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AT&T Next

A few tidbits about the AT&T Next plans…

Having studied the AT&T Next plans in great detail, and with the help of some great comments to this post, I feel that I have a very good (though not perfect) understanding of the AT&T Next plan.

Based on what I’ve learned, here are some bullet points about the Next plans to keep in mind as you decide how to pay for your next phone.

Please keep in mind these are my thoughts based on what I’ve been told and/or read about—so some of them may be quite wrong! (If you see anything that seems wrong, please let me know. Or if you think of other things to add, let me know that, too.)


Next 12 vs Next 18
The Next 12 and Next 18 plans vary only in the number of payments (20 for Next 12; 24 for Next 18) and when you can upgrade (12 months and 18 months, respectively. See the Upgrades section for more details on the upgrade options.

Using AT&T’s money
The Next plans let you borrow AT&T’s money—at 0% interest, no less!. That’s a good thing. Assuming you have the cash to pay off the phone at some point in the future (see Upgrades), you’ll want to use AT&T’s money as long as possible. So go for Next 18, not Next 12.

How to switch from Next 12 to Next 18
If you signed up for Next 12 due to late-night-itis (umm, that might be me), you can switch to Next 18. Here’s how: You have to wait for your phone to arrive, then—before you activate it—take it to an AT&T store. They’ll be able to switch the plan—at least, that’s what the AT&T rep told me after she consulted with her supervisor.

How to cancel a Next 12/18 purchase
You can apparently cancel an AT&T iPhone 6 order—just call them (1-877-782-8870). I was told I could cancel and reorder as another method to switch to Next 18; I politely declined. But if you want to cancel, apparently this is how you can do it (untested).

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An AT&T Family Share Plan/iPhone 6 cost calculator

In my article on the (possible) vanishing monthly discount for AT&T Family Share Plan users, I included a table with some cost estimates for a given phone and service.

Given the popularity of that article, I’ve done a bit of work to clean up my spreadsheet to make it usable by anyone. You choose which phone, and the size of your shared data plan, and the calculator spits out the results (click the image at right for a large version). As you can see, I’ve added a column for the Next 18 plan, too.

Download the calculators here. The zip archive includes versions for Excel and Numbers. Usage is pretty simple: Click the two red-text cells to set the desired iPhone and your data plan size, and that’s that.

To summarize what I saw in building the worksheet:

  • If you’re on a shared plan with under 10GB of data, going contract will save you a bit of money over two years. You’ll give up flexibility over buying or Next, though.
  • If you’re on a 10GB or more shared data plan, then going Next or buying outright is definitely the way to go. More flexibility, and you save money—assuming you do not upgrade at 12 or 18 months under Next by just sending in the old phone!

Note: I do not vouch for the accuracy of this thing, beyond its role as a “what if” tool. I took the values from AT&T and Apple sites, but those figures could change. Feel free to modify as you wish; it’s a quick and dirty spreadsheet with minimal formatting.

It’s the iPhone 6 Plus for me…I think

After a few chats with AT&T and Apple online reps, some spreadsheet work to examine the costs, and much thinking, I’ve believe I’ve figured out how I’m going to order my iPhone 6 at 12:00am Pacific time tomorrow morning. Here’s what I’m going to do…

I’m going to order the “contract free” 64GB iPhone 6 Plus directly from Apple. The phone is listed as “T-Mobile,” but after chatting with Apple and AT&T reps, and hearing from people in the Twitterverse, it seems this will be usable on AT&T with a simple SIM card swap at the local AT&T store. And buying it off contract means I can keep my AT&T discount, as discussed in the above-linked article.


Update: Based on some comments on this article, I’ve changed my mind: I’m going to try AT&T Next 12. It can be paid off early without penalty, the total cost over two years is the same as buying up front, you still get the $25 monthly discount, and you save the up-front cost.


Why buy directly from Apple, and why choose the monstrous 6 Plus?

The Apple bit is simple: it’s due to their friendly 14 day return policy. (I’ve also confirmed they’ll take back an activated phone without any issues.) AT&T offers a return program, too, but there’s a potential restocking fee for opened devices.

Buying from Apple gives me the chance to test the monster phone in my hands for a week or so before deciding if it’s right for me. I’ve been “testing” this week with the cardboard-and-coin monstrosity seen at right. Somehow, it’s not quite the same—though I think the call quality is a touch better than on my real iPhone badda-bing. I really need to have the beast with me for a week to see how it goes.

Why did I choose to start with the monster phone? First, because I’m really interested in the optical image stabilization feature, and want to see how it works in real life. Second, because I tend to think the Plus might be the rarer of the two phones, therefore harder to get if I do decide to do an exchange in a couple weeks. Finally, it’s the most-different device from my current phone—if I’m going to make a change to something bigger, I might as well start with the really big one.

Of course, I may change my mind at 11:59pm tonight, and start with the smaller Six, with the option to return and replace for the Plus. I figure I’ve got about eight hours left with my two cardboard stand-ins (yes, I made one for the regular Six, too) before I have to make up my mind!

The AT&T Family Share Plan’s vanishing discount—don’t get burned

The popularity of this article led me to write two followups:

Please give these a read if you’d like to know even more about AT&T Next.

Tomorrow (starting at 12:01am Pacific time, apparently) you can order a new iPhone 6/6 Plus. But you probably already knew that. What you may not know is that if you’re on AT&T’s Family Share Plan, and you enrolled in that plan with phones on a two-year contract, you’ll see a large increase in your bill if you upgrade to a new on-contract iPhone 6—even if your current contract has expired and you’re now contract-free.

Why would your bill go up, simply moving from an older to a newer iPhone? That’s never happened in the past. But we’ve not had the Family Share Plan in the past. And when AT&T rolled out this plan, they gave folks an incentive to move to it: they offered a discount for on-contract phones, from a $40 per month per device cost to either $25 (for under 10GB of shared data) or $15 (10GB or more) per month per device. So if you look at your bill, you’ll see something like this:

That discount was applied to the under-contract (at the time) iPhone 5 I moved to the Family Share Plan; the other two lines we have in the plan show the same discount. But if I buy a new iPhone 6 under contract, the discount will go away. If we upgrade all three phones with contract iPhone 6’s, that’d be another $75 per month!

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