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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 am on the Family Share 10GB with 3 lines. It sounds like if I were to upgrade all three to an iPhone 6 via Next, my monthly bill would go up appx. $90 from $145 to $235. In "exchange", i pay nothing upfront, and can sell my 5, 5S, and 5C on the open market right now. And could pay off any of the phones after two months.

    Is that about right?

    1. The monthly cell plan bill stays the same. To that you would add the full retail costs of the new phones divided by either 20 or 24 depending on which Next plan you took.

      How much your bill changes depends on the price of the new phones. Because of the new phones, tho, your monthly cost will include paying for them in installments.

      If you were to upgrade all 3 by doing it with contract phones your cell plan would go to 220, you would have 120 in one time upgrade fees plus whatever the contract price would be on the phones.

      This is going to be a worse deal for upgrading.

  2. Sorry guys to ask a lame question, my head is spinning after reading this - I will read this again.

    I hope someone can help me out. I currently have 2 basic phones on AT&T family plan with no data plan. I am not under contract. I plan to upgrade both phones to iphone 5s - with shared data plan 2GB or 3GB and unlimited talk/messaging - looking for best options to spend less. I can buy the phone from Costco or AT&T. we typically would have the phone for at least 3 years. Can one of you please advise what should I choose: 2 year contract or AT&T Next? If I buy the phone for $78 from Costco will I be able to choose between 2 year contract or AT&T Next?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. The advantage of Next would be twofold. First you would spend $30 less per month for your cell plan then under the the contract plan. You also would pay nothing down for the phones and no activation fees.

      You will pay for the phones on a 20 or 24 month 0% payment plan with the option to prepay and cancel at any time. There would be no termination fees but you would need to pay off the phones if you do this for the full period.

      Here's the thing. Under Next, once your phone is paid off there is no more money sent to att to cover its cost.

      Under the contract plans, the implicit subsidy continues even if you don't want a new phone. Now I imagine after the 24 month contract has run and you own the phones free and clear you could then switch to a next plan and save the $30 per month.

      As for costco, the $78 price is only for the contract phone. Over 24 months, not counting the data costs which are the same in either case, you would spend 78*2 for the phones, 40*2 for activation and 80*24 to have the phones on the shared plan. That's 2,156.

      Under Next (which costco may or may not offer, though I expect they do), you will pay 50*24 to have the phones on the plan plus the cost of the phones. I think you are looking at 16gb 5s. At Apple they are $549. Costco may sell them cheaper but I'll use apple's price. 549*2+50*24 is $2,298 over 24 months.

      You save money under contract IF you switch to Next once the contract is up or upgrade to a new phone at that time AND if you don't want or need the flexibility to switch carriers before 24 months.

      After 24 months if you don't switch to Next or upgrade, you will pay $30 more per month. After 5 months that continued contract is now more expensive and keeps getting more so.

    2. Forgot to mention that if you fall in love with smartphones and you data uses climbs to where you are on a 10gb plan, then you save on next for having the phones on the plan ($30 Vs $50), and it is the better deal.

      On the contract phones the higher data plan changes nothing as far as the phone on plan cost, it remains $80.

    3. If im geting al the info right in my on head the answer is no. You have to buy the phone from them in instalments.

      1. Gosh, using this to sell your services, no shame. I am dumbfounded on many people think ATT is more evil than any other provider and don't understnd the point of Robs post. I stayed with ATT, bought two iphone 6 devises under the Next plan and am saving more money than ever. With Next, mobile share and leaving the 2yr legacy contract I get the newest and best phones phones on the planet at 0 upfront, 0 interest. WE'RE NOT PAYING ANY MORE FOR THE PHONES THAN WE WERE WITH THE 2 YEAR SUBSIDY WITH MOBILE SHARE.

        1. Yea, I came home to find that wonderful comment, which I've now edited into nothingness, as I wanted to leave your reply in the chain.

          -rob.

          1. Thanks Rob for letting us know that the sky is not falling. You saved my family money when I ordered new iPhone 6's for my wife and I. The switch to Next and keeping the Mobile Share is less expensive than the old 2year subsidized plan where, yes, you do actually pay for the full price of the phones over the two year contract. The misconception is the phone is only $200. Ha, do you really think anyone is going to give you a $600+ phone for $200?. YOU PAY FOR THE PHONE EITHER WAY. AT&T is giving us the opportunity to get a new phone at 0 down at 0 interest while keeping the Mobile Share discount. The math doesn't lie.

  3. we are on family share plan with 8 phones and 15 Gig shared data for $15 for each phone. if we upgrade phones thru next then we lose our discounted data plan of $15 and it goes up to $40 per phone. What's up with that?? Not happy ATT user now

    1. That's not true. You lose discount if you upgrade via contract (aka, not Next). They want you to upgrade via Next to keep the discount

    2. No not if u upgrade through next. They will stay 15 as long as none are in contract.

  4. i don't get it. how much would the bill be after the phone is paid off? 15 or 25? plus, if you calculated the cost of the iphone 6 on both the next 12 and next 18, next 12 would be 390 while next 18 is 487.62 for 16gb. why is that? which plan should i go with for a 2 person on next 12/18?

  5. I haven't read all the comments but does it piss anyone else off that even though we are now paying the full price of the phone over the 20 payments, that the original subsidy built into the monthly access plan does not go away! RIPOFF! If I have to pay for the full price of the phone over the next 20 months then my bill should drop by (749-299) / 24!

    1. Unless I'm missing something, you -are- getting the discount -- that's what this whole article was about. If you use Next or pay full price, your monthly per-device charge is dropped by either $15 or $25 dollars. Those using contract -- who get the discount on purchase price -- do not get these savings.

      -rob.

    2. Doesn't piss me off at all. I've save $100 every month with my 5 iPhone family share plan. Plus I don't worry about extra data charges anymore with 10gb to pool from - kids didn't pay enough attention to their 300mb/month limit on our previous plans. In 8 payments I'll have saved enough to pay for my new iPhone 6 while I pay no interest and nothing down on the phone. Plus no worrying about going over my minutes or text messages. We bought 2 iPhone 6's and we will come out in favor in less than one year instead using the 2 year upgrades and losing the family share program. The Next plan is an easy sell if you like keeping more money vs. giving more of it to AT&T.

    3. Furious! I had no idea that I was going to have to pay for the phones. I was given the impression that we were receiving free phones for signing a two year contract. Dirty way to do business. They got me good and there is nothing I can do about it! So mad!

      1. You were under the impression you were being given $1500 with of phones for signing a two year contract? Are you joking or this years Darwin Award recipient? You cannot be this stupid and naive. If you are then I am scared for humanity.

  6. Here is some background, currently we have the mobile share plan, 100 base plus 40 each phone, -25 per phone discount so we pay 130 a month.
    Going back to our original plan (before the shared plan) we had a bill of $140. This was for two iphone lines, 700 minutes (60), unlimited data for my phone (30), messaging 200 (5), 2nd line (10), 300m (20) and messaging 1500 (15). This totals 140 which at that time we were under a 2 year contract. Assuming the subsidy was built into this price i figure we should subtract out 37.50 per month for 2 lines (750*2 orignal = 1500 - 600 upfront = 900/24). So i figure our bill without subsidy should have been ~ 103. now if i upgrade to the iphone6 i will pay 100 + (15*2) = 130 per month (supposedly already reduced for subsidy). Then on top of this I pay for the phone. I guess, to me, it doesn't look like the subsidy has been reduced (although I'm not comparing plan to plan).

  7. ATT offers Wireless service--NOT phones. Who are they to force you to pay $750 for a phone, AND then penalize you $25 per month for two years ($600 more) for paying cash to ANY seller of i Phones (Apple, Walmart, Best Buy etc) who charge $299-399 for the 6/6 Plus?!! I've been a 20 year customer...& was never explained when offered the $160/10gig
    plan, that it was just a "set up plan" to force everyone to pay on credit for a phone. in order to get the "discount" rate.
    It's just WRONG. Furthermore, I understand ALL providers are doing this...& that is called PRICE FIXING--which violates the Sherman Anti-trust laws. Theyr'e all headed for a class action suit. Typical Big business GREED.
    I'm curious to know what Apple charges retailers for the phones, if they can all sell them for $299-399.!

    1. Those prices you see at Apple are -subsidized- prices, not full prices. If you buy the subsidized phone at Apple, you will lose the discount. If you pay cash at Apple, you will -not- lost the discount -- as of today, that means you'd have to buy the T-Mobile contract-free phone, as that's the only one they sell.

      But that phone shows the -real- iPhone prices: $649, $749, and $849 for the Six, and $749, $849, and $949 for the Six Plus. Any prices lower than that are subsidized on-contract pricing.

      -rob.

      1. But if I just want the Six with 16GB and buy it with the real price, then I would spend $649.
        If instead I got it on AT&T next, I would pay 18x27.06 = 487.62 in the first 18 months and then 12x32.5 = 390 for the last months. So I would pay $877.62 for the phone. and keep my plan with the discount?
        Or if I upgraded with the plan i would spend 24x25 = 600 plus the initial 199 so roughly $800

        HOW IS THE NEXT PLAN BETTER.

