AT&T Ups Upgrade Plans To Two Years
June 10, 2013

AT&T Ups Upgrade Plans To Two Years

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

AT&T users must now wait an extra four months before they´ll be eligible to upgrade to a new device. This change comes just months after Verizon announced they would be changing their upgrade eligibility to a full two years.

This change will affect all new AT&T subscribers and some existing customers. When Verizon announced their new two-year policy, many worried it would spur a trend amongst the other big three carriers. AT&T announced their shift yesterday in a blog post which reads more like a corporate memo, making the wait time between upgrades longer for a large number of American subscribers.

“Today, we´re announcing a 24-month upgrade policy across all of AT&T´s wireless products and services. This aligns device upgrade eligibility with our standard two-year wireless agreement and it applies to any customer whose agreement expires in March 2014 or later,” reads the AT&T statement on their Consumer Blog.

Ma Bell takes care to mention, however, that users on multi-line accounts can share their upgrades with one another, so long as they´re upgrading to a device in the same category. Subscribers looking to borrow an upgrade to go from feature phone to smartphone or smartphone to tablet need not apply. Those looking for an upgrade before two years are now given three options to do so, and none of them are as cheap as a normal upgrade.

First, AT&T offers an early upgrade for subscribers who have already completed six months of their cellular contract. The savings here are minimal as the company claims they´ll only give a “partial discount” to these users, and only if they sign yet another two-year agreement.

Customers can also trade in their old devices to get a discount on the cost of their new phone, though they´ll be paying a large percentage of the cost of an unsubsidized phone. Finally, the third option for subscribers remains simply paying full price of the new phone, the most expensive of all the options. Unsubsidized phones are often quite expensive -- a 16 GB iPhone 5, for instance, costs $649 -- and customers looking to buy a new phone earlier than two years will more than likely have to pay this full price or jump from carrier to carrier in search of better deals.

This new shift is yet another in a long line of seemingly unfriendly moves against their customers. In the past year the company has faced complaints about the way they handled Apple´s FaceTime video chat service.

Last year the iPhone maker announced they´d remove the restriction which limited the use of FaceTime to only those on Wi-Fi networks, pending carrier approval. Sprint and Verizon approved straight away, but AT&T said they´d only support FaceTime over their cellular networks if customers switched to a very unfriendly plan. This was seen as a way to get the remaining hangers-on of the oldest unlimited data grandfathered plans to switch.

After being accused of violation of net neutrality laws, AT&T finally began to reverse this policy. Now AT&T has opened up video chat of Apple´s FaceTime and Google´s Hangout to all customers, regardless of plan.