It’s Cheaper to Change Carriers for AT&T iPhone 4 Users, Than Upgrade to the iPhone 4S on AT&T

As soon as I could check availability pricing for the new iPhone 4S, I checked. I am not eligible, in fact here’s my pricing break down:

I don’t normally complain about such things on TBR — typically I reserve those complaints for Twitter — but in this case it seems to be a very odd problem, one that many users are facing, and a first for AT&T.

Bit of Background

I purchased the first iPhone on day one and before that had been a loyal AT&T customer since I was in seventh grade (over ten years ago). I am, for the lack of a better term, the perfect AT&T customer. It costs them nothing to keep me.

AT&T has given me upgrade pricing for every model of the iPhone I have purchased after that first phone (3G, 3GS, 4), and I have been loyal because of it.

The Big Problem

For the very first time I am actually considering buying an iPhone fully unlocked and getting out of all of my contracts with wireless carriers — mainly because they all suck.

It will set me back $649 to get the 64GB iPhone 4S — the one I want. I can afford it, but why does it cost my wife — who is also on AT&T (family plan, not the primary number) and who also bought an iPhone 4 on day one — only $399 for the same model?

The solution, for me, is easy: buy the new iPhone under my wife’s plan and move it to mine. A bit of a hassle, but substantially cheaper.

However, since complaining about this on Twitter I have received a ton of responses which all say a similar thing.

It seems, for most people, that purchased the iPhone 4 on day one it would actually be cheaper for them to buy a new iPhone 4S on another network (Verizon, usually) and pay the AT&T cancellation fee. These people (myself included) would save — at a minimum — $50.

Let’s just state this again: for many others and for me, it is $50 cheaper to break the AT&T contract and switch to another carrier.


The idiocy of wireless carriers has reached a new low.


Here are a few options that you may want to consider to try and get the upgrade pricing (this applies to AT&T customers, as I have never been a customer of another network):

  • Using a plan of a family member to buy your new phone. This only works if they like hand me down iPhones, or have no interest in buying a new phone for a couple more years.
  • Call AT&T and ask for the upgrade pricing. Threatening to leave to another carrier if they do not relent. This works in many cases, but not in all cases. You need to be courteous, but adamant — fine line and all.
  • Change your account to a Family Plan and add a new line, using that line to buy the iPhone 4S at the upgrade price. I have been on one so long I can’t say for sure if this is a better deal, but it is an option. Do the math first. The fringe benefit here is that you should always then be able to buy a new phone at an upgrade price — I emphasize “should” here.
  • Actually switch carriers.

Why This is Odd

Up and until this iPhone, AT&T has been fantastic about allowing existing iPhone users to upgrade at the upgrade price levels on day one. This has likely kept many customers on their network, after all why leave and pay a termination fee?

Now, with two competitors getting the hottest phone in the country, AT&T decides that it is time to start screwing with (perhaps) their most loyal customers. That’s odd.

(Note about Verizon: I didn’t think Verizon customers would get the pricing, since they — unlike AT&T users — haven’t had the phone for over a year yet. It seems that in my informal Twitter poll, this is the case: no upgrade pricing for iPhone 4 Verizon customers. Likely, it would be cheaper for Verizon customers to switch networks also. Odd stuff.)

Originally posted for members on: October 4, 2011
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