        1. If you go with Next 18, you'd pay $27.04 per month for 24 months, which is $649 (plus or minus a couple pennies of rounding). I'm not sure I understand your math:

          "18×27.06 = 487.62 in the first 18 months and then 12×32.5 = 390 for the last months."

          That's 30 months, which is 2.5 years -- why 2.5 years? Over a standard two year contract plan, here's how it breaks down for the various options:

          $1,009 for buying it outright (phone $649, plus service @ $15/month * 24 months = $360)
          $1,009 for using Next 12 ($32.45 * 20 months=$649, plus service @ $15/month * 24 months = $360)
          $1,009 for using Next 18 ($27.04 * 24 months=$649, plus service @ $15/month * 24 months = $360)
          $1,199 for using contracts ($199 phone, $40 upgrade fee, plus service $40/month * 24 months = $960)

          Things are somewhat different under 10GB, in that the contract comes out marginally better -- but remember, you're under contract and can't sell or upgrade your phone before the two year period is up.

          Does that make sense?

          -rob.

    2. Unfortunately you are angry because you don't understand the purchasing, pricing or contract options. Almost every option works out quite similar in price, it's just different ways of structuring it. If you have a low initial price, you'll have higher monthly costs and vice versa.

  8. There IS something that changed (and I guess this is what angers some people): It used to be that the actual contract - the actual commitment was valuable to the carrier (AT&T). The commitment to stay for two years basically helped subsidize devices. This is over now. New rules. There's no more "commitment for subsidy" deal. So this is absolutely worse for customers. Any other way to "look at it" simply distorts the financial reality here.
    The only way to get new devices today, is to pay for them with hard dollars. Period. The various options (out right, next, contract), as others have said, simply "structure" the payment differently but, one way or another, whatever choice is picked, the phone will be paid for WITH DOLLARS.

    Let me say it another way: "commitment" used to be a "currency" (which many, including myself, were happy to pay with).
    Well...this "currency" has been devalued to zero :-)

    1. But commitment doesn't show up on the profit and loss statement, only $.

      Your commitment was valuable because you were locked into paying for cell coverage/minutes/texts at a rate that included an implicit subsidy for a new phone. If you chose not to get a new phone at renewal time you went month to month continuing to pay the implicit subsidy. There were no bring your own phone plans from ATT.

      Today your commitment gets you 0% financing on a phone with the added benefit of not needing to pay an implicit phone subsidy when the phone is fully paid up.

      1. I beg your pardon, my friend, commitment absolutely SHOWS UP on the P&L as $. It shows as a projected cash flow (2 years) with certain probability (linked to past performance and your credit) for "default" (similar to a loan default, but not the same) factored into the financial model. AT&T can go and borrow hard cash from a lender against that cash flow for a LOWER rate and in fact they do that - this is what spawns new towers (and exec bonuses).

        You could say something else: you could state that despite this new structure, customers still ultimately pay less. And you might be right. But the point is psychological: the BASELINE is the contract-less state (at least for many). So then, a device upgrade simply triggers an increased monthly cost. And that was NOT the case in the past.

        The tables posted show clearly how a contract is less attractive than other options. Before this "discount fiasco" the same table would have showed a significant financial advantage to the contract option. Simply because contract or not contract - monthly price was unaffected.

        1. A contract is less attractive at the $25 discount level. At the $15 discount level, a contract is slightly -more- attractive -- but then, you're locked into the contract.

          You can pay them now, you can pay them later, but in the end, you'll be paying them. It's just up to you how you pay them :).

          -rob.

        2. Good point about borrowing against cash flows.

          But even in the contract scenario you could buy your way out through an early termination fee which would be a large lumpsum payment reduced by the length of time you were under contract and paying the implicit subsidy. You would own the phone. Essentially your etf paid off the remainder of the phone cost, plus.

          Today, with next, you can walk away from your contract but as before you will need to make a lump sum payment to pay off the rest of your phone loan.

          From a consumer standpoint both require potentially large cash outflows at time of leaving.

          They are not that terribly different so I'm not sure how much less surety there is in the cash flows under the new plans. There is going to be some less surety as the etfs were more than just the phone balance.

          Interestingly both T-Mobile and Sprint are eating the etfs now. So, in fact, it may be easier to walk away from a contract since your new carrier pays the lump sum (I assume the new carrier takes the phone though). Whereas with Next you need to cough it up.

          1. Ah! Now you're getting the the heart of the matter: T-Mobile.
            It all started with exactly that: T-Mobile eating the ETF. You see what that has done? It immediately increased the risk for AT&T. All those "sure" cash flows are no longer sure at all. The ETF lost its teeth as a cash flow enforcer. So AT&T is looking at it and saying, "just a minute, all those commitments, over night, are worthless!!"
            And now you can understand the next event: if commitments are now worthless, there'll be no subsidies :-)

            And Rob - you are correct - we'll end up paying one way or another.

            In our family, we had quite a few iPhones over the years, two 3Gs, a 4, 4s, 5, 5s...each for $200 (+tax). It made sense. ~$260 every year or so for one of us to upgrade. Tolerable.
            Now, "one way or another" pretty much means paying full retail. So when I picked up my iPhone 6 two nights ago, I still thought I'm getting the "usual" subsidy. I didn't know "ALL THAT."
            The funny thing? I STILL thought twice about it, but then agreed to pay the ~$360 for the 64GB model. A bit more than usual, but alright, let it slide.
            Then, to learn about this "discount" thing? I was furious. Took me a few hours to unravel all that in my head (and this post helped too).
            For $750?! Not a chance. Even if it was a state of the art phone and not the disaster that it is, I would still think seven times before shelling out this amount for a phone.
            For this kind of money, I'll strive to keep devices for 5 years, not 2. For now, I'm lucky to have my 4s still working...

            1. You seem like someone who understands finance yet somehow the fact that you always and already have been paying 750ish for a phone through implicit subsidies escapes you.

              What was implicit is now explicit and, depending on the data plan, the customer pays less. At worst they pay a bit more but with better cash flows and more flexibility. Remember options are also valuable.

            2. The *only* exception to the above has been since the new shared plans were ruled out in the spring. As commented before this was a rare gift and is not actually reflected in the two year contract you signed up for last year or earlier. Go ahead and look, I'll wait.

              Just because ATT gave you an unexpected gift does not mean that this is a new baseline. It was just a one time gift.

              Just like if I give my kids $5 at the store they shouldn't come back tomorrow and be mad when I don't do it again. It is a gift with no future obligation to repeat.

    2. Nadav vansover, that is why there is so much frustration. I only had an iphone 4, that I had problems with from the day I signed the contract. my plan was to upgrade to an iphone 5s after my two year contract. Instead of simply telling us they changed the rules so that now you no longer get a free or discounted phone for a two year contract, they act like it has always been this way and can't comprehend why the customers are so confused and angry. Basically, if I would have known, I would have possibly gone for the NEXT plan, or not upgraded at all and been stuck with a piece of crap phone that they don't even sell the chargers for anymore under the apple brand. To pay so much money for a phone is killing me. I need to go back to not having a mini computer in my hand all the time and just use a plain basic phone again. And use a land line. We forget we are not using just a phone anymore it is a computer. However, they could have explained it better and let you know you were no longer getting a free or disounted phone for a two year contract. I would have upgraded to the stupid highest one they had on the next program had I understood the who thing properly. But that would mean they would have to be upfront and honest in the first place. They kept telling me I would be paying more per month if I upgraded and I kept saying, not if I sign a two year contract, never did they say they changed things now. So now I am under contract, and I have a family share plan because my daughter is using my old phone that is an iphone, but does not have internet access on it. she can only use the wifi, and only gets to play games or call, or text. That is it. But no one said I would still be paying the same crazy price after my two year contract was up. Nadav, your explaination is the first one that made sense to me as to why things felt like they were changing so much and why I felt like veryone thought i was crazy for thinking I got a free phone. I also have to play a $40 activation, or upgrade fee. I don't know, it is just getting out of control. Wish I never started texting, and wish I never got used to having access to my online stuff no matter where I was. Thanks for your explaination. Now if I can figure out what is the least expensive way to have done this and what happens after my two year contract is up. :/

  9. This was great! I do have an additional question that hopefully someone can help me with.

    The Next FAQs say you do not have to upgrade after 12-18 months and would just "continue paying your remaining installments". Once the phone was paid off, what happens if you never upgraded your phone? Would you just indefinitely receive the $25 Next discount without having the phone installment payments?

    (Obviously I'm using "never" and "indefinitely" for the sake of argument--I realize that eventually you would upgrade and it's improbable this exact plan configuration would last forever).

    Thanks!

    1. Yes, you would just pay what you pay for monthly service, and the per-month charge for buying your phone will end after either 20 (Next 12) or 24 (Next 18) months.

      -rob.

      1. I went to Best Buy and traded in my iPhone 5, they gave me $225.00, I bought the iPhone 6, ($199.00) signed a new 2 year contract with AT&T and got a gift card from Best Buy for the difference. Ok, so I basically got an iPhone 6 for free. I called AT&T and they told me my bill was going up $25.00 for a 2 yr contract, however, if I had done the "NEXT" plan, they wouldn't charge me $25, but I'd be paying $27 more due to the installment plan. I DID NOT PAY FOR THE PHONE, SO WHY WOULD I BE CHARGED $27 ?!?!? AT&T is going to be losing A LOT of customers by doing this crap. I have tried over and over ( for hours and days) trying to explain that I got the phone for free and now they want me to pay for it. HELP ME!!!!

