While a lot of focus has been on Apple and the iPhone 4's antenna problems lately, there are some people that are interested in AT&T and their iPhone exclusivity, as well. A lawsuit filed against Apple and AT&T concerning the carrier's exclusivity has just been granted class action status. The size of class action suits can vary from case to case, but this one has to be on the higher end of the spectrum. Now that the suit has class action status, it involves every person who has bought an iPhone from AT&T since the first device was released in 2007.
Mark Rifkin, lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the case, explained that while AT&T customers do have the option to pay an early termination fee to get out of an iPhone contract early, customers are still locked in with AT&T since it is the only carrier to offer an iPhone. Apple has responded by saying that neither they nor AT&T ever said that the iPhones would become unlocked after two years and that "it is sheer speculation - and illogical - that failing to disclose the five-year exclusivity term would produce monopoly power."
There has been a lot of discussion about the original report from 2007 that AT&T's iPhone exclusivity would last five years, but that was never confirmed by either AT&T or Apple. Even if it was true then, things may have changed in the three years since. There were some reports that perhaps Apple and AT&T renegotiated the iPhone exclusivity in order for AT&T to get the iPad and offer cheap data plans for the device (although those plans have changed since its launch). Either way, no one knows exactly how long the iPhone and AT&T will be exclusive partners except the high-up executives at both AT&T and Apple.