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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!

AT&T doesn't exactly hide this fact, but they don't make it completely obvious, either. Here's how AT&T advertises the Family Share Plan's monthly cost for 10GB of shared data (on the Family Pricing tab of the linked page, but I can't link directly to the tab):

The larger text explains that you can add more lines for $15 per line on a 10GB shared plan. But there's a catch, and the catch is in the "No Annual Service Contract Pricing" double-asterisk footnote, which reads:

No Annual Service Contract options include AT&T Next, bring your own, purchase at full price or month-to-month.

This footnote explains the obvious: phones under contract aren't eligible for the No Annual Service Contract structure, which makes complete sense.

Still, that explanation doesn't tell you that your costs will be different with a phone under contract. But if you scroll down to the "Already an AT&T customer" section and click on the "Click here for upgrade requirements" link, you can find the hidden bad news there (added emphasis mine):

For plans 10GB or higher, customers with smartphones on 2-year agreements prior to 2/2/14 are eligible for the $15/month access rate. For plans 2GB to 6GB, customers with smartphones on 2-year agreements prior to 3/9/14 are eligible for the $25/month access rate. Upgrade: To keep discounted pricing with a new phone, buy via AT&T Next, buy at full price, or bring your own phone.

There it is: if you want to keep the $15 or $25 per month access rate, you cannot do so with a phone under contract. You must either use AT&T Next, or pay full retail price for an iPhone 6.

That means it's time for the math to determine the most cost effective way to buy a new iPhone 6. One key assumption here is that you're planning to keep the iPhone 6 for two years; things will change if you choose to get out early, but I'm not going to get into the alternative scenarios.

The following shows only the variable costs related to a new iPhone 6 64GB model on the 10GB Family Share Plan—the base $100 cost of that plan isn't included, as it doesn't change.

WhenLine ItemBuyNextContract
Up FrontiPhone 6 - 64GB$749$0$299
Upgrade Fee$0$0$40
TOTAL UP FRONT$749$0$339
MonthlyAccess Charge$40$40$40
Family Share Discount-$25-$25$0
Phone financing$0$37$0
TOTAL MONTHLY$15$52$40
TotalsMonthly - 24 months$360$1,109$960
Plus up-front costs$749$0$339
TWO YEAR COST$1,109$1,109$1,299
Notes: Buy = Purchase phone outright. Next = AT&T Next 12 financing plan. Contract = Purchase with two-year agreement.

The AT&T Next 12 plan requires 20 payments over the 24 months; the four "free" months are reflected in the figures above. Costs for the iPhone came from Apple's iPhone order page.

As you can see, buying it outright is the same as using Next, and it saves about $190 over the contract purchase. (Technically, it saves me $200, because my contract doesn't expire until September 14th: AT&T would require an extra $100 if I order a phone under contract on the 12th—even though I wouldn't receive it until the 19th. How's that for unfair?)

Next is appealing if you don't have the cash in hand to buy the phone now. Keep in mind, though, that you don't own the phone until after all 20 payments have been made. You can also turn it in after 12 months, but you have to do just that: turn it in, and get a new phone on a new plan.

If you buy the phone outright, you can upgrade any time you like (because you're not on contract), and you get to keep (sell on your own, give to relatives, etc.) the current phone. For me, that's the sealer to this deal: I'll be buying my iPhone 6 for cash, saving $190 over the contract, and having the flexibility to do with it what I like in the future.

(Per the comments below, you can apparently prepay your Next financing at any time with no penalty, turning your phone into an owned device, with all the benefits above. This may be the best route; I have four hours left to investigate.)

Please note that the above is based on my research, though I confirmed the lack of discounts for contract phones with an AT&T rep during an online chat. Proceed at your own risk, but you really should look closely before ordering at 12:01am tomorrow!

335 Comments

  1. I don't think you have it quite right on the Next program. First, it isn't a lease, it is a 0% payment plan. The amount you pay is based on the cost of the phone divided by either the 20 or 24 months of the Next plan you choose. After you have finished the term of the Next payment plan you own the phone outright.

    Of course you also have the option to trade in early, but then you have to turn in your current phone. You then can start again with the new phone. The downside is you lose any resale value in the original phone when you turn it in. All you get is a waiver on the remaining 8 months of payments plus the fun of using a new phone for no money down.

    Essentially what AT&T is doing is taking out up to $25 from your subsidized cell plan to reflect either a) you bought the phone outright or b) you have a separate 0% finance plan for the phone.

    1. I think I understood it right, but the use of the word lease was wrong—I just changed it to financing. I do state below that you own it after 20 payments.

      1. Then I don't understand why the Next plan would be a $100 more expensive than buying the phone outright since it is a 0% payment plan. You take the price of the phone and divide it by the number of payments. There should be no difference in the net price of the phone.

        That is what you got wrong.

        1. Ah! Thanks. And I figured it out—I had the iPhone 6 Plus in the spreadsheet, instead of the iPhone 6. With that change, Next and Buy have the same total cost.

          I still prefer to buy outright, so I can control when I upgrade, but it's nice to see AT&T adjusting the monthly cost to eliminate the double subsidy. (In the first version of Next, there was no discount on the $40 monthly charge, so you were paying full price for the phone and paying the subsidy as if you'd bought on contract.)

          Thanks again;
          -rob.

          1. Exactly right. We are slowly transitioning to a European type system where you pay for the cell plan separately from the outright or financed phone. Thanks T-Mobile!

          2. I did just read through the small print on the Next plan and you can, in fact, pay off the installment plan at any time. So, again, I'm not really sure what you gain from buying the phone at full price upfront other than maybe being able to have AT&T unlock the phone a bit earlier. Otherwise, if you don't need the phone unlocked right away, just use Next and prepay the balance a month or so before you need it unlocked.

          3. PS, you still have this in the post "I’ll be buying my iPhone 6 for cash, saving $100 over two years," which, as we agree, is not correct. And, "you can upgrade any time you like (because you’re not on contract), and you get to keep (sell on your own, give to relatives, etc.) the current phone" is also not correct.

            You can prepay your Next plan and there is no 2 year service contract, there is *no additional flexibility offered for buying at full price* vs. buying via the Next 0% financing plan. Just more cash out the door right away.

          4. Also, the up-front cost for iPhone 6 via next is ~$90 b/c you do have to pay sales tax up-front on Next (and other Next-like plans). It still ends up being cheaper than on-contract though.

          5. Regarding tax: I always leave that out because we don't have sales tax in Oregon, sorry! So yes, taxes must be accounted for.

            -rob.

    2. You seem to miss the fact that this so called AT&T discount is basically a way of forcing you to buy a phone at full retail price. I have two on-contract smartphones at $15 monthly access charge. They just push a huge charge increase on all new contracts and for new AT&T next customers they get to make that same money by charging full retail price.

      1. I would need to see the specifics of your plan but I suspect that you have a plan, like I do, that had a one time benefit that is something ATT did when they rolled out Next and the mobile share plans. If you opted in, they would treat your existing 2 year phone contract as if you had entered into it with a fully paid phone, rather than a subsidized phone. In other words, as Rob shows in the spreadsheets, they were giving you $25 off the $40 access charge.

        This policy *only* began in March/April of this year and, as Rob notes it is going away. It was not offered last year, or the year before that, or the year before that. It is a one-time amazing benefit for current 2 year contract customers that was gifted to them when Next was launched...it was not part of the original contracts signed up last year at this time (I know, I have 3 phones that were signed up them) nor any prior year contracts.

        So you are correct. For contract customers who opted into the mobile share plans the subsidy for any existing smart phone was more or less (depending on if it is a $15 or $25 discount) gifted to them. You will not, in fact, pay full price for the phone. I and Richard discussed this and are both amazed that this has happened. It is not something anyone who signed up a year ago (or who has ever been on contract) expected and enjoy it now that it has happened to you.

        Giving you a phone for less than the full price is a one time thing. Both for new 2 year contract customers (as Rob notes) and for 2 year contract customers from the past several years. As Rob explains it *will not be repeated.* It was unique. Again, I know as I have had ATT iPhones (many years) no carrier has ever done this.