        1. You did pay for the phone - you just got a gift card for the subsidized difference. Via Next, as has been said in this article, you don't pay anything except tax up front and then pay for the rest of the device via the installment plan. The Best buy gift card doesn't pay for the phone to ATT

          1. I gave Best Buy $50 to hold the phone for me, as they didn't have any in stock, in the same transaction, they gave me a gift card for $50. Three days later, my phone came in, I picked it up and bought a charger for my car with the gift card, leaving a balance of $23 on my gift card. I went back to a Best Buy five days later because I wanted a case for my phone, so I picked a case out and when I went to pay for it, I used the balance on my gift card ($23) to pay towards the case.

            1. Also, a best abut didn't tell me I would be losing my $25 discount with AT&T!

  10. I am not a happy customer at all right now. After years of loyalty, and now committing to a 2 year contract with ATT
    (bought IPhone 6 from Apple Store), one of my discounts is being removed because " I signed for a 2 year contract" ! This is ridiculous! instead of appreciating the loyalty and 2 more years of commitment ATT is taking a punitive action!
    Customer service sais its a policy. How many people are really informed about this shady policy before they upgrade?
    Not a customer-friendly policy ATT! change it!

    1. This post + thread of comments helps explain this a bit. Even if users here don't necessarily agree on all aspects, I believe we do recognize that A change has happened.

      You bring another good point that affected me as well: the Apple reps at the store do not disclose this "tiny" detail when you pick up the phone. You sign up on the new contract, they disclose visibly the $40 upgrade fee, but no one talks (to me anyways) about a "disappearing discount." I probably think this is an "AT&T business."

      When I called AT&T (pretty furious) they acknowledged the "situation" and they're letting me return the phone CLEANLY. This means there'll be no "restocking" fees or anything of that nature. I'll be back on my 4s, contract cancelled. Like it never happened. Bad dream.

    2. If you like your discount so much, pay lots more for the phone instead.

    1. You, and many other. This very good thread has inspired me to post this:
      http://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20140926052422-98762-gone-are-the-days-of-new-phone-subsidies

      I think that phone companies should be free to create whatever plan and financial structures they see fit.
      BUT, I'm expecting full disclosure. And in my opinion, plans are now complicated enough to warrant a "projected cost disclosure."
      I'm expecting phone companies to tell me what will be my TOTAL DELTA COST for the next two years each time I upgrade. And this "delta" should include phone price, taxes, upgrade fees AND any plan increases.
      With great power (to change plan rules and rates) comes great responsibility (to fully disclose).

    2. I am too been with att for 14 yrs I just feel ripped off and I am not going to throw any more money to att I'm going to throw it at Verizon and I went down to Apple and paid full price for my new phone I think everyone should quit att!! They even tried to console me by offering me 15 gigs gor the price of 10 which is 100$ yea I know one can get 30 gigs for the price of 15 which is 130 right. Ow just wanted everyone to know they will deal on prices for data do I sound pissed? Yeah I'm pissed !! I'm not giving anymore $$ to att and I suggest u all so the same

  11. I dont understand how the article and some of you guys are coming out with the total cost of the device at the end of 2 years. Let me try to explain and maybe someone can help me understand.

    I have 5 phones sharing a 10gb data plan. My current total bill monthly floats around $200 with all packages, plans etc. It also includes the family share plan discount of $15 per line. I called ATT about the ordering the Note 4. They told me that I would lose that $15 discount and my bill would go upto $240 if I were to sign a 2 year contract( which I would rather do because I am essentially only paying $299.99 plus upgrade fee, taxes for my phone) . They said I can continue getting the discount if I were to sign up for ATT next. Well NEXT12 will cost me an extra $41.30 a month for 20 MONTHS extra on top of my base plan fee of $200.00 (It will stay $200 because they will continue to give me the family share plan discount). So my bill with NEXT12 would be 241.30 a month for at least 20 months which means I am paying $830 for the device over that 20 months. While if I signed a contract, my bill would stay around $200 after paying for the device upfront with a 2 year agreement.

    Why would this be a better deal for me? This seems like a no-brainer, Why would I NOT want to just pay the 299 plus fees upfront and my bill stays around $200.00 compared to NEXT which will end up costing me $830 for the same phone. I was planning on staying with ATT for another 2 years and do not plan on getting another phone for way past the 2 years mark. Do you guys understand what I am trying to say here?

    1. You say your bill would stay at the $200 level, but that's not true -- it'd go up by the $15 discount you're losing. So you're paying $15 more per month, plus $40 to upgrade, plus $300 for the phone. Add that all up for 24 months, and it's...

      (24 * $15) + 300 + 40 = $700

      I'm not sure what $41.30 represents -- it doesn't match the cost of any of the iPhone NEXT plans. The iPhone 6 64GB is $37.45, and the 128GB is $42.45. But let's just assume it is the $41.30, then yes, you'll pay about $126 more over those 24 months ($826 vs $700).

      What do you get for that $126? You can upgrade your phone any time after two months by paying off the balance. You can send the phone back after 12 months (or $496 in payments, vs. $520 you'll pay on contract for that time, and you can't send that phone back). You can pay off the balance and sell the phone any time you want.

      On contract, you're stuck with the phone for the full 24 months.

      in short, flexibility will cost you $126 over two years; you need to decide if you want that flexibility or not. (For those on the $25 discount, the math works the other way -- the Next plans are always cheaper, as you're giving up $10 more per month for going back to contract).

      Hope that helps;
      -rob.

      1. I think he misread or misunderstood his monthly smartphone fee because if he has a10gb plan it should be a $25 not $15 discount so he actually pays $15 for each phone. With 5 phones and a 10gb plan at 15 each that's $175 plus taxes. With a 25 each plan he would pay $225 plus taxes.

        I think his monthly fee would go up 25 per month and it costs him more money to stay on contract as I calculated below.

    2. Let's start with your current plan. With the 10gb plan each device should be $15 (a 25 discount from the normal 40 for smartphones) and what your contract actually said when you signed it 2 years ago).

      At 100 for the 10gb plan plus 15 x 5 phones we are looking at 175 plus tax and any other goodies.

      If you sign up for a two year contract you will pay 299 for the phone, 40 upgrade and 25 more per month to have your new phone on the shared plan.

      Why the $25 more per month, because you are not bringing a phone you own or are financing via Next, instead you are getting a subsidized phone. In prior years, and on your existing contract, you paid 40 per month for each smartphone which is where the hidden subsidy sat.

      So we have 340 + 25 x 24 for a total of 940 to get your new phone.

      If you go with Next for your phone you have no upgrade fee (save 40) and you keep the 25 a month bring your own phone discount (save 600).

      Your only change will be paying for your phone at 0 interest for say 20 months. Let's assume the phone you want is $750. Divide that by 20 months and you will pay 37.50 per month for 20 months.

      Excluding tax, you will still only pay $750 more than now. If you go with the contract phone you will pay $940 more.

      1. Correct.
        So folks in this situation face to option: Pay $750 NOW, or pay "only" $340 and $25 for 24 month. This is like taking a loan for $410, for 24 month, with a monthly payment of $25 - math ok so far?

        Take this into Excel (or your trusty HP calculator):
        RATE(24, -25, 410) * 12 (to annualize the rate) and we get a cool 40% loan rate :-)

        1. Or use the Next finance option to pay 0 NOW and have the cost of the phone spread over 20 or 24 months at no interest AND keep the monthly shared plan discounts of 15 or 25.

          From a cash flow standpoint it's a no brainer to use a next loan if you have the 10gb shared plan.

          On contract phones always had a subsidy premium built in but now that they have been unbundled it's easier to see.

          To be fair to ATT, with the lower data plans and the 15 a month savings you pay negative interest.

          340 + 24 x 15 = 700 vs 750 or a loan of 410 which you only pay back 360.

    3. Dave - Rob already compared NEXT to a "regular" contract for you.
      The third option is getting an unlocked phone: $750. In your case, it's $50 more than the contract price (in my case, the discount was $25/mo, so my "contract price" was 24 x 25 + 300 + 40 = 940).

      In my mind, paying an extra $50 for an unlocked phone is still worth it: You can travel with it, you have no commitment and you have a higher resale value.

    4. No!....at first u say if u pay up front for the upgrade they will charge u 40$ more per month forever or go to next plan and pay 800+ for device over time then u say why not just pay 299 and keep ur bill at 200$?? I don't think that's an option

      1. I don't understand your comment at all. Can you explain that in a bit more detail? The math is pretty straightforward; which way to pay is simply based on your preferences and the size of your data plan.

        -rob.

