Calls to AT&T have confirmed looming speculation Monday about AT&T hiking its early upgrade and no-commitment pricing for the wireless carrier's expansive line of smartphones, including the iPhone. Although the changes take place this week, only customers who are presently ineligible for upgrade - or unwilling to sign a new two-year contract - will be effected by the across-the-board price hikes.
It sounds as though AT&T is pinning the cost increase on the growing sophistication of smartphones and the added cost of keeping up with the times. AT&T reps, however (including the one I spoke with) have been widely quoted today stressing how "individual account needs" can still be addressed by AT&T on a one-on-one basis.
The company's policy regarding upgrade eligibility, however, doesn't appear to have been altered. Simply put, customers who opt for an upgrade before 12 or 18 months into their contract, or who will only sign a new one year contract (rather than two) will have to pay the new prices to upgrade. For iPhone upgrades, customers are looking at $50 more (iPhone 3GS 8GB is $299, iPhone 4 16GB is $449, iPhone 4 32GB is $549).
As some may recall, AT&T increased early upgrade fees on its smartphones last October from $75 to $200, although the iPhone was spared from that list. Many began speculating after Verizon got the iPhone earlier this year that AT&T would soon revise its early upgrade fees on the iPhone too as yet another measure to help rope in customers for the long haul in an increasingly competitive smartphone environment. It now looks like those folks were right.