        1. I see. What I found today from two different Apple Specialists was that the phone they sell for ATT to offer under ATT Next or at full retail price is NOT unlocked. She specifically mentioned that if you go to an ATT retail store and pay full price or through installments you get a phone that is locked to ATT, regardless if you pay off early under NEXT. This means that even though you own your phone you cannot take it to a different carrier unless you unlock it via more obscure methods. She also says that T-Mobile phone is the only one they sell unlocked, but ships with a T-mobile SIM ready for activation. Both warned me that ATT SIM may not be compatible with that Phone. Finally they said there is no date available for unlocked sim-free iPhones. Any thoughts?

          1. Actually, the way it works is, it's locked to AT&T. You choose Next. After 2 months, you pay off phone. Then you fill out the form for unlocking (via AT&T, Google 'ATT phone unlock form') and within a period of time (I forget how long requests take), the phone will be unlocked after all payments. This is coming from AT&T

          2. Yes, that's true—these are not unlocked phones when on Next, or even if paid in full. However, AT&T does make it relatively easy to unlock; they even have a page to start the process.

            Basically, they will unlock any phone designed to run on the AT&T network that's fully paid. So if you paid full price for one, you should be able to use that page and unlock it. But if you're on contract or Next, you can't, because the phone isn't fully yours.

            With Next, you can just make the full balance payments, then you could unlock it. With the contract, though, you're stuck for two years.

            Hope that helps;
            -rob.

          3. As my two compatriots have noted, you can unlock the fully paid up phone via their Web site. We did it for an old iPhone 5 we were selling and it was unlocked within just a few hours (though you do have to do a reset/restore with USB and iTunes on your computer for it to be active).

            Two things to note about ATT unlocking. First it is limited to 5 unlocks per year per account. Second, although the limit is unlocks per year, the Web site doesn't distinguish between successful unlocks requests and unsuccessful ones. While I was able to get the iPhone 5 unlocked, the other unlock requests on other phones were unsuccessful, not because of anything complicated, but it isn't clear from the instructions on the site whose SSN to use and, for a business line, how to enter the business name in two fields titled First Name and Last Name. When I tried to unlock those I kept getting rejected because the name and/or SSN did not match their records.

            Because I didn't realize that unsuccessful attempts would count against my 5 I didn't really pay much attention until I tried again and was told in an error message I had used up our allotment of unlock requests for the year.

            I ended up calling ATT a couple weeks later on another matter and asked them about this as well. They informed me that the Customer Service folks can override that error message and submit a request for unlocking that would go through, provided I had not had 5 successful unlocks for the year. Because I had already presold the phones as locked I never bothered to follow up on this info, but I will when we get our Next iPhone 6 phones. We are going to prepay the balance on our Discover Card to get loss/damage protection and an extra year of warranty coverage.

  2. I didn't see an option on Apple's website to purchase the phone with AT&T service. The only options were AT&T Next and on contract. How can you purchase the phone when using AT&T service?

    1. As noted, you'd need to buy the T-Mobile "Contract Free" phone; I've heard from a couple of users and two Apple reps who confirmed it's a truly unlocked phone. Then you visit the AT&T store, and they'll give you a new SIM (free) for the phone.

      But I'm also planning on having AT&T's iPhone page open at midnight, to see if they offer an off-contract phone, too.

      -rob.

      1. Today I found from two different Apple Specialists that the phone they sell for ATT to offer under ATT Next or at full retail price is NOT unlocked. There is no availability date for unlocked sim-free iPhone shipments other than the T-Mobile no-contract iPhone which ships with a T-mobile SIM ready for activation. I was "warned" that ATT sim may not be compatible with the phone shipped under T-Mobile. I was also told that if I go to an ATT retail store and pay full price for a new iPhone or pay through installments under Next program I will get a phone that is locked to ATT. So if I pay off early I may own the phone but I cannot take it to a different carrier unless it is unlocked via more obscure methods.

  3. Forgot to add, that those of us who lucked into this $25 discount on our original subsidized plan have made out like bandits. We purchased the phone on the basis that we would pay for the cell plan which would include, effectively, a subsidy for our phone but AT&T forgave the phone subsidy when we were put into the program. So, for example, we bought 2 iPhone 5S last year in September, paid the subsidy through getting the discount in March/April (about 6 months) and now are free to sell our phones outright to gazelle while upgrading to the iPhone 6 via ATT Next. We essentially paid AT&T only 6 months of the projected 24 months of subsidy plus the original $199. We are selling the phones for almost exactly what we paid for them (199 upfront + 150 of subsidies). AT&T meanwhile is eating the difference between the full cost to them from Apple, $650ish, less the $350 we paid or $300.

    1. This is a great web page. A friend and I spent a lot of time reaching these conclusions too, but it's great to have it validated.

      On this specific point from jehrler, we have been rubbing our eyes in disbelief too. If I understand it correctly, anyone who starts a *new* 2-year contract now will :

      - not be allowed the monthly discount described in this page ($15 per phone, or $25 per phone if 10GB plan or higher) so that's 24*$15 or 24*$25 in discounts lost!
      - not be allowed to sell their existing device without upgrading and paying early termination fees ($250 or more)

      But anyone who is on an *existing* 2-year contract has been able, since March/April, to:

      + switch on this discount of $15 (or $25) per month per device
      + make themselves immediately upgrade eligible (through AT&T Next)
      + sell the phone as soon as they upgrade with no ETF

      I was slow on the uptake of this opportunity. But I switched to the Mobile Value Share a month ago to activated this new program. I therefore have two 11 month old 5S phones that are getting $25/month discount each, and that I can upgrade and sell immediately if I want to (using AT&T NExt for the upgrade).

      jehrler - does this agree with your conclusions? Any catch?!

      1. That's what ATT (several persons) have told me. Current contract people who switched to the Mobile Value Share are getting a real deal. I had to ask several times because it truly made no sense to me but, hey, who am I to argue!

        As for your first point, anyone starting a new 2 year subsidized contract "lose" the discounts only in the sense that they are using (some) of the lost discounts as part of the payment for the phone. The non-discounted price is how ATT recoupes the money that they paid Apple for the phone in excess of whatever your upfront price was. Still, it is not a great deal over the life of the plan, as Rob notes, and it is much less flexible both for upgrades and switching to another carrier.

      2. Your summary is great. The only thing you forgot to mention is that your bill is still going to increase some if you buy a new iPhone, because now you have to pay for the phone. I'm in that boat; lose the $25 discount if we go with a 2-year plan, but gain the $25 discount back if we go with Next. It's clear as mud to me, but I'm slowly beginning to understand, and it only took two hours of research!haha

        1. Well, the bill will increase if you use Next, because you need to pay the phone loan. But if you buy up front, no change in bill — but using AT&T's money makes more sense than spending a big chunk of yours all at once.

          -rob.

  4. Rob...per the tables i've been seeing the cost outright for the iPhone 6 64gb is $749 outright or via any of the Next plans. It's not $42 a month...more like $37.50 (Next 12) or $31.25 (Next 18). Thats $750 which is the price for that phone purchased outright. There is no loss of $100 from using Next if you pay for the full term.

    1. You are correct and what I was trying to point out to Rob by saying Next is simply a 0% financing plan. There really is no downside to doing that vs. paying full price upfront (other than not having AT&T unlock the phone right away). Even then, I don't think there is anything prohibiting you from prepaying the 0% payment plan early if you want to unlock the phone or for some other reason.

      1. Yep, fixed—see my comment above; I had accidentally used the iPhone 6 Plus instead of the base 6. All better now!

        -rob.

  5. BTW, according to everyone I spoke to at ATT, I am eligible to upgrade today via ATT Next to the iPhone 6 even though I am only 12 months into my 2 year contract because I switched to the Family Share Plan and the phones we currently have are ours to sell/give away.

    You should check because you probably would be the same if you upgrade via Next (no contract penalty) and, as pointed out above, there is no cost or flexibility penalty.