  12. I, too, am furious with AT&T regarding this change that wasn't mentioned upon upgrade to the iPhone 6 (long time AT&T customer). My family will be taking leave of AT&T as soon as possible, given their deceptive practices. I would like to point out that the writer did not take into account the outrageous taxes that AT&T charge on their bills in the calculations. I understand why, though. It seems these taxes continue to accelerate on a monthly basis and could not nearly be predicted. I would estimate that a person would be much better off paying the sales tax on the full amount of the cell phone up front, than paying the AT&T taxes on their bills monthly for either the 'Next' plan or the non-discounted $25 additional fee. Who knows what the taxes would be??? I am looking into taking my existing iPhone equipment to a different carrier, with no contract. I've also been looking at the prepayment options with other carriers. AT&T sent me a text message today asking for my feedback - I gave them honest feedback about their deceptive practices. I hope others do the same.

    1. I was going through the SAME emotions, including threatening the AT&T rep on the phone.
      Then I calmed down, understood the bigger picture a little better, and went back to doing a cold financial calculation.
      So yes, I'm still angry with AT&T. They ARE deceptive but, after the "dust has settled," I feel I'm still getting the best deal there (service level, reception, quality, price - the whole thing).

      Your mileage will vary, of course, but I feel that if you have been a loyal customer, you're probably happy with the service. You're just pissed about the deception. Fair enough.

  13. I find it a real shame that so many people commenting on this article are upset. Unfortunately I think the majority are just not understanding the situation (I empathize, that's why I searched for help and found this). The situation boils down to a few facts...

    1. Buying a phone on a Next deal is the cheapest upfront - just the taxes on the overall value of the device
    2. Buying on a contract is always the 'middle' cost upfront because you may a fairly cheap price upfront (typically $200-$400) and maybe some activation fees
    3. Buying a device outright is the most expensive upfront because you're buying just the device with no commitment to pay anyone anything every again. (You have to do this from T-Mobile, then bring it to AT*T)

    After considering the upfront costs, now you consider the monthly ones. This gets a bit trickier because it depends how much data you're on (10GB or more, there's a $25 discount for options 1 and 3 above, below 10GB and it's only $15 for options 1 and 3. It's nothing for option 2).

    a) Option 1 costs you the full device cost per month divided by either 18 or 24 (for Next/18 or Next/24 plans). But you will get either the $15 or $25 discount each month.
    b) Option 2 costs you nothing in device payments each month (great!) but you lose the $15 or $25 discount as a result. THIS IS THE THING THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY ABOUT.
    c) Option 3 costs you nothing in device payments AND you get the $15 or $25 discount too. Cheapest per-month

    Regarding (b), yes shock horror you lose the discount, but that's because you got a cheap price on the device (subsidized) and no monthly installment payments on the device! You didn't expect to get a cheap upfront cost and low monthly costs as well did you?! This is the penalty for getting a subsidized device cost upfront and no monthly device payment.

    So in summary, from a cost point of view:
    Option 1 - cheap upfront, quite a lot each month (monthly payment - $15 or $25 discount)
    Option 2 - medium upfront, quite a lot each month (no monthly payment but no $15 or $25 discount)
    Option 3 - expensive upfront but cheap each month

    Option 3 is very simply and clear. Options 1 and 2 get tangled up because if you are using less than 10GB per month, the discount is only $15 and you end up better on Contract/Option 2. But if you use 10GB or more the discount is $25 and Next/Option 1 gets cheaper.

    THE REALITY IS THEY'RE ALL QUITE SIMILAR!!! There is no RIP OFF situation, just some slightly better, some slight different flexibility etc.

    That is just the pricing. On top of that are the various policies for trade in, early termination, leave anytime, use other sims/networks, etc. that all vary across the options. Corporate discounts make it different again too. You need to decide if these are important to you if you want to get into that much detail.

    And one final important but more complicated point for existing AT&T customers. AT&T did a very weird/generous thing earlier this year in that they allowed on-contract users from the last 2 years to start getting the Next discount, even though they would never normally be able to (on contract, option 2, means no discounts). GREAT if you understand things. But it seems crappy if you don't understand that you got a gift right there, and you feel pissed off when you lose that gift as you start a new contract. jehrler and I discussed this a lot earlier if you want to understand more. But some people are getting upset they are losing this, instead of realizing how lucky they were to have that anomalous situation for a while!

    1. Richard, are you an ATT employee? Seems like quite a biased view. To roll out a program with a discount and then later not inform your customers that they will lose that discount when they want to do an upgrade is a sleazy business practice. ATT should have simply announced that going forward they will no longer be subsidizing phones. That would have been the honest and ethical approach. Monthly service charges have never varied in the past based on how you procure the phone. The bottom line for ATT is they are going to charge you full price for a phone no matter what option you choose. Like many others who have been long time ATT customers, I am moving to another carrier.

      1. Bill: Nothing Richard stated is anything other than a fact—why does that make him an AT&T employee? I clearly don't work for AT&T myself, and have done nothing but state facts. Do you think I work for them, too?

        The reality is that you have ALWAYS paid full price for a phone. In the past, depending on how long you kept it, you actually overpaid for it, because you paid the full monthly price long after the phone was paid off. With the Next plan, that's no longer the case—you pay for the phone separately from the service, which is how it should be.

        I'm not sure I understand the anger—yes, you lose the discount if you buy a phone on contract, but that's because you're buying a phone on contract, and AT&T needs to recoup the full price of the phone (as they've always done). I'm confused as to why you think this is unethical?

        -rob.

        1. Will someone explain this to me: I have been with AT&T for 9 yrs with 2 lines. I went to Best Buy, traded in my iPhone 5, they gave me $225 for it. I purchased the iphone 6 for $199. Ok, are you with me, I did NOT pay anything for the new phone, right? AT&T now tells me I'm no longer going to get my discount, however, they are now charging me $25 MORE a month . What the heck am I getting for an extra $25 a month. This is just BS!!!!!! They are PENTALIZING me for not paying full price for the phone and for sighning a 2 yr contract with them. I only did this on one of my lines.

          1. You've just bit hit but the same issue like many others. The "loss of discount" is something not obvious and something AT&T invested a lot of effort in making obscure. Some claimed that we've always paid full price for our phones indirectly, via the plan pricing - they might be right. But the truth of the matter is the that way AT&T structured it this time creates a lot of unpleasant surprise and frustration.
            And here's the real point: if people don't understand this, it is STILL and only AT&T fault. It is absolutely their responsibility to make their business practices and plan pricing clear and transparent. Currently, they are NOT.
            You need a clear proof? Here goes: you know how this "discount" is called on the bill?
            "Discount for Mobile Share Value Savings"

            Now you tell me, how the heck someone is supposed to know what "Discount for Mobile Share Value Savings" is? What is "Mobile Share Savings"? My family plan? How can people not be frustrated by this?!
            Why is it not called "Out of contract discount??" AT&T is the culprit, not the "confused" consumer. We're not confused at all. We're being misinformed. Intentionally.

            Liz - Very sorry to hear about your experience. I would tell you to return your phone to BB, but I guess you won't be able to get your old phone back. That's another sleazy trick they use: you "can" return the phone within 14 days, but you can't really, right? Horrible. Just predatory.

            My only advise to you, to make it slightly better financially, is to return the $199 phone and get an unlocked one. You'll pay more upfront, true, but you'll save down the road.

            Unlocked phone cost: $706.88 (650 + 8.75% tax).
            "$199" phone cost: $855.88 (199 + 24 x 25 + taxes on the full price)

            So in two years you can expect to save about $150 on an unlocked phone. And you can travel with it. And you're not committed. And you have a better resale value. And you can sell it on eBay any day.

            1. Correct, I can't return my iPhone 6 to BB, tried that and they said that the my old iPhone 5 was already shipped out the evening I bought my new one. 14 days to return, yeah, right! I have been given $180 discount from AT&T, but it's still a crappy way of AT&T to do business. I told them its Bait and Switch, in all of the Emails AT&T sent to me begging me to upgrade, it was never, ever mentioned that I will lose my discount and that they will pentalize me for not going with the AT&T Next. This will be the last time I will do business with this *^*^^* company!

          2. What the heck are you getting for an extra $25 a month? Surely that's obvious... you're getting a better phone than you had before. Did you think you could switch an iPhone 5 for an iPhone 6 for -$26 and there'd be no moment where you had to pay more?!!?

        2. In my old plan, I used to pay just as much as I do now AND I could get any phone in my family updated for the $199. None of this BS monthly payment. In February, AT&T switched me out of my plan without my permission or any notice. People did not have to pay for the full price of their phones before and all of this is just deceptive ways to make more money.

          1. Sorry, but that's just false: you always paid full price for the phone over a two-year period. The difference was, in the old days, you kept paying after the two-year period was up. With Next or pay-up-front, you no longer have to do that.

            Say what you want about -how- they implemented this (I completely agree aspects of it were very poorly done). But the end result is much better for consumers: it separates paying for the phone from the providing of the service. This saves you money (assuming you don't buy on contract), and gives you more options for switching phones or providers.

            To me, that's a win-win. The fact that I can borrow AT&T's money at 0% to pay for the phone is just icing on the cake.

            regards;
            -rob.

      2. Ha Bill, yes I'm an AT&T employee. I really enjoy futile attempts to explain things! Seriously, I don't envy the customer support people in these companies and I would not want to work for them.

        Once again, my view on the whole thing:
        Contract vs contract free vs installments are all very similar financially but understanding them can help you pick what's best for you. Rob's spreadsheet is your friend on that one.

