AT&T and the iPhone -- Strange bedfellows indeed.

Imagine taking the most famous cell phone in the world and putting it on a carrier that has a storied and much publicized history of repeatedly dropping calls, delayed text messages, poor to no service in the middle of some metropolitan areas and consistently receives below average marks in customer

While AT&T may have made a smart move joining forces with Apple, the fact is their network has simply never been capable of delivering a superior and consistent experience.

Just last year AT&T had much publicized troubles when Apple released the iPhone 3G. The carrier was simply not prepared for the sudden surge in data usage.

Worse still is AT&T's denials that such problems stemmed from their network.

With the release of the iPhone 3GS, U.S. iPhone users will not be able to send multi-media messages (MMS) nor use their iPhone as a tether, two features that users everywhere else in the world can enjoy right away.

In a recent poll by Pricegrabber, 2,411 respondents were asked why they were waiting to purchase an Iphone 3GS. A third of the respondents said they were not buying the phone because of AT&T.

att-3g-iphone-questionsSo, back to the strange bedfellows thing. AT&T has profited from its relationship with Apple, but Apple cannot be pleased in knowing that there are a tremendous number of potential customers who love their product but dislike the carrier.

Where it gets interesting is that AT&T's exclusive contract with Apple ends in 2010, and there is much speculation about what Apple will do.

Many may recall that Apple originally approached Verizon Wireless with the iPhone but was turned away due to the tight demands and control Apple insisted on, essentially wanting Verizon Wireless to be a network provider and nothing more.

However, in light of AT&T's inability to deliver a network capable of such a powerful, data-centric phone, rumors abound that Apple may again discuss a business arrangement with Verizon Wireless.

It will be interesting to see what happens in 2010. Clearly Apple must not be pleased with AT&T's lethargic response to the many criticisms and issues leveled at their network and its performance.

At the end of the day its about business, and in a wildly competitive industry such as wireless, you better have the network to back up the claims.