    1. Odd—when I spoke to them, they said nothing of the like, even though I'm but two days away from contract expiration. I'll ask again, thanks.

      -rob.

      1. On the Web site it should show "upgrade eligible via ATT Next". I then called them to ask what it meant for the cost of the phone (0% financing), the contract commitment (none) and what happens to my current phone (I can sell/give away)

  6. Thanks Rob. Glad I found this information out before i used my upgrade to purchase the 128gb iPhone 6 plus. Guess I need to re-evaluate what i want to pay. I usually upgrade every year, using either my wife's line or mine for the upgrade price. Now i have a couple of hours to decide what to do.

  7. Are you sure that if you go next vs. outright purchase you don't have to trade in your existing phone if you aren't off contract?

    1. You're not -on- a contract, as far as phone service. You're on an installment payment contract to buy the phone. So if you're on Next, and want to trade in at 12 months, you do have to trade in—and you'll forfeit the 12 payments you've made. AT&T will "forgive" the next eight, but you'll be getting a new device on (presumably) a new Next plan.

      So if you want to sell at 12 months, you'd buy out your Next contract (for whatever you owe on the phone itself). Then the phone is yours, you're not under telephone-service contract, and you can do what you want—presumably sell the old on the open market, buy a new on Next.

      If you just upgrade at 12 months by sending them the phone, I don't think Next makes sense. But if you buy out the contract, then it does (as it'd be just like buying it for full price).

      Does that make sense?

      -rob.

      1. I think Joey is asking about if you have to trade in the phone for people who are *now* on the Mobile Value Share plan with a phone "under contract".

      2. Thank you for setting up this posting. One concern is the possibility that the price for service will continue. It seems as though with the "2 year contract" option, you forego the Mobile Share discount, but lock in the cost of service (voice and data). Alternatively, with the "Next" option, you gain the discount, but could eventually lose the bargain if ATT service costs rise. Interested in your thoughts.

        1. That may be, though with the Next option you can 1) pay off the phone, have ATT unlock the phone, and move carriers or 2) pay off a locked phone, resell it on the open market, and find a better deal at another carrier or 3) some combination of 1 and 2.

          1. Also, I don't think a contract purchase has a locked-in cost either: if they raise their network rates, you'd see an increase. (Something like: "While the subsidized portion of your bill hasn't changed, we've increased our network access costs by $5 a month for all users." But this is just a guess; I don't know how it'd actually work.)

            -rob.

    2. Am i 100% sure, no. Have I called and asked several different persons at ATT what I can do with my current phone, and have they told me that I am free to do with it what I please? Yes.

      It made and makes no sense to me but it is what I have been told time and again.

      Maybe somebody didn't think it through when they set this up, maybe I will have to turn in the phone or maybe they just didn't think many people would catch on and the wanted to keep the administrative costs down. I just don't know.

      Here's the thing, though, as it stands for those of us who have taken advantage of the Mobile Value Share we are, every month, not paying $15 or $25 toward the subsidy that ATT incurred. So, even without the ability to upgrade, this plan was pretty costly as they will lose up to 18 months of $25 subsidies, or $450 compared to what was in the original contract.

      That, too, I thought was insane and couldn't believe but it has worked out that way.

      1. My theory is that they think people on AT&T next will be tempted to upgrade more frequently (every 12 or 18 months) than traditional contract purchasers (upgrade every 2 years), which is better for them in the long term. It also simplifies, I think, the business relationship between carrier (AT&T) and vendor (apple) I think, which may be motivating them.

        I have also check with reps on the phone and in the store. And as you point out, even without upgrading you already get the big benefit. But the upgrade with no ETF and no activation just makes it even sweeter.

        1. Other than keeping them as ATT customers, I'm not sure what is the upside of frequent upgrades for them. The phones are financed at 0% so there is that cost. Maybe they assume a lot of people will trade in their phones, rather than paying them off, so they can make some money in the secondary market?

    3. They told me that if I upgrade with Next, then my current on-contract phone (11 months into 24) becomes mine, with no early termination fee, no activation fee for the new upgrade either. All I'm trying to work out now is when this current phone (5S) can be unlocked after I do the AT&T Next upgrade to 6+

      Basically it's like jehrler said - a great deal for us lucky bandits who were on a contract. I basically conclude that anyone who bought the iPhone 5S from AT&T on a 2 year contract, should definitely upgrade it to a 6/6+ using AT&T Next. And if they were really smart they should have activated the mobile share value as soon as it offered discounts back in April/may this year.

      1. Absolutely! If it is as represented ATT has really offered us a heck of a deal. It is funny that people didn't catch on to this right away. When I called about the Mobile Value Share plan back in when I got the email offer I literally could only see upsides, both stopping paying the current subsidy fee (we are at 10GB so get $25 per phone) AND getting ownership of the phone after only 6 months of subsidy payments.

        I really thought someone would have written up (like you Rob?) what a great deal this was for current ATT contract customers.

        1. My thought back then was 'there must be some catch'. Only this week (while looking at the upgrade to the 6) did I really understand. I switched to this plan and backdated it to august. I agree that an article on this for all under contract AT&T users is a good idea, regardless of whether they want to upgrade.

  8. Keep this important fact in mind about paying off a Next installment plan, directly from the Make a Payment section on att.com - "You must pay the entire balance when you pay off your installment plan early." I had hoped, when I sell my iPhone 5, that I could apply that money to a portion of my remaining Next payments. But apparently it's all or nothing.

    1. Yes, that is true. But when comparing it to paying cash for a new iPhone 6 outright, it still is much better cash flow.

      BTW, since it is 0% financing there really is no reason, if you are not fully paying it off to unlock or sell the phone at retail, to want to prepay any amount on the Next payment plan. Take your iPhone 5 and put it in your credit union and get some interest or pay down some credit card or other non 0% loan (car maybe?).

  9. I upgraded to the Family Data Plan back in May, the $25 off per line plan described above. My wife's phone is a 5 that is two years old and mine is a 5S ... One of us has always been eligible for upgrade, so she gets my old one and I get the new one every year, then we sell hers.

    So this is a year where hers is the phone that is eligible. When I checked my upgrade eligibility yesterday, I could have sworn it said I am only eligible through next and I'd have to turn in the phone. She should be fully eligible since we've had the 5 for two years now.

    But to me, the key for whether or not I go Next vs. outright in 105 minutes is if I can keep the phone while going Next. I agree with you jehrler, losing the fee on those subsidies is sweet. But if I can't sell the old phone then they are getting most of that back. That's really the key.

  10. Rob, thanks for this. I was doing a cost-analysis myself, and here's the big kicker: purchase protection and extended warranty. When you get those benefits from a credit card company, they cover *the amount of the purchase* -- at least that's what I gather from American Express's verbage on their site. Imagine you buy your device and it gets dropped or smashed inside of 30 days. Bought it outright? Full refund for your replacement phone! Subsidized or payment plan? Partial refund and no phone but still on contract! I hope this helps your decision-making. It helped mine.

    1. Very valid points, for those with such cards. Our cards don't offer either of those features, though, so it's not as important to me. But I'll probably buy AppleCare on this phone, just in case.

      -rob.

    2. Interesting point. Did you have. Credit card company confirm it's like this?

    3. I have been weighing exactly that. Whether to run the risk and just pay the Next installments or to prepay the phone at once to get Discover's purchase protection (90 days theft/loss, 1 year extra warranty). That's why I'm going for ATT Next and then a prepay.

      1. Assuming there's another good phone in a year's time then I'll probably upgrade again, so the additional year of warranty isn't really useful to me.

        The 90 day protection on my card offers accidental damage coverage too, as well as theft, which is nice. I don't think loss is covered though - that seems rare.

        Ultimately $849 up front isn't a very appealing thing to me! And the CC purchase benefits aren't that beneficial.

        1. I'm not sure what the difference is between loss and theft to be honest. In either case you no longer have possession of the phone.