        AT&T is not screwing anyone. They did have an incredibly generous and unexpected situation where they let contract buyers have the non-contract ATT Next buyer's monthly discount and so anyone who gets a new contract (and then loses that generous discount) might *think* (incorrectly) that they're getting screwed. That's the whole original point of this original blog post I think - just to educate people about how it works. But unfortunately some have mistakenly concluded that AT&T are screwing them when really it's just that AT&T aren't letting the anomalously generous situation continue when a new contract is started.

        Any of the angry mob who left AT&T should share what their Verizon/competitor deal was.

        1. First of all, thanks Richard for a great post, and subsequently for the 98 other times you've had to essentially repeat the same thing. I get that sorting through all the carriers options can be confusing, but i don't get all the vitriol. AT&T hasn't done anything shady here. At worst, they didn't use a giant Windows pop-up that said "Are you sure you want to do this?" when customers decided to switch to the Mobile Share and get a new discount they wouldn't have otherwise received. At best, they did tell their customers in a number of different, albeit fine print, places. I knew going in when I switched.

          That said, your post prompted me to do some research on my own for the best deal for me. I had three lines on a 10GB share plan. A 5, 5C, and 5S. With Beats music, my monthly bill was around $175. If I or anyone else in my family was going to upgrade I would have to renew on contract ($200 or more upfront, and lose my monthly $25 discount, buy the phone outright (not an option for me), or change to the Next plan. So while the Next plan was the cheapest upfront, and over the long term, I didn't want another $25-30+ added to my bill. From what I can tell there was no way around that.

          So I switched to TMobile. I got 4 lines (one is inactive but will be there for my youngest daughter when she's old enough) with 2.5 gb on each for $100/month. Traded all three phones in ($355 for the 5S!) for two iPhone 6s, and a new 5S. My ETFs will be paid off with a TMobile card. The trade-ins pay down the new phones, and the monthly payments are fairly minimal. I added Jump insurance to one of the phones. My total bill will be close to $160. And that gets smaller when/if the phones get paid off. I don't have Beats anymore, but whatever music I stream doesn't count against my data plan.

          Just seemed like a no-brainer to me.

        2. Rob, you know that I have defended you and AT&T, in explaining this here. But, AT&T did not advertise losing the discount if you go under a new contract well, and the only reason it got new attention now is because of the iPhone 6 launch and upgrade cycle. An AT&T rep specifically told my father that he would /not/ lose his discount if he went under a new contract - that was the only reason he switched. And my father asked multiple times, and I was there. And my father works in the telecom industry, so he's not (not to say others are) ignorant to the doings of AT&T.

          So while I agree with you that the Family Share Plan and Next discount makes sense to 10 GB and higher, I disagree on shady business practices. Giving under-contracts the discount was not an act of generosity - it was sound business practice. They needed to create a base of those under the discount and the quickest way to do so was to let under-contracts switch - otherwise, very few people would be under it b/c of upgrade cycles. They also get customers used to the discount, and everyone knows no one reads the fine print. It gets worse when reps - maliciously, or because they were simply misinformed, tell customers that they /won't/ lose the discount if they go under a new contract at time of upgrade.

          And as far as better deals go, as someone has previously stated, everyone knows that T-Mobile presents a much better value, hence why their the company that's gaining the most customers. Their only downside is coverage, which is perfectly fine in Dallas, TX.

          1. Jassi, I pretty much agree with all of that. Like I said, at worst, I guess it's debatable how "loudly" AT&T needed to notify the customers of the discount change. I saw it in not-so-fine print in a couple of places on their site. What the agent did on the phone is obviously reprehensible, and hopefully not indicative of AT&T as a whole. As a customer I was with AT&T for 12 years (including Cingular), and never really had an issue with them.

            That said, TMobile just made it too easy to switch.

          2. Patrick, I saw the fine print on the ads, but those ads weren't there when my family switched. We only had the word of the agent. I agree that the discount, the way it is done, is fine. I get the reason for the discount. But it was not well-advertised beyond the fine print that the discount would disappear after signing a new contract.

    2. They gave us that discount because they were preparing to gouge the heck out of us. Most families will not be able to buy phones outright so must now finance a phone or do like mine--time to give up cells. My brother bought an iphone 6 outright and his bill went up $40 a month!!

  14. I really have no advice as I am in the middle of my plan, but I just have say there's a lot of confusion here, and it's hard to believe wireless carriers have made it this difficult.

  15. So whats the bottomline for three iPhones - I am still trying to figure the math out on this based on having a phone for 24 months. What is the best way to keep more money in your pocket and less to ATT?

    1. You can download and use the calculator spreadsheet I made, and it shows the exact alternatives for the phone and plan you're on.

      Generally, if you're on a plan under 10GB, it's a touch cheaper to go contract -- but you're then locked into a contract. For 10GB and up, it's cheaper to go either AT&T Next or purchase in full ... and of those two, using AT&T Next means that you're borrowing AT&T's money for free, which is better than fronting $850 (or whatever) yourself.

      -rob.

  16. Richard. If you read my comment above, please explain how this is a better deal for me. I traded in my iPhone 5 from BB and got $225 for it. I then purchased the iPhone 6 for $199.00 , no money out if my pocket YET. BB told me about the $40 fee I'd be paying one time, then I recieve an email from AT&T stating I'm losing my mobile share discount and now they are charging me $25, FOR WHAT?!?!?! I'm sorry I just don't get it. As I stated earlier, AT&T did give me a credit on my bill, but that was one time and hours and hours on the phone. Why the hell would I do the Next Pay and pay full price for the *^*#** iphone 6 when I traded mine in and didn't pay anything for it and had some extra cash in my pocket. What am I getting for $25 more a month. Also, shame on BB, they did tell me I had 14 days to return it, that was not true as they said they ship the trade in phones out the same night. I seriously hate AT&T, very, very sleazy on their part. On the happy note, I am enjoying my iPhone 6 ????. Sorry for those who have read this comment of mine, but wanted to make sure Richard saw it.

    1. You got an iPhone 6 for a really cheap up-front cost of $199. Therefore you have to pay (by losing discount) every month to cover the real total cost of it. That's the contract model (quite cheap up front but then pay quite a lot each month) Your alternative was to pay for the phone right out (I forget how much but maybe $600) and then keep the discount each month. That's the buy up front model (expensive up front but cheapest each month). Or yet another alternative was to spread the up-front cost (ATT Next) over 18 or 24 months (cheapest up front but expensive each month).

      If the details are not so clear, how about just think of the basic point - you have an iPhone 6 in your hand instead of an iPhone 5 for *minus* $25. Of course you have to pay for it somewhere eventually (each month).

  17. Fuck AT&T ! I get shit service where I live and with no more phone upgrades on family plans without paying full price. We're going to sprint 6 lines for $100 ! Bye bye At&t

  18. It seems that there are really two issues that are creating a lot of anger and confusion among AT&T customers.

    1. AT&T "used to offer" a discount to customers in exchange for them signing a 2 year contract. (I know this because when I upgraded to the 4s from the 3, my wife and I paid the $199 subsidized cost of the new phone. Our monthly plan was $100/month + $40/month/phone - a $25/month/phone discount. In essence, $130/month plus taxes. When we inquired about upgrading to the 6 in the same exact way that we upgraded to the 4s, all of that is essentially the same, with the exception of the $25/month discount. After some prodding, I got the rep to admit that the $25 discount goes away this time around on the subsidized upgrade option.

    2. The second issue is that AT&T hasn't been very forthcoming/upfront about this change. And people don't like feeling duped, bait & switched, or misled. Given AT&T's spotty customer service record and talent for angering their customers, for many people this will be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

    For a number of years AT&T has "trained" their customers to believe that if a new two year contract is signed at the end of your existing contract, that AT&T would subsidize a portion of the cost of the new phone. Someone mentioned above that there was value in this for AT&T because of the ability to "predict/borrow against future cashflows". The bigger value is that they did not have to be as price competitive since customers were locked into an AT&T price plan. As other carriers charged less, AT&T customers were stuck unless they wanted to shell out a large early termination fee, which many customers are averse to paying. Instead, they'd just wait out their contract and figure out what to do once it expires. With T-Mobile offering lower pricing AND offering to pay those ETFs, AT&T customers have been jumping ship. So for AT&T, the competitive landscape has changed, and paying for a portion of the customer's phone no longer makes sense for them (since the customer isn't really "locked in" anymore). But most people don't realize this...what we know is that in the past they "paid" us for agreeing to stick with them for 2 years, and now they don't...and they're not very communicative about this little detail.

    In essence, we can "blame" T-Mobile for ruining the status quo by bringing us more competitive (and transparent) pricing. As these carriers continue to battle it out, the net result ought to be cheaper monthly plans and less restrictive (or no) contracts for consumers. But during this process, the decreased certainty that a customer will be around long term means that customer will have to remember to allocate some of those savings towards paying full price for their new phones (since the phone companies can't be sure that a customer will be around long enough to make a subsidy worthwhile).

