one”. I say thanks for the upgrade and ruining my phone. I will be sure to share all of this online with as many people as I can. Thanks for the poor customer service!!

    Anyone else have the same issues?
    Thanks,
    J

    You will miss 100% of the shots you never take!
    The Great One

  28. duganrye says:

    I know many other iPhone users are having this issue and AT&T says it is a known issue. Maybe if everyone calls in and gets a credit they will take this issue more serious. Please pass this along to as many iPhone customers as possible and have them call in and register a complaint and ask for a credit.

    Thank you for taking the time to e-mail the new AT&T regarding the delay in receiving voicemail messages. My name is ——-. I can definitely assist you with your inquiry.

    I apologize for the frustration and inconvenience resulting from the delay in receiving the voicemail messages. Because of the nature of the wireless system, there can be delays in the delivery of such items as voicemail messages, although the long delay that you experienced was excessive. Although visual voicemail is included with the rate plan, I have applied a credit of $10.00 on your account because of the inconvenience. The balance on your account after the credit is a credit balance of $10.00 that can be applied to the next bill.

  29. Lalith says:

    Looks like the Benm install for tethering and also the 3.1 update is the problem. I tried Micheal Masak’s suggestions like following and got my voice mail back,

    4. Open safari on your iPhone and navigate to http://help.benm.at/generator.php
    5. Enter wap.cingular in the APN field for both Mobile Internet and Visual Voicemail. Leave the rest of the fields BLANK and click GENERATE!.
    6. When the Install Profile page opens, click Install and the then Install Now on the confirmation warning.
    7. After it finished install, go back to your home screen.
    8. Perform a HARD RESET by holding down the Lock and Menu buttons (power and home buttons)until the iPhone reboots and the Apple logo appears on the screen.

    You should now have visual voicemail AND mms working on your 3.1 updated iPhone!

  30. WhatUV says:

    This is a big issue, this is affecting many, many users. Just because you’re not affected, doesn’t mean it’s not affecting huge numbers of users.

    I have had this issue now myself, and after being told a bunch of silly ideas, like, voicemail won’t work if your using WiFi (lies), I requested the case to be escalated (I’ve lost income due to not receiving my client’s calls), I found out this is in fact a known issue, the AT&T Network Operations Center (NOC) is working on fixing it, and I could ‘try’ resetting my network settings, and a restore, to see if ‘maybe’ that might fix it.

    What’s really lame is being lied to and misled. If it is a real and known issue, then admit it, and don’t lie and make people do silly things that won’t fix it just to keep ‘em busy…

    AT&T voicemais : fail

  31. fakeanonymouscommenter says:

    i’m in the nyc area and have 2 phones in my household that both have vmail troubles. usually get notice of mssgs 2-3hrs after they’re left. more than frustrating, actually has messed me up pretty bad multiple times.

  32. Ga Gard says:

    A voicemail was delivered 3 hours after it was left yesterday. I spoke to a technical service rep who said that since my AT&T carrier software was 5.0 (instead of 4.0) I would have to delete and reinstall all of my apps to see which one installed the 5.0.

    I found online that AT&T is installing carrier software 5.0 as it rolls out the new MMS service.

    The rep was evidently poorly trained…..

  33. michaelwithe21 says:

    i hate at&t, I just called my own number realizing i had 5 new messages from 2 days ago… wtf.. i hate life.. i want my VV!!!! i herd i iphone is pushing at&t to straiten out or-els! dam strait!

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