          As for the warranty, if you are happy with the iPhone 6 and don't upgrade to the 6S? then you will be able to enjoy not paying anything for an iPhone for a few months and be covered under warranty. The trade off is that when the 7 comes out your phone will be 2 generations behind so will have less value. I haven't fully thought this whole scenario through whether the annual upgrades via Next with buying out the phone and reselling is a better plan than just paying the full amount for the iPhone 6. I doubt trading the iPhone 6 in to ATT will workout as well as paying for the phone and reselling but who knows.

          Options are valuable and having a warranty to cover all the options is a nice benefit.

          Oh, I am in the midst of an offer from Discover that if I charge 2,000 per month for 5 months they will give me an extra $300 in cash back. The phone payments will make this much easier and so it, plus the warranty letting me comfortably keep my options open is kinda pushing me to prepay.

          YMMV

  11. Richard's post wasn't there when I posted. That sounds pretty solid in terms of me keeping the phone. Basically makes it interest free payments for 12 months before next years upgrade, and I can decide if I could sell it for more than what I'd owe. If so, pay it off and sell. If not, just give it back to AT&T.

  12. Your chart is for the 10GB data plan. It looks like the 2-year contract option might be better for people on smaller data plans because the discount drops from $25/month to $15/month, adding $240 in cost to the first two columns. Or is my math off?

    1. Good point, and I think that's true—the $10 difference in the lower-tier plans makes the contract more attractive (other than the negatives that come with the two-year contract, of course). So then it's a question of convenience (upgrade when you want) vs. spending the extra money.

      -rob.

  13. Rob, I chatted with AT&T and they told me even though I'm still on contract for another 5 days, they have same month upgrade eligibility and there shouldn't be an extra $100 fee.

    1. That's good—their online tool is showing me the extra $100 charge. But since I think I'll use Next, it's not going to matter.

      -rob.

  14. What about people on regular family plans (the ones where each line has its own data cost and we share 550 mins) and not "family share" plans? Does this buying outright math still apply?

    1. You should talk with AT&T—I think you'll find you'll save a bunch of money if you move to the shared data plan. But they can show you the before/after to be sure.

      I'm not sure, though, outside the share plan as I'm not there any more :).

      -rob.

  15. Question...Does anyone know if my family never upgraded to the family mobile plan will we still be able to stay on our normal plan? And will we get a 2 year contract price without getting Next?

    1. I think you can keep whatever plan you're on…and you can buy a new phone same as anyone else: contract, pay in full, or Next. The question is only the economics of each choice, and that will depend on your current plan's costs.

      -rob.

  16. How about those of us under the "old unlimited plans from AT&T" I have one line I will be getting next and the other line I was planning on getting an upgrade both of them are out of contract?

    1. As I understand it, if you want to keep unlimited, you have to stick to the current plan—but I don't know exactly what that means relative to Next and a new phone. Best bet is an online chat with the AT&T reps; they seem quite knowledgeable.

      1. i had a less than stellar chat with one this morning after waiting 20 minutes. I have found AT&T chat to be fairly worthless as compared to Verizon chat...

        1. Huh; that's too bad. I wonder if they have about 50,000 brand new online agents on call this week :).

          -rob.

  17. I ordered an iPhone 6+ on a new two year contract upgrade. We have a four line family share plan with all phones either on 2 year contracts or bought at the full price.

    Is there a way I can switch back to the plan I had before changing over to family share? That way I don't have to pay the extra $25 a month?

    1. The lost discount is because of the contract phone—you have to pay for the discount somehow, and that's how you're doing it. I assume you can cancel the order and buy via Next or full price if you want, but I doubt AT&T will reinstate a plan.

      With that said, try the online chat with AT&T; they were very helpful to me many times over the last week.

      regards;
      -rob.

  18. "There it is: if you want to keep the $15 or $25 per month access rate, you cannot do so with a phone under contract. You must either use AT&T Next, or pay full retail price for an iPhone 6."

    ---so after all of the many, many, many, many comments here......if if use ATT Next Plan - I still get to keep my $25 Discount that I currently received...RIGHT? but if i buy it at the discounted rate (2 year contract) - then I will lose that $25 discount?

    1. Yes, you keep it if you use Next or buy outright; you lose it if you buy on contract. That's because you have to pay AT&T for the discounted phone (they're not giving that money away).

      -rob.

      1. Except they did and still are giving it away for current iPhone two-year contract folks who sign up for the Mobile Value Plan. A really amazing deal as Richard and I have discussed.

        1. Right—anyone with multiple phones and not yet on Family Share, really should move -now-, before AT&T changes their mind.

          -rob.

  19. Anyone try and pre-order an iPhone 6 with AT&T at full price? I don't see how you can do it and online support was of no help. My rep yesterday suggested I come into the store to do it but was hoping to save a trip. Also sounds like the T-Mobile route will work just fine too - I have an AT&T 5S right now, do I simply move the SIM card to the 6 or is it another trip to AT&T after I receive?

    1. I checked my wife's phone, and I see it—there's a "no annual contract" option right there with Next and regular contract options.

      -rob.

      1. I have that option to but when I select, no phones appear?! Maybe a glitch but I have not seen anything publicly about buying a phone at full price from AT&T like the other carriers including Verizon have done. Does anyone know if the T-Mobile route will work?

        1. I only see that option -after- selecting a phone. I'm doing this through the Upgrade screen in account management, not on the iPhone pre-order page. Not sure if that makes a difference or not.

          -rob.

          1. Odd... anyway, my AT&T biz rep just confirmed that I can buy the T-Mobile model and move the SIM card over. Problem solved!

  20. So Rob, did you end up going with the Next plan? And did you not have any ETF?

    As ATT promised, I ordered iPhone 6 via the Next plan and there is no ETF, no trade-in even though our phones a only a year into the contract. Still don't understand why but am happy to take it!

    1. I ordered a 6 Plus on the Next plan, no ETF (my contract expired in only two days, so that doesn't surprise me). Somewhat sad that it won't be here until early October, but it seems the Plus is in very short supply.

      -rob.

  21. So here is my question. I have 1 line, with an iPhone 4. I do have the mobile share plan (even though I only have 1 line) and I pay about $70 a month. I haven't been under contract for over a year now. I can not figure out what my best option is at this point. And every time I think I have it figured out, I read another article that throws me for a loop. Any thoughts?

    1. Which Family Share Plan do you have, and does it currently (if you login to the AT&T site and view your bill) show a discount against the $40 per month access fee?

      -rob.

      1. I get a $15 a month Mobile Share Value Credit. I have the Mobile Share Value plan w/2GB. If that helps.

        1. And which phone were you considering? (Sorry, should've asked that before.) Also, I think I'll try to formalize the spreadsheet and share it in a new post; then everyone can look at their options.

          -rob.

  22. I am thinking of making the switch to the family value plan, we have three iPhones. Right now i use my phone for tethering so that I can have data available on my MacBook and ipad. Does anyone know how or if tethering works under the family value plan? Having a hard time finding the answer online.

    1. Tethering is included and works great; I use it regularly.

      -rob.

      1. So you can just turn it on in the iPhone settings? No need to add anything to your plan online or using the AT&T app?

        1. Yep, there's a button in Settings to turn it on/off. Once on, connect from other devices, done. We stopped buying iPads with cellular, and just tether now–since we've always got a phone with us.

          -rob.

  23. If I switch to AT&T Next now (contract isn't up until October 2015), do I get to keep my current iPhone to give to a family member who's phone is broke? One of our 4 lines is elgible for an upgrade now. Would it make more sense to use that eligibility on my line via a transfer and stay with a 2 year contract? One more question, if I go with Next can I keep the phone after making the 20 payments even if I upgrade to a new one (so, I could pass the 6 to a family member who has a 5)? I couldn't find these answered on their website. Thanks!

    1. If you are eligible to upgrade via ATT Next then yes, you get to keep your current iPhone to gift or sell. You can't stay with a two year contract if you go to Next, it is contractless.

      If you make the 20 payment you can do what you want with the phone. It is yours to do with as you please. If you upgrade you can either do it by paying full $ or upgrading using the 0% financing in Next.