    That will introduce an interesting new "element" into the new phone purchase equation. Most people seemed willing to shell out $200 - $300 every two years for a new phone upgrade. What percentage of people are willing to shell out $650 - $850 for their new phone every 2 years? That's a significant price change, especially for multi-phone families where 2-3 people may have been upgrading at the same time at the end of each contract. People may be more inclined to let their phones "stretch" to 3-4 years of use between upgrades. Apple, LG and Samsung aren't going to be very happy if that becomes the new normal. The carriers won't really care, since you need a phone/data plan regardless of whether you upgrade your older smart phone or not.

    1. Chris, I couldn't agree with you more! AT&T did a Bait & Switch on their (LOYAL ) customers. Trust me, anytime someone says that are upgrading with AT&T, I tell them to switch carries , not because of their new policy, but for the fact that they did not tell their customers this. Also, for AT&T and all others blaming BB for not telling me about this, don't run that with me. I called BB headquarters and they said that AT&T did not send this new plan out to their stores, I actually saw what AT&T sent to BB and other stores.
      AT&T should have included their new plan in the "Alert" section when you look at your account online, they certainly added "Your Phone Is Elgiable For A Upgrade" in the "Alert" section!
      Blah, Blah, Blah!!!!

        1. Alert ?..... AT&T announces you will get screwed if you upgrade and sign a new contract

  19. You are not saving anything the best way is to buy phone cash remember people, the next plan you dont own rhe phone. is more like a lease like leasing a car there is no contract. you can walk away but you have to return the phone unless the phone is paid in full this where this dude is not explaining things how is suppost to. i have 10gb familily share plan $145 if i upgrade any smartphone is 40 a month more with contract with phone price 199 plus 40 activation fee and you loose the 25 discount instead of 145 ill pay 170 a month thats a xtra 25 a month now added up 25x24=600 plus 199 for iphone 6 thats 800+40 for activation fee equal $840 iphone 6 16gb no contract is $650 the best wAy is to keep old plans and pay for the phone cash. next plan or contract you have to pay phone full price either way and there is no savings the saving the show is if follow the rules like a said a lease. Next plan is 460 for 18 months for iphone but when you upgrade you have to return your old phone is not like you walk away like someone here said thats not true.or else you have pay the reminder of the phone like i said the best way is to keep the old plans and buy the outright is yours and you dont loose the$25 discount the plan would be the same as before. Plus any aditional line you want to add in the future is only $15 insted of $40. And this are facts.

    1. Jose, there are a number of errors in your comments. First off, if you buy the phone outright, you're spending $650 up front. There's a cost to that, in that you could be using that money to do other things—buy Apple stock, for instance. When you borrow the money at 0%, you're using someone else's money, and that means you could still invest a portion of your own money while buying the phone. (This is greatly oversimplified, but it's called time value of money, and it's a very real thing.)

      Therefore, borrowing someone else's money (at 0%) to get the phone is the absolute cheapest way to go, assuming the plan costs are all about the same. (And the calculator I created let's you see that they are, in fact, all about identical. It doesn't included time value of money, though; if it did, the Next plans would always be cheapest.)

      Second, it's not a lease, it's a loan. You own the device, you're responsible for everything about it. It's *exactly* like buying a car with a time-based repayment. You own the car, but until it's paid in full and you have the title in hand, it's not really yours. It is not a lease in any sense.

      Your own math shows that Next is the cheapest way to go: You'd pay that same $650 for the phone, but you wouldn't have to pay it all up front. If the loan were charging 20% interest, that'd be one thing—buying in cash would definitely be cheaper. But it's not; it's a 0% loan. So use their money, not yours, to buy the phone.

      If you want to walk away from Next, then you can do what you're describing: just buy the phone in cash, any time you want after the first two monthly payments have been made. Then you're gotten the best of both worlds: you used AT&T's money for free for a while, then paid off the phone when you decided you'd rather own it outright. (You do *not* have to turn the phone in *unless* you want to take advantage of Next's "early upgrade" options without paying off the phone.)

      And just for a moment, consider you *did* want to do that. Let's compare upgrading a $650 iPhone 6 at 12 months, after either buying outright or using Next 12.

      Buying outright: Total cost for using the phone for twelve months = $650. Sale value on open market = unknown (keep reading). Next cost = unknown.

      Next 12: Total cost for using the phone for twelve months = ($650/18)*12 = $433.32. At this point, you send them the phone.

      So which is better? You honestly can't say today, because you don't know the value of the purchased iPhone 12 months from now. If it's above $216ish, you'll come out ahead; if it's below, you come out behind. But you do have to sell it on your own; Next lets you simply send it back.

      All the other facts you provide ($15 vs $40, not losing discount) are equally true for Next and purchase outright. So, in the end, what it boils down to is whether you want to give away a lot of money up front, or a lot of money over time for no cost. I chose the latter option, you may prefer the former. That doesn't make the Next plans bad or evil or anything; they're just time-based purchases, like you'd make with a car.

      -rob.

      1. Actually Rob you can prepay the Next financed phone right away. Because of an offer from discover I ended up doing that with one of our iPhone 6s last week.

        1. Interesting, as that's not what the policy says…did you prepay before your first payment? I wonder if that's the difference. In any event, that's even better news :).

          -rob.

          1. Yes, I prepaid the one just about the time of the first payment. Don't think that makes a difference. The option is available online for my other phones now that my first payment has been made.

            To see payments made under Next and payoff option go to:

            myAT&T>Billing & Usage>Bill>The Line/Phone you are interested in>View installment plan details

          2. Oops that should be:

            myAT&T>Billing & Usage>Bill>The Line/Phone you are interested in>Equipment Charges>View installment plan details

  20. Right now i am not in a contract, and I'm on the mobile share plan. To get an upgrade to the 6 128gb the ATT person said I would pay $400 up front, and then my bill would increase $20 per month for 24 months ( I have some corporate discounts). This is under contract.

    Well low and behold when you do the math and it comes out to $880, the price of the phone.

    My question is, could you buy the phone at $400 as an upgrade with contract, then pay an ETF $325 to get the total cost to $725? Also if you paid the ETF, is it even possible to stay with ATT at that point but just in a no contract plan?

    1. Would be great if it worked. I suggest you check that with the AT&T rep to confirm. Don't forget two points:
      1. You also have an upgrade fee ($40), which you don't pay when you but the phone at full price. So we're now at 765. Gap narrows.
      2. The phone you'll get will still be locked to AT&T. For travelers this may be important.

  21. To deal with this dilemma (i.e., losing my $25 credit), I bought an iPhone 6 T Mobile directly from Apple. The total cost over 24 months will be $0.01 less over either the Next 18 or Next 24 plans from AT&T (i.e., AT&T will charge me $750 for the phone on either the Next 18 or Next 24 plans and the phone was $749.99 from Apple). I simply installed my AT&T sim card in the new phone (don't turn on the phone with the T Mobile card or you'll need to reset the phone). I now have an unlocked phone (which will sell for more on the aftermarket), AT&T didn't make any money on the deal, and I saved a penny.

  22. If you choose to upgrade your phone at 18 mo. do they give you a discount for the phone you're giving them back? Or do you have to buy it outright (either at first or through Next), sell it yourself, and then get the new phone to get money for it?

    1. You can just send it back and get another new one on a new Next plan. Or you can buy it outright (pay off the contract), then sell it yourself and get a new one on a Next plan. If you send it back, there's no discount; they just cancel the remaining payments on the phone.

      So basically, at turn-in time, you'll want to check the street values for your phone. If they're higher than what you owe, you should pay it off and sell it, as you'll come out ahead.

      -rob.

  23. Our family will
    Not be able to afford a new phone every 2-3 years with this pricing. So what to do?
    Is their a place out there to buy newer models reasonably?
    The Apples we have had don't seem to last Beyond 2.5 yrs and need repairs. Not to mention the issue with software upgrades and support on older phones.
    Unless the economy improves 800% - I predict a lot of families will be dropping the level of services they now have.
    Fun while it lasted I guess.

  24. 12 year AT&T customer with 5 iPhones on account. Last year, AT&T convinced me to give up our $30 per month UNLIMITED data plans for what ended up being a savings of $50 per month. I gave in. We recently upgraded and now my phone bill is increased by $25 per line. That's $125 per month more than I am paying now and $75 more per month than what I was paying 18 months ago. I am now being provided less service for $75 more per month (let's call the last 18 months a gift discount). Regardless of how you slice it, AT&T is trying to get MORE money for the same service. 3 levels of AT&T representatives kept trying to convince me how much money they are saving me and if I want to lower my bill, I need to get less data. 3 representatives have just made a super strong case for me to switch to T-Mobile. T-Mobile will be $50 per month cheaper than the new AT&T bill and they will pay the ETFs. I can sell my current equipment on eBay after getting AT&T to unlock it which will nearly pay for my new T-Mobile phones. T-Mobile will also save me $300-500 in international rates.

    1. **$150 cheaper, which means $25 cheaper than if I bought the phones at full retail with AT&T.

  25. Yes you loose the discount with contracts but you end up paying sayme after you pay 200 or 400 upfront for your contract phone and also pay 40 upgrade fee. They have done this in England for years. Cost and technology of phones are much higher. Also better read fine print with those Tmobile Sprint contracts, which say after so many months data drops or data free on their network! Also remember you can't talk text listen to music at same time on these other networks. Also to remember if you set Payment Arrangements on your account monthly with ATT best remember your starting at the bottom with other carriers.

