updated 02:30 pm EDT, Thu September 3, 2009
Just past official summer target
(Updated with statement on tethering) AT&T this afternoon finally established a firm date for when it would add MMS support to iPhones on its network. The carrier will switch on the feature as of September 25th through a software upgrade for iPhone 3G and 3GS owners. Adding the feature will let those running iPhone 3.0 or later firmware send photos, videos and general data like contact cards to any MMS-aware phone.
Original iPhones aren't eligible for the upgrade, though it's never been fully explained as to why this is the case. MMS is a common feature available on many low-end phones and usually isn't regulated by hardware as long as a phone can display images.
The company acknowledged that the release will be just past the official "end of summer" target announced after the iPhone 3GS unveiling at WWDC and elaborated on its reasons behind the months long delay, which saw most every other carrier enable MMS from the moment iPhone 3.0 was available. Officials claim the company had to prepare its network to handle the likely "record" load of data traffic.
News of the addition follows two lawsuits challenging AT&T and Apple for allegedly misleading promotion of the feature and as AT&T has finished some 850MHz upgrades in major cities like New York City, where the 1,900MHz frequency has often been overloaded with iPhone customers.
Update: When contacted by Electronista, AT&T declined to commit to a specific release window for data tethering, which shares a phone's 3G connection over Bluetooth or USB. The company said the addition could "exponentially increase" the network load and that it only plans to offer tethering sometime "in the future." As with MMS, the company wants to make sure its upgrades are complete before it sends a carrier update that enables tethering.
AT&T normally charges extra for tethering but hasn't said what its pricing, if any, will be. Some carriers already factor tethering into their iPhone data plans, however.