      Again, the Next plan is contractless. You are paying a flat fee for your cell plan/data and then financing a phone at 0% over 20 or 24 months.

      The advantage under the Family shared plans (and maybe others, but that you should investigate as I don't know) is that in addition to getting 0% financing you also get $ off your cell plan ($15 or $25) because you are not subsidizing the purchase of the phone under the cell plan...it is financed separately.

        1. I"m not sure if this applies exactly but I have an iPhone 5 with 5 months left on the contract and one a Family Share Plan (not Next). I spoke with an AT&T rep this evening as I was interested in the early upgrade eligibility for an iPhone 6 and possibly switching to a Next plan. She told me that I could make the change to Next, get the iPhone 6 but that my iPhone 5 would remain locked as it was still under contract for 5 more months. That will be an issue if I'm looking to sell my iPhone 5 and could be an issue, Erich, in your situation as you're looking to hand your old phone off to someone else.

          1. Got a clarification from another AT&T agent. The phone will be locked to AT&T service for 5 months and then can be unlocked upon request. However, because I'd be moving to a new plan with the upgrade, there would be no additional fees for my existing iPhone 5 and I'll be able to sell it outright if I wish.

  24. I dont quite get the Next plan, may its because I'm the only person on my plan so there's no family discounts needed. But wouldn't it be cheaper to pay $200 for the phone and a 2-year contract than to pay $500 over 18 months in the Next plan? The extra 6 months you keep an "old" phone still saves you a ton of money in the long run by getting the contract. It just seems like a gimmick that is ripping off consumers who are desperate to have the newest phone every 12 months. I also have unlimited data grandfathered in so switching the 2GB data plan for $25 less doesnt make sense either.

    1. As I noted above, if there is no discount on a plan you want or have, then you are correct, Next doesn't make any sense as you are, as Rob put it, paying for the phone twice. First with the monthly 0% payments and second with the subsidy built into the cell plan. But if, as is true with the Family Shared Plans, you get a discount for being on Next then it can actually be a great financial and highly flexible option.

  25. So here is my question. I have 2 line, both iPhone 4. I do have the mobile share plan (1GB) and I am getting the $15 discount. I haven’t been under contract for a few months now. We plan to switch to the iphone 6 64GB. Also plan to keep the phone for 2 years. What would the best option in this case be ? Help really appreciated!

    1. With the $15 dollar discount it is a pretty close call between getting a new 2 year contract phone for $X down (and where you will lose the $15 discount) or going with upgrading via the Next plan for zero down, 0% financing and keeping the $15 discount. You really are going to have to write his one out with the actual numbers. My guess, and it is only a guess, that you may pay just a bit more. I believe, using Robs chart above, you will, if you go the full 24 months, pay $1,109 + $240 (the $240 is because the discount is $10 less per month) for a total of 1349. On contract it would be $1299. For that $50 extra dollars you do get much more flexibility as you can upgrade to the next phone earlier, switch carriers at any time, etc.

      At the larger mobile share plans with the $25 discount it is not even a close call (Next is cheaper and more flexible). With the smaller plans it ends up costing a bit more (~$2.08 per month) but you are not under contract and can upgrade early with several no penalty options.

      1. Thanks jehrler! Wish I had found this article earlier.. Unfortunately I already preordered from Apple and picked 2 year contract.. do you know if I can switch now to next ?

        1. Can't imagine why not. You have the option to return phones for 14 days. I would call ATT and see if they can swing it in the next couple days. Wouldn't call today as they are probably swamped.

  26. Firstly, thank you Rob and all of you for commenting on the upgrade options. I have been considering upgrading to the iPhone 6 from my 5, but didn't like the idea of losing my Mobile Share Value Savings (of $15 a month).

    However, I crunched the numbers using the similar strategy above. I didn't see much different from the AT&T Next 12/18 plans simply because we were doing a cost analysis over 24 months.

    When Line Item Buy Next Contract
    Up Front iPhone 6 – 16GB $649 $0 $199
    Upgrade Fee $0 $0 $40
    TOTAL UP FRONT $649 $0 $239
    Monthly Access Charge $40 $40 $40
    Family Share Discount ($15) ($15) $0
    Phone financing $0 $27.08 $0
    TOTAL MONTHLY $25 $52 $40
    Totals Monthly – 24 mo $600 $1,249.92 $960
    Plus up-front costs $649 $0 $239
    TWO YEAR COST $1,249 $1,250 $1,199

    Did my math check out? Am I actually in a situation where signing up for the 2 year contract is the better deal over 24 months? I got the payment info from the preorder page on AT&T as well.

    Thanks,
    Ryan

    1. Sorry about the formatting... tried to make it a table-like format but the website removed all those spaces.

    2. I am in the same situation, but the only difference is I am going for a 64GB Iphone 6.. In this case too, seems like the 2 year contract would save me more money.. but not sure if my calculations are correct.. look forward to your response Rob!

    3. That looks right. As I mentioned above to add123, with the smaller family plans and its smaller discounts it becomes a bit cheaper to go with the contract ($50 over the 24 months) but you do give up upgrade and switching carrier flexibility. Plus, what I didn't mention above, is that if your data needs grow, and you do end up getting a bigger data plan with the bigger discount, then you are ahead of the game by a couple hundred $$ plus have the flexibility to upgrade early/change carriers as contractless.

      1. How much you would save if you go to the bigger data plan (assuming you need it) obviously depends on when you increase your allotment. At $10 extra discount per month, it only takes 5 months using a bigger data plan for this to more than compensate for the lower contract price you laid out.

        1. Thanks jehrler for your feedback. I agree - looking it simply from a device standpoint, upgrading to the iPhone 6 on the 2 year contract saves you money over the 24 months, provided one does not alter usage or upgrading before the 2 years.

          In the age of WiFi and extinction of Unlimited Data Plans, I hope the iPhone 6 doesn't cause more data to be used even if I don't change my habits.

          When you mentioned upgrade/switching carrier flexibility, is that something I should be considering more? Personally, I've always been with AT&T. Would switching carriers be a good "option" to keep at your disposal?

          1. As my professors used to say, options are always valuable. For example, Sprint is now rolling out unlimited plans (data, voice, text) for $50 a month as part of their new Sprint means unlimited strategy. T-Mobile is also being very competitive and if Iliad buys them out who knows how much lower they could go. And, if one is transferred/switches jobs/moves houses it may be that the ATT coverage that has been great is terrible in your new city/job/home.

            We stayed with ATT because my wife's employer get a discount on the cell coverage of 24% which means ATT is actually cheaper for us than T-Mobile...probably even Sprint though I haven't really looked as had some bad experiences with them in the past.

  27. So I just purchased 2 iphones via NEXT. both 64gb iphone 6.
    line 1: currently not on contract- price reflects phone financing cost and a $40/mth for a smartphone line added to my 15gb family mobile share plan, as well as the $25 discount bringing my total monthly to $15 for this line so that works out fine.
    line 2: contract expires oct 2014. price reflects phone financing cost and a $40/mth for line add, without the $25 discount. Can someone verify that they saw the same?

    Both phones were ordered through the ATT website via the 18mth financing NEXT plan.

    Seems like I lost my $25 discount on the phone still on contract, but retained it for my other line not on contract.

    1. That seems wrong/odd. If you upgraded line 2 with Next it should, once activated, be yours free and clear at that time and the new iPhone 6 purchased through Next should absolutely get you the $25 discount on line 2 as well as line 1.

      Maybe you just misread it?

      Is line 2 now getting the $25 discount? It should be if both lines are on the Family Savings Plan.

      1. Perhaps its just a temp reflection until it actually gets activated. Which I will only know on the Sept 19 I suppose.

  28. Had a question about the At&t trade in program.. does anybody know if we would still qualify if we pre-ordered from the Apple store ? or would you have to only pre-order with At&t ?

    1. I believe it doesn't matter. However, there has been a report that the ATT gift card you get on trade in, which is only good for ATT purchases and services, is NOT usable to pay a Next cell phone bill, though it is usable to pay a standard contract bill.