  26. I went to upgrade my sons phone that broke. We chose the Galaxy s5 active. It showed that we could get it for $200+tax if we signed up for a new two year agreement. I asked the sales lady at the AT&T store before buying the phone if it would change my service plan terms. I was told no other than a one time activation fee of $40 my monthly plan would be the same and my bill would be the same. You have 14 days to return the phone which is fantastic but you have to wait 30 days for your first bill. That's when I noticed the increase and called. They are aware sales agents are telling people this but the $25 increase in your bill is Bc you lose your discount which I was not told. I felt like I was sold the phone under false terms. . AND if I would've upgraded all 4 of my lines that day, my phone bill would've increased $100/ month. Over a years time, that would've been an extra $1200 (2400 for two years)(and if I would've paid $200*tax for each line add 800+ to that for the two year grand total of the upgrade) where's the incentive in signing 2 yr contract? You are paying full price for phones. And that's a noticeable increase in a monthly bill so I think it's something that should've been disclosed to me before purchasing.

  27. I think I must be confused. Is it just me understanding this as more cost? I understand your math and the bottom line, BUT before I could buy a smartphone for $99 and still get the subsidy. So, now I can still get the contract and the phone for $99, but no subsidy. I don't care who's doing the math, that's over $300 more for my 2 year contract. Yes, yes; the numbers have it all appearing equal with the NEW regulations, but let's not forget that these are NEW regulations, and the old ones are more favorable when it comes to subsidies. Whether I go with NEXT or anther contract, I will be out hundreds either way. One way, I pay more for the phone and my subsidy stays the same. The other way, I pay the same for the phone, but do not get the subsidy. Either way, it's hundreds more per two-years. And I don't want to hear about buying my own phone or keeping the ones I have on my 5-phone plan. I know all that. The point I'm trying to make is I'm at checkmate. No matter which move I make, I lose.

    I could be confused and have it all wrong, but I think I've got it all figured correctly. ***sigh*** I wanted to upgrade 2 phones for my son and daughter in December. They want iphones. The other 3 are fine and will be clear of my previous 2 year contract between December and February, but we don't need an upgrade. I'm happy with my current plan. Hell, I'm still on a plan for $10 per additional line. We are not on a share plan, but only 3 phones are currently iphones. I pay $220 a month for all 5 lines. I was hoping to buy the phones under contract for $100-$200 each and see a monthly increase for the data of about $70-$80. I thought id be looking at a bill around $300 a month. Now what?

    What if we decide to upgrade the other 3 phones? Before, my bill wouldn't have changed, just my initial cost. Now, I forsee a nightmare bill if I try to upgrade several phones at once.

    Any suggestions?

    1. Leigh - you are correct with your observations. I'll re-share (Rob - I hope this is OK) my post on LinkedIn, analyzing the bigger picture financing that's happening here:

      https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20140926052422-98762-gone-are-the-days-of-new-phone-subsidies?trk=prof-post

      But, Leigh, the situation, especially in families with many lines (4+), has changed to the worse, for sure.
      In the past, we could relatively easily afford an upgrade here and there. $200 was somewhat tolerable. Now it's gone. You have to pay the full price (~$700, depends on the specific phone).

      You can fully expect people to hold on to their devices for a much longer time (four, five years or even longer). After all, it's not that the price went up, say 20%. It went up more than 3x !!

      Now - I have to balance this, in order to be fair. So, yes, phones will, from now on, cost considerably more. Period. BUT - we also have plan options we did NOT have before which ARE considerably cheaper. In fact, the "no contract discount" provided by plans today leaves people "more or less" even after two years. Then if you choose to hold on to your phone a bit longer, you can save money in the long run.

      Carriers like AT&T did a horrible job communicating this to their customers. No wonder so many are frustrated. Selling people "$200 phones" without telling them LOUDLY, SLOWLY and EXPLICITLY that they are LOSING. THEIR. DISCOUNT is very, very dark practice.

      But, honestly, I have to admit I find this current "arrangement" healthier. We always paid full price for our phones, even when were getting a "subsidy." We felt happier, because the bottom line showed a lower number when we upgraded, but we were paying a bit more every month. We were like this little frog, getting boiled "one degree at a time..."

  28. hi, can i start a 2 year agreement with AT&T now and be eligible to buy a device later. like say I would like to wait for samsung 6 which might come in next 3 -4 months and buy it then with whatever contract price it comes with like $199 or $249 etc.

  29. Im either going back to a flip phone or a pager, i lasted many years with a pager...lol

  30. ATT hid this intentionally and even the ATT/Target sales rep. didn't know about it. The sales rep. (also apparently the ATT manager or so she claimed) assured me at the time of our upgrade that nothing would be changed on the account. She even made a call to ATT corporate while I waited. I had encountered other difficulties with their billing in the past for things that were supposedly "free" like a microcell so I didn't trust just her word. After she confirmed with the corporate office that my bill would not change, we completed the upgrade. When I received my first bill, it was $15 more. I called and sent a copy of my bill to the rep. and she contacted an ATT District Manager. When she called me back, she informed me that since it was past the 10 day return period, there was nothing she could do and said I had lost a discount on that phone. She stopped answering my calls and texts. I was furious and made numerous complaints to ATT and the Target store. Nothing would be done as that is the upgrade policy. I have had this account for 15 years but I can't allow this kind of deceit. Three of our other phones are near the end of the contract and I look forward to cancelling their service, including my home internet.

    1. My 5 iphones and iPad arrived from T-Mobile this week. Goodbye to AT&T after 12 years of $3,000 annual billing.

  31. We upgraded to Next about a year ago and still had questions about it that the customer service reps couldn't or would beat around the bush to answer. I went with the 12 month installment plan on my Galaxy S5. My husband and I were talking today and both of us were wondering a few things...

    1) I understand I am eligible to trade after 12 months, but if I continue to pay on the phone in full (I thought it was 18 months...it may be 20)...will my bill come back down after this period?

    2) Will you incur some type of penalty or fee the next time you sign up for not staying with the Next program? (Meaning if you decide to keep your phone for a while after it's paid off and not turning it in for an upgrade.)

    1. AT&T Next 12 is a 20 month loan; Next 18 is a 24 month loan. The 12 and 18 refer to how soon you can trade in the phone without any sort of penalty.

      So for (1), yes, your bill comes down by the amount of the loan after either 20 or 24 months. Alternatively, you can pay the balance due in full at any time after you've paid (I believe) two installments.

      For (2), when you upgrade, if you want to keep the family share discount, you'll either need to pay in full, sign up on Next again, or bring your own phone. If you use the AT&T subsidized purchase plan, you'll lose the discount.

      Does that help?

      -rob.

  32. If I bought an iphone 5S under contract on Black Friday for my daughter and pay the "Full" $40.00 monthly service (instead of the $15.00 I was paying on the Family Plan) for the life of the 2 year contract, does my monthly service drop to $15.00 after the 24th month (as the contract is over) or do I still have to pay $40.00 each additional month using my iphone 5S that I would have had for now 2 years?

    1. I don't honestly know the answer going forward. In the past, the answer was that you paid the same rate, regardless of how long you kept the phone. That's one of the things Next is meant to address -- once you pay off the phone, you're done and the monthly bill drops by the amount of the loan payment.

      But with new contracts in the age of Next, I honestly don't know what they'll do. Probably worth asking one of the customer service reps.

      -rob.

  33. If that ends up being the case, then it is another reason to go with the Next program vs. the contract.

    BTW to all - I am as pissed as all of you with the non disclosure when purchasing over Black Friday.

  34. I am not at all impressed any longer with how good these phones work...the 6 is not much better than the 5s and so on... the service has gotten too expensive for what you need no matter how they slice it. I do not like american business practices as they are all liars and thieves.. I am going back to flip phones and a tablet with wifi...lol..I win!!!

  35. Thank you for this incredibly enlightening discussion. I found this page when researching why AT&T was going to raise my monthly rate for upgrading and agreeing to another 2 year contract. I have 4 androids, 10 gigs shared for a total of $198.33 currently and have been out of contract for about a year.

    My bill used to be around $240 per month, but about 6 months ago I saw an ad for family share $160 per month, 4 phones, 10 gigs so I called AT&T and they said I "qualified" for this new rate. What I did not understand at the time is the reason that I "qualified". Turns out that my $99 phones that I received really were not $99. They were charging me a higher rate that I am paying now to compensate for the discounts on the device. They say ignorance is bliss because I did not see the that extra charge on my bill therefor just accepted the higher bill as the cost of owning 4 high tech cell phones.

    Once I had the opportunity to lower my bill using this so called "family share plan" of course I jumped on it. This, in my mind, is where the anger and confusion (which I had both this morning after attempting to upgrade my phone) begins.

    Instead of calling it the family share plan (or whatever cute spin they put on it) they should call it what it is:

    The "we have been adding $15 per line to pay for the discounted phone we gave you 2 years ago Plan".

    While I do not know if this new pricing structure is a result of T-mobile changing the market through contract buy-outs, or perhaps the FTC looking into the billing practices, one thing is certain, this new price structure is more transparent than before. Unfortunately sometimes transparency shows you the ugly reality of things that you otherwise may not have seen.

