Beginning next week, when you set foot in your local AT&T store you’ll notice something a bit different. No longer will you see free phones and heavily discounted ones. Beginning January 8th, you will only see full priced or monthly payment device pricing on the shelves of your old hangout. AT&T is joining T-Mobile and Verizon in providing handsets with only the full retail or phone payment options. AT&T cites the fact that only 1 out of 5 customers used the upgrade option to purchase their new handsets in the third quarter this year as a major reason for the move. It’s also worth noting that Verizon, who AT&T usually follows to the front lines, made this same move for new customers earlier in the year.
How this all shakes out is that if you are on AT&T and want to use that upgrade to lock in your pricing for two additional years, the time is now to make that move. If you do not, or if you do not have an upgrade available, you’ll be forced into paying the full retail pricing for the device, either upfront or in their installment program. Now the good news is that this is what almost everyone in the grandfathered ‘unlimited data’ plans have been doing for quite some time now, and the process is very smooth. If you don’t have the cash to fork out for four of those $650 iPhone’s for the family, you can always check out some great unlocked devices that will fit the bill nicely as most international and unlocked devices now feature the correct bands for AT&T LTE in the US.
For the average user, you probably won’t see your bill increase much when you subsidise a phone or two. You also won’t walk out of the store paying $1000 for a few new iPhone’s upfront anymore. What you will see is $100 a month added to your bill, which now appears to be smaller than it was, before you add the $100 to it. The one positive about this move is that you will now have the freedom to change carriers at any time, provided you have the cash to pay off the devices you financed through AT&T. If not, we probably haven’t seen the last of the, “We’ll pay your device off!” deals from anyone else in the industry quite yet, so you may still get lucky.
For now, if you are happy with your AT&T service and have an upgrade available, it’s a great time to jump in and use it. If not, you’re going to have a much different experience the next time you head into your AT&T store. Just make sure to read everything before you sign on the dotted line. That ‘free’ phone out the door will certainly not be free for the next two years.