      This is just one report I have seen but it is something I would definitely look into before trading in at ATT vs. gazelle, next worth, etc.

  29. I have 4 iphones on my current plan, and one of them has grandfathered data. I'm currently paying $250/month. I didn't move to the family share plan yet, as I would lose the unlimited data. I've been thinking of moving anyway because of the cost.

    If I'm doing the math right, i should get off my current plan and switch over to the family plan no matter what. Is this right?

    1. My expectation is that you would save a bundle. In our 4 phone plan, switching to the Family Share Plan from the prior plan is saving us a $100 per month ($25 per phone). You would have to compare the cost of the Data Plan you would need less the, presumably, $25 per phone discount vs. your current costs with the grandfathered data.

      I would be really surprised if it wasn't going to save you significant moneys to go with the share plan. Remember, btw, that if you, say, opt for the 10 GB plan but find that one month you are going to break that, you can call ATT and they will increase the plan effective that month and then you can lower it again when your data use cools.

      1. One other benefit of the shared plans vs. the unlimited is that ATT does not throttle the share plans and you can use the data as you wish, to tether or just surf on the phone. The unlimited plans may be unlimited but throttling happens with all the carriers' unlimited plans, AFAIK.

    2. Yes, I think you should — a friend just did this morning with his unlimited two-phone setup, and saved $30 a month. (And as a bonus, he was then eligible for an upgrade, which he wasn't before.) AT&T's web site can tell you how much data you've used historically, both average and peak.

      -rob.

      1. And if he does upgrade, he gets a better phone and can pocket the $$ from the sale of his old phone, adding to his savings.

  30. Thanks for the write up. Very helpful!
    I'm still a bit confused by my options and what it will mean for me down the road.
    I have a family share plan with 10gb of data shared between three phones. My phone is off contract but the two others are still on it, both will be off by December of this year. According to my bill I'm getting a $75 discount each month ($25 x 3 phones). If I do the two year contract on the iPhone 6 do I lose all three discounts or just the one for my phone? Also, if I do the Next plan am I basically locking myself in to financing three phones once the others come off contract? It seems to me under this new policy there is no way to avoid having a significant increase in my monthly expense. I guess I was naive to think I was going to waltz in, pay my $300, and continue on my way. I desperately need a new phone, I have a 4s with a damaged screen but if ATT is going to start making me pay full boat for phones I think I'll jump ship.

    1. Yes your costs go up. $15 to &40 / mo. $600 over two year plan plus cost of phone ($399 iphone 6 128gb) $999
      vs Next and remain at $15 / mo. $0 extra over two years, but $42.45 / mo. Financing for 20 months ($849)
      or buy tmobile no contract phone and bring to att at $15 / mo.
      My frustration comes from giving up two unlimited plans to join shared plan based on the discount. Now I lose the discount and the unlimited data.
      AT&T has essentially gotten rid of subsidized iPhones. You either finance the full price or the balance of a discounted price.
      At twelve months you can turn in your next plan phone and start a new 20 month payment plan. Or at twelve months pay off the remaining 8 months, keep your phone as a hand me down and start a new 20 month payment plan

      Again, AT&T has eliminated the discounted, subsidized iPhone pricing plan. You will pay full price for an iphone from now on with AT&T

      1. As I calculated above, you always HAVE been paying full price for the "subsidized phone". It is just the price was hidden in the cell coverage charge. Now it is explicit and, once you have a phone that is paid off, you *no longer pay the fee for the phone, unlike what you did under the contract "subsidized phone" regime.

        I know it is hard to believe, but this is a much better system...even if you have unlimited data as long as there are several phones that can share the data and get the $25 discount each per month.

      2. Verizon has done the same thing in effectively eliminating the subsidies. It's call Verizon Edge (ATT Next) and it is the same $40 per line / $25 no contract discount and it is also technically called anti-trust / price-fixing since their family share plans are nearly identical in price to ATT. i.e. 20 GB $150, 30 GB $225, 15GB ATT/16GB VZ $130. But since our government is more concerned with drug use of professional athletes than the issues they are authorized to address, the usual price-fixing communications oligopoly goes unchecked.

        That being said, eliminating the carrier subsidies (increased plan costs) makes things more transparent and will be better in the long run. Let me by my phone/mini-computer from the phone manufacturer, and my phone service from the phone service company, so I can choose exactly what I am paying for.

    2. You already were paying full boat (and more) for your phone. The family share plan gave you a reprieve on the price you were paying for your phones, but otherwise it has been there all along. $25 x 24 months + $199 upfront cost is $799. This is the price you signed up for and were paying for your phones (assuming it was a $199 phone to start) prior to the launch of Next and the share plan discounts.

      I have to run, so I'll leave the analysis to others but, if you want/need a new phone, the Next plan is a very good deal, particularly since you have a 10GB plan so get $25 off per month.

  31. Rob or someone else can you clarify please? I'm on the family-value share plan 10 GB. Two phones are eligible for upgrade with 2-yr contract. You guys are saying if I buy the iPhone 6 via 2-yr contract my monthly bill will go up $50 (25x2) ? If that's the case, I'm guessing I should cancel my order with AT&T and pre order again using NEXT. If this is accurate pls lmk so I can get working on it, thanks!

    1. OK NVM I did the math.... 199 for the phone up front plus 25 x 24 in monthly increase in my bill equals to 799 total price for the phone, which is only 649 retail. So if I upgrade both phone with 2-yr contract I will lose out on roughly $300 over the next 24 months, BOO! Thanks for the great read!

      1. That sounds about right. For now the next plans for shared data accounts are pretty sweet

  32. I spoke with a AT&T representative by live chat today. It's literally $1.08 higher than buying the 4.7 iPhone 6 128 GB without a contract if you buy it on AT&T Next. He told me for 128 GB and the 4.7" iPhone 6 the full contract period to pay off the phone would be 35.42 for 24 months. I don't want my families bill internet bill to go up to $40 and I also don't want to pay full price. Paying essentially full price over a 24 month period seems convoluted unless you don't have the money and makes it seem like you don't own the phone. Also considering in the recent months AT&T service has sucked in order to limit the amount of cash they get from me, if I buy a iPhone 6 as the price is making me reconsider, I'll probably order directly from Apple so AT&T wont get a dividend or stipend save the $40 activation fee. Verizon is the only other option here and the service is equally bad if not worse so AT&T has me stuck with them sadly though the potential loss of this discount is ridiculous to me. Thankfully the AT&T website does tell you about this removal of discount I believe prior to upgrading.

  33. Unfortunately you cannot cancel your order with AT&T. You may have already found this out. If I were you I would not accept the shipment. This is the only way to actually cancel the order. And you'll have to reorder your iPhone 6 as soon as the cancellation is processed. That's the bummer with ordering from AT&T. I know you can cancel orders from Apple.

    Thanks for this article and thread. I also had two 2yr contracts become available and would have not even considered using the Next plan. I would have lost our family share plan - and we have 5 iPhones in our family plan. That's at least $100/mo by going with Next.

  34. Rob thanks researching and writing this post, and for replying to so many comments. When I found it late on the 11th, It answered all of the questions I hadn't been able to get answered online, or from AT&T or Apple online chats. I had been skeptical of Next, but your analysis helped me see it was a good choice for me. Thanks!!

  35. Yay! Finally someone else who can do math! It costs a lot more for the stupid contract, and you are under contract.

    There's another two kickers to your analysis I discovered last night.
    1) ATT limits Next Plans to 4 per account. We have a 5 line family share plan. Uh Oh. So just pay full price?
    2) Full price phones are not available in the US.

    WTF???

    ATT says our only option to get new iPhones for all 5 lines is to put one of them under contract. WTF?

    1. Buy the contract-free T-Mobile iPhone directly from Apple, then visit an AT&T store to get a SIM for it (free). I've heard from many people that this works fine, but I have not tried it myself.

      I'll add that four-phone limit to my tidbits about Next article, thanks!