    For instance, I had been paying that higher amount on my bill for at least 6 months longer than I should have, thus making that $99 even more expensive that if I had bought it outright. That is like having to pay for your car loan long after it is officially paid off and the title in hand. That practice now comes to an end with the Next program with defined payment terms and duration which a good thing. No longer will I be paying for a subsidy that was technically paid off after my first 2 years were up.

    Thanks again for this site. Without the clear thinking and mature presentation of the facts without emotion, I don't know that I would have grasped the concept on my own. Yes, I was angry and upset, ready to drop ATT and go some where else. Once I realized that all the providers do pretty much the same thing, I decided to do some research. I found this site, calmed myself down and kept an open mind.

    Does losing my "discount" by choosing a reduced initial price on a new phone suck. Yes. Did ATT handle this poorly by not being as upfront and straight forward about the subsidies and subsequent discount? Yes. Will this new program be more fiscally fair to the consumer by offer finite terms and transparency. Yes.

    Without this blog posting and follow up comments, my answer to that last question would still have been no.

    1. I'm glad to read a post from someone who has benefited from this blog post, and understood so much more having read it - just like I did. That's also why I tried to contribute to this thread. It's been frustrating to read all the confused people ranting about how unfair it is and what a terrible injustice the changes are, when in fact there are many benefits to the consumer, especially the transparency of it all.

  36. Wait...my brother paid for his iPhone 6 in full and they still took away the discount for his line!?

    1. That doesn't sound right; he should contact AT&T customer care for an explanation. (Then again, I only know about the discounts relative to the family share plan; he may be on another plan with different terms.)

      -rob.

  37. AT&T does not realize the long term effect of this deceiving practice (improper disclosure). No one will have faith in any product they offer going forward considering that a consumer now requires a lawyer to interpret the fine prints and the lack of proper disclosure. US consumers do business with a trusted brand (American Express, Amazon, Sears....). I went through the same experiences described above. Once my new contract is up, I am also dumping AT&T (all 5 lines I own). By the way, I would have returned all 5 iphones within the 14 days period. The problem is that the consumer only finds out about this scam once the first new bill arrives in the mail (long after the 14 days grace period). Ironically, AT&T offered me a discount when I called to complain if I am willing to switch from Comcast to Uverse. No way. I don’t trust the AT&T brand anymore and don’t have time to read any fine prints. In the long term they will lose their tenured customers base. They are underestimating the power of having a trusted brand. Big companies make a tremendous investment over a long period of time in building up and maintaining their brand. Some greedy short sighted marketing manager just found an easy way to tarnish their brand. I can’t wait until I receive the class action lawsuit notice in the mail a few years from now. Eventually, these deceiving strategies will come back to hunt AT&T.

    1. Interesting. When I ordered a new iPhone 6 on Apple.com with ATT for a relative, there were several separate notices that buying the phone on contract would result in the loss of the 15/25 shared family plan discount. Good for apple to try and make this more obvious. I sure hope ATT starts doing likewise.

  38. I just upgraded to the 6 plus and got caught in this perplexing dilemma. Thankfully, I am within the 14 day buyer's remorse period and can make an informed decision. I have the 10GB family share plan with three smartphones for $145.00 per month. I'm very happy with that plan. I do not want to upgrade all three phones and increase my bill by at least $75 per month no matter which plan I choose. So my question is this. . . If I upgrade just one phone on a 2-year contract and keep the other two lines as "bring your own devices," can I continually transfer the upgrade eligibility to the one phone under the 2-year contract? That way I will only lose the discount on that one line and can pass phones down to the other numbers. I can sell the oldest phone prior to each upgrade to offset the cost. This way my bill only increases by $25 per month instead of $75.00 per month.

    1. I think so. I have my daughter in my old phone and I ipgraded my phone. In my bill hers still gets the $25 discount but mine doesn't.

  39. I've been using cellphones for many years, and the understanding I had over these years was that the purchase price of the phone would be discounted if you agreed to a 2-year commitment. That is, the discount applied to the device, and not to the service. Back in the "old" days you paid for minutes, regardless of how you acquired the device to use those minutes. So now AT&T has switched up this fairly well-engrained paradigm, and now the "discount" applies to the service rather than the device. If this is the case, THEN WHY THE 2-YEAR COMMITMENT when you buy the discounted phone and lose the subsidy? As someone earlier in the thread noted, under the new paradigm the 2-year commitment has zero value -- so why is it still in place?

    1. The discount is a discount on the rate they charge you to access their network. As for the discount on a phone under contract, that was never true. All you were doing was paying for the phone in two chunks: A smaller down payment, and then a monthly hit to pay off the balance of the phone.

      So they still need the two-year commitment, because they still need you to pay the full price of the phone. Apple doesn't sell the phones to AT&T for a discount (well, their standard reseller's discount, but not $199 for a $599 phone). That money comes from you, over the term of your commitment.

      -rob.

      1. A few months back, AT&T baited many of us into switching to a shared plan. Better value for a lower cost to keep up with competitors in the market (makes sense). The main issue is proper disclosure. Never before, the AT&T consumer needed to worry about a plan pricing changes when upgrading a phone with a 2 years contract. It was simply a $199 fee + $40 activation fee and a 2 years contract. But upon upgrading to a new phone this time around, the shared plan pricing went up from $15 per phone to $40. For a 2 year contract, $25 per month *24 month = $600. A total of $800 per phone straight out of a consumer pocket (cost of phone with interest built into the installments). And as I mentioned before, the consumer finds out about it upon receiving a new bill (way after the 14 days remorse period). Basically, AT&T gets us stuck with their service for 24 more months.

        In my case, I would have probably kept my iPhone 5 longer, elected to pay for the new phone 6 out of pocket up front with no contracts or strings attached, shopped around with T Mobile or other competitors since my previous contract was up….

        Effectively, AT&T deceived us and did not disclose up front with clarity to take away the consumers’ choice. It will be backfire on AT&T in the long run. I have one more iPhone 5 that is coming out of contract soon. That will be the first phone that will be taken off AT&T service. The other 4 iPhones 6 that I recently ended up upgrading will also follow once my new AT&T contract expires.

        In my case, I also had to fight AT&T hard to restore my individual plan that I had prior since the shared plan now costs me. Not only AT&T locks us and deceives us into another 2 year contract. We pay for our phones out of pocket (no subsidy for signing up to a new 2 year contract). Bu AT&T also makes more money since the new shared plan pricing ends up being more than the previous individual phone plan.

        Eventually, a big law firm will get the wind of this AT&T scam and make some money. AT&T did not need bad publicity, customer’s dissatisfaction and potentially lawsuits. There are better ways to make money (build up a reputation and a trusted brand)

        1. T-Mobile will pay your ETFs from AT&T, so there's nothing keeping you with AT&T if T-Mobile is your provider of choice. Of course, the other providers are not offering this, so you may be stuck with AT&T if you want to switch to Verizon.

          1. Unfortunately T-Mobile gets crummy reception. Otherwise I'd switch in a heartbeat!

  40. Interesting. Tell me more about it GoodByeBell now that AT&T is forcing us to look out. I have 5 iphones with AT&T, unlimited text and 10 GB of data. I currently pay more than $300 a month with AT&T. how does it work with T Mobile?

  41. So if I were to take 2 iphone 6 plus under contract and we have the mobile share plan are bill would be higher???

    1. That somewhat depends on which level of the family share plan you're on. Under 10GB of shared data, it's $50 cheaper over two years to go with contract phones; 10GB or more, it's $180 cheaper to pay in full or use AT&T Next. You can run through alternatives using these calculators.

      -rob.

      1. We haVe the 4 mobile share plan that we pay 170 a month but we wanna Take out 2 iphone 6 and we have 10gb

  42. I have been with them since 2000 and am still on an old plan with unlimited data. I upgraded to the Note 4 which started giving me problems right out of the 14 day return policy. The phone was bought at Best Buy and they told me to go to geek squad and pay 150.00 to get a refurb. NOT GONNA HAPPEN. So back and forth finally sending it in the Samsung for repair only to get it back doing the same rebooting over and over. I sent the phone back to Samsung who don't have the part to repair the phone and they still have it. And now I suddenly get an email from AT & T stating that I am out of my plan min. for the month which is the first time ever cause I always have rollover min. After reviewing my bill and calling in to customer service, they are trying to tell me that I don't unlimited mobile to moblie to any carrier. After all I have been through, I went crazy on them. I said that if they do not fix my plan back, then I am leaving immediately. I requested to speak with a manager in the highest authority in the building and they would not get on phone. After being on the phone over an hour, the rep. said she was putting 4000 rollover min. on my account immediately and submitting the issue to resolutions and they would contact me back in a week. I know them f***ers are trying to get me off my unlimited data plan. Well I am one record keeping b cause I have two documents from them. One from 2007 and one from 2011. In 2007 it states unlimited mobile to mobile to AT&T customers only. On 2011 it show expanded unlimited mobile to mobile. I distinctly remember when they changed from mobile to any carriers mobile. The week is not up but I already know that they are going to try and boot me off my plan. I will be in the corporate store causing a big crazy stink with my 2 documents. If they effing boot me, I am done and will be going to a boost plan. Between cable and cell companies, they are pricing themselves out the market. Getting