AT&T CEO connects on the iPhone

July 23, 2009, 7:03 PM UTC

Randall Stephenson’s business is all about connectivity, which means these days the AT&T chairman and CEO spends a lot of time talking about Apple.

While the company may have an exclusive deal with the maker of the iPhone, Stephenson said don’t expect it to last forever, although he wouldn’t expand further.

When asked if he was completely satisfied with AT&T’s relationship with Apple, Stephenson said, “I don’t think I could get my wife to say that about me so I don’t think I could say that about a business partner.”

While he thinks that on balance the relationship with Apple works well, there are some areas he’d like to “tweak,” such as the expense of the handset. “You subsidize these handsets with the expectation you’re going to get a high-end customer,” he said, speaking on the back of quarterly results, released this morning.

Responding to an audience question, he did acknowledge that the company is having network issues in some markets, centered around were iPhone penetration is highest.

“It’s a big deal,” he said. “All of us rely on these services for our day-to-day activity,” adding that “you’re only going to win in this business if your network quality is the best.”

But Stephenson said no one is experiencing the same volume levels as AT&T, and the company is spending billions of dollars to address these problems.

Stephenson also revealed that he’s a big fan of the Kindle. “I bought one of the first devices out and fell in love with it,” he said. While the Kindle may or may not be the one that got away for AT&T, the company has partnered with e-reader maker Plastic Logic to capitalize on what Stephenson thinks are going to be very important devices in the future.