      -rob.

      1. Unfortunately, the T-Mobile phone is still locked to T-mobile even without the contract. T-mobile has reportedly said they will honor the unlock after 45 days.

        1. I have read, but do not know, that if you buy the T-Mobile phone from Apple rather than direct from T-Mobile it is unlocked. That also may be the case if you buy from other third party retailers but, again, I do not know. If it is, as long as there are no restocking fees, you could at least try it.

          Also, is there no way to pay full price for an ATT phone directly at the ATT store. I was under the impression that one could.

          1. Correct ATT could not sell me a full price phone at this time. But the rep said it would be available in the future.

            Yeah the T-mobile gamble may be our best bet for now. Hopefully it is truly unlocked.

        2. Just saw above that you contacted apple and they said the t-mobile phone is unlocked. I may call and see what they say, since I read reports from others indicating it was still locked.

          I think moving away from subsidies is better for consumers and businesses in the long run. The transparency will help make better informed decision / purchases and "upgrades" on our own schedule. The 0%, no pre-payment penalty financing plans are a nice bonus and it still works in ATT's favor since they expect most people to trade in their phone for a lot less than what they could sell it for on eBay if they just paid the remaining payments and sold it themselves. On the 128GB i6 the remaining payments were $340 on one of the next plans (price you are trading it in for) and a comparable iPhone 5s is going for $550ish on eBay meaning ATT can pick up and extra $100-$200 for reselling your trade in for you. It's a lot like trading in your 2 year old car at the dealer for a new one.

        3. Full price phones will, like with the 5S, eventually be for sale, including explicitly unlocked no contract phones. I have read, and it probably makes sense, that these unlocked no phones are not available for sale at new iPhone rollouts to try and cut down on the number of phones purchased and then resold in other countries by scalpers. Not sure how effective it is, but I can see that making sense given the tight inventory at launch.

          1. Typo, Apple said it "may come locked and may require t-mobile activation", a "t-mobile rep" said it would ship unlocked if the full non-financed price was paid.

  36. This is exactly right! AT&T as well as the rest of the providers will be increasing your monthly bill by at least $25 when you decide to renew your contract and get your shiny new iphone 6 that we all have been waiting for. What a joke!

    They thought they were slick when they introduced their new "Next" plan. Another scam. They should call it the "sucker" plan. Pay close to $30 per month to basically rent a phone.

    Ok, so you don't want to rent our phone? No problem we'll just take away the previously monthly discount we gave you so now you pay $25 per month extra.

    We wonder why this country is so broke... We're drowning in monthly bills. No one cares. If you want to do something, call your provider and complain... Complain until your sick of hearing yourself complain. I just hung up with AT&T and told them how I feel. I let them know that I'm upset about this!!

    We are at their mercy... I just recently got my bill down to an acceptable monthly cost per month and now it goes up again. I thought the reason they give us a discount on the price was to renew our contracts? Not anymore...

    1. Sounds like you really don't understand the plans or the incentives introduced earlier this year.

  37. This may have been mentioned. I signed up for the Plus under the Next program. I received a $100 credit for joining Next and also traded an old 4 for another $200 credit. My wife is on shared 2gb plan at $25 a month and is under contract. I join her plan and will pay $25 access. All in all I think it is a good deal

  38. I'm upgrade eligible so i called ATT to confirm. Bottom line is that my monthly bill will increase by at least $25/mo or more depending on the device. I call BS and since i'm no longer under contract i'm exploring my options with other carriers. What a crap-move ATT.

    1. I don't understand the anger: the increase is a result of asking them to subsidize another phone under contract. Would your rate go up if you pay in full or use Next? That would surprise me if so, as I haven't heard that from anyone.

      But yes, if you presently have an unsubsidized phone (or one that was subsidized then allowed into the Family Share Plan), you will see a rate increase if you go contract for the new phone. But just use Next, borrow AT&T's money for free, and get a new phone without the rate increase.

      -rob.

      1. I concur. It is kinda odd because, presumably, if they were to look at the contract they signed when they got a subsidized phone then they would see that they had, in fact, agreed to pay higher rates but that ATT granted them a reprieve on those rates.

        And, if they have a non-subsidized phone, well if they want a new phone whether they pay for it outright or, as you say use ATT money for free, in the end they are paying the same price.

        I don't quite understand it either.

  39. Right now I have three lines (iPhone 5s, and two SG4) under a 10 gb Mobile Share with Unlimited Talk and Text for around 145$ a month. So I was wondering if I wait out my current contract and decide to get a new contract, my previous plan will for to 100$ + 40(three phones)= 220$? To keep my current plan I have no option but to either keep my current phones past their contratcs, get AT&T Next, or buy a new phone for full price? Sighs... Can someone help break down the benefits of getting AT&T Next and how much it would cost? Also, what if only one person gets AT&T Next in my plan rather than all three? Will it affect the other two lines?

    1. Cost has been demonstrated above. Use that table to customization. As for your second question, yes. As for the third, from what I understand, not all lines have to be Next, though I may be wrong. As far as benefits go, you actually end up paying less than what you'd pay over two years, and you get to upgrade yearly rather than every two years. Also, Next & buying full price will eventually be the same price once the payment time is over.

      1. You can mix Next, contract, and owned phones on one plan—that happens to be exactly what we have here in my home. One new iPhone 6 on Next, an owned older iPhone 4S, and my wife's 5c on contract.

        -rob.

  40. For me I don't understand the paying the tax now the full retail price up front. What if I trade in the phone after 12 months instead of paying all 20 or 24 payments? I then have paid taxes on a amount I haven't paid. Do I get the taxes on the other 8 or 12 payments I didn't make?

    1. Compare it to buying a car. Unlike with the phone you generally *can* finance the sales taxes but they are still paid in full to the local taxing authority when you buy the car. If you then sell the car, your loan repayment will include all of the sales tax reducing the net amount of the car sale so you will, net net, be paying the full amount of the sales tax.

      Here ATT is willing to finance the phone at 0% but not the sales tax. Given that they are offering an interest free loan that is their prerogative. If you do upgrade by turning in the phone to ATT before the full course of payments, rather than paying in full, then any sales tax attributable to any waived payments will be a cost to you and a benefit to ATT. So, as with the car case, the real value of your trade in to ATT is the waived payments less the sales tax already paid (if any, looking at you Rob!).

      You can "avoid" that cost by either making all the payments or, if you do want to upgrade early, prepay the outstanding amount and resell/trade in the phone to a third party after having ATT unlock the phone (it will be worth more) as the extra you will probably receive over the waived payments will more than cover sales tax on those waived payments.

      BTW, the greatest number of payments you can have waived is 8, 12 plan turning in at 12 months with 8 payments left. On the 18 plan you turn in at 18 months with 6 payments left.

      1. I should make clear that the value of your trade in to ATT is the waived payments less the sales tax *on those waived payments only*. That is what you want to compare to what you would get in the open market if you pay off the phone and resell/trade in.

      2. Alternatively, you can avoid the tax issue by moving to Oregon … or Montana or New Hampshire or Delaware :). (These are the four states with absolutely no sales tax, at least as far as I know.)

        -rob.

  41. What I plan on doing is getting the iPhone 6 on AT&T Next to keep my 10GB mobile share discount of 25$ per line and once I get it, I'll sell my iPhone 5s on Amazon, Ebay, or whatever, to pay for the monthly payments. If I can sell my phone for around 400-500$, and the 20 monthly payements come to a total of 650$, then I'll be spending roughly 200-300$ at the end for a new phone without a contract at the end. I think it's pretty reasonable to be honest. However, I was wondering how much in taxes do I have to pay? Do I have to pay tax on the monthly payments?

  42. I was also wondering if its better to do an early upgrade or AT&T Next...? If I do an early upgrade so I still keep my mobile share discount?

    1. There are only three ways to keep your discount that I know of: bring your own contract-free phone, buy a new one using Next, or buy a new one with cash.

      regards;
      -rob.

    1. Personally, I plan to pay them off as slowly as I can, because there's no advantage to giving my money to AT&T any sooner than I have to. If I hear news that makes me want to own my phone, i'll pay it off then.

      regards;
      -rob.

    1. I mean, there's really not if you're doing Mobile Share plan. It costs the same as buying the phone outright, and unless you can somehow convince a rep to give you the discount on contract, it costs less than contract.

    2. I can think of one downside to Next, and I discuss it in my tidbits about Next article: upgrading early. Read that section in the linked post, but basically, if you want to upgrade at 12 (or 18) months, you need to figure out if it's worth buying out the contract before sending the phone back or not.

      Other than that, I don't really see a downside. I guess I'll find out, having now committed to Next for the first time :).

      -rob.

      1. The corporate discount is only applied to the plan portion of the monthly bill, not to the individual phones. So for example I have Mobile Share Value 10GB plan which is $100 per month, and then I have two phones that are $15 each ($40 minus $25 discount for being on the 10GB plan). I get a 23% corporate discount, so for me the discount is $23 per month (because it only applies to the plan cost of $100). Total cost per month = $100-$23 + $15 + $15 = $107/month.

  43. Although I've read through all these posts, my situation is still confusing. I have a 5s on contract (so half-way into contract) but when I check the upgrade eligibility on Apple.com it says a 64GB 6 Plus would be $649- which is $200 under full cost. So why is this discount appearing and should it sway me away from Next? I don't plan on selling the 5s (will be handed down). I'd be saving $200 up front, but would I lose the $15 monthly credit and gain $360 in cost over the two years?

    1. Which provider is your contract with? And is that $649 a quote for buying the phone off contract? If so, are you sure you're not looking at the iPhone 6 by accident, instead of the 6 Plus ?

      1. Sorry should have mentioned it's AT&T. It's definitely for the 6 Plus, again while using the tool on the Apple site. It says "2 Year Contract" @ $649 and if I wait until 9/21/2015 it lists $399. I just went through the first steps on the AT&T site and they explain the discount as "instant savings with contract". So it looks like I'd get a $200 discount for some reason, but lose the $15 Mobile Share Value discount. Does anyone know if it only removes the discount on the line being upgraded or all devices on the plan? My wife has a 5C that won't be upgraded- so will we still save $15/mo on that line?

        1. You are just seeing the early upgrade on contract price. Essentially an early termination fee on your 5S contract is rolled into the upgrade price of the new phone. This is what the reality has been prior to the Next plan and it is not a good idea.

          As far as I can see, there is *no* reason to go down that path. Using the Next upgrade you will pay $0 in early termination fees and retain the $15 per month discount.

          You are not really saving $200 up front because your are contractually bound to put this new phone on ATT for 24 months and lose the $15 discount for all those months so, net net, as you point out you are $160 worse off.

          From a cash flow standpoint, I assume the $649 is an upfront payment plus the lost $15 each month vs on Next it is $0 upfront (other than sales tax) and the retail price sliced into 20 or 24 equal payments at 0% interest and you keep the $15 monthly discount.

          I'm not saying you should or shouldn't upgrade, but if you are from both a total cost and cash flow basis the Next plan is much, much better.

          1. Ah yes... I should have recognized that was the situation, since it's the same situation I was in! My first year with the 5S (on 2 yr contract) ends in October. When I initially looked at upgrade eligibility they said I wasn't eligible now, but on the October date I could pay $649 for a 6+ on contract. That was the $250 "Early Termination Fee" added to the on contract price of $399.

            So I was delighted when I found that I could upgrade immediately through Next (don't have to wait until October), that there would be no Early Termination Fee of $250, and that I would get a $25/month discount! Now I'm just trying to find out if AT&T will unlock the 5S after I've upgraded, but I'm not too bothered as the price I can sell it at isn't too different between AT&T only vs unlocked.

            My conclusion is really simple. If you bought a 5S last year on a two year contract, AT&T Next offers you an amazing deal on an upgrade to a 6/6+. Usually I'm discouraging my wife from upgrading but this time I'm telling her what a bargain it is.

  44. So does this pan out for Samsungs as well? I am in need of a new phone and have to wait until March to upgrade with a new 2 year contract...but if I understand correctly my $25 discount per line on my Mobile Share plan will disappear once I sign a new 2 year agreement to get my "discounted" or "free" phone. The only way to keep that $25 discount is to go with the Next plan which I an eligible to do now. and now I'll be paying a monthly fee for my phone. My current phone is a Samsung Galaxy Express which will not charge and I'm faced with a repair on it which I thought was the better option since I could then wait until March to upgrade.

    1. I should qualify that because I don't know how much the repair will be nor what the resale/trade-in price is on a Samsung Galaxy Express, charging or not. The answers to those questions may tilt the financial cost/benefit one way or another, but I still wouldn't be surprised if doing the Next now isn't the best option.

      But the option is absolutely available.

      1. The repair will cost me $60 which will ultimately be cheaper than a whole new phone, but the Next plans seem awfully enticing especially since I had originally planned on upgrading in March with a new one...but now seeing that the Mobile Share discount will end if I do another 2 year agreement, I'm thinking the repair wasn't the smartest way to go.

        1. See how much you can get for a Samsung Galaxy Express on Nextworth, Gazelle, etc. I assume it is more than $60 so it would be a net gain to get it fixed and resell AND upgrade.

  45. So I'm on an old grandfathered unlimited plan and I'm trying to understand how Next plan would benefit me. I pay around $90 a month for one line this is with a $15 work discount. My included minutes with this plan is 650 with rollover which I have a ton of and unlimited data and texts. My contract was up and I went with the 2yr contract for my iphone 6 plus 128GB at the discounted price at $499. Trying to see if I should cancel this and do a Next plan for myself or combine on a shared plan with my wife? Sorry I have read every comment in here and haven't found a similar situation and am still confused on whats the better deal in the long run. Below is a copy of my apple.com order for the iphone 6 plus and my plan:

    128GB Space Gray (GSM), AT&T

    $499.00

    AT&T CONTRACT and Rate plan details for

    Contract:
    Two-year commitment

    One-time upgrade fee: $40.00

    Voice Plan:
    Existing voice plan $39.99/mo

    Data Plan:
    Unlimited Data $30.00/mo

    Messaging Plan:
    iPhone Messaging Unlimited $20.00/mo

    1. How much data do you and your wife use each month? Compare the cost of that in a shared plan to what you are both paying now.

      Assuming it is 10gb or more, you and your wife would each pay only $15 per phone for the access to the plan with unlimited minutes and texts. That would be $50 less per month than you are paying now.

      You would still be eligible for your company discount on the shared plan cost.

      You (and she) could then upgrade with Next at any time with no upgrade fees.

      With a 10gb plan it would be 100 per month less your discount-$15 let's say. That is 85 plus 30 for 2 phones or 115. That includes unlimited text and voice for you and your wife and, of course, the shared 10gb of data.

      If you use Next you can each upgrade from your current phones if you want and you will pay 0% interest.

      The phone upgrades will not cost anything down. Your monthly payment for them will be their retail price divided into 20 or 24 monthly payments.

      Without your wife's info I can't fully work it out but I imagine you will end up saving a fair amount for the two of you.

    2. I clung onto my unlimited plan for quite a long time, thinking I was so lucky to have it. But the reality is that it is far more expensive than even large data plans like 10GB Mobile Value Share. Unless you use an enormous amount of data (I would guess, but haven't calculated, that it would have to be at least 20GB) then it's not worth it, and perhaps more importantly, AT&T throttle those unlimited plans as your use goes up so they're really not great, regardless of cost.

      1. Good point about throttling. On a shared plan you get full speed.

        Also you can tether. Is that allowed on an unlimited plan?

        Lastly, you can also change the plan at any time so if you have a month that is data heavy just up the plan and then back it down the next month.

        1. When I had it you couldn't tether (no personal hotspot ). And yes you can increase/decrease by the month. I found that being on a 4GB plan and occasionally paying for a 1GB overage, it was still much cheaper than my unlimited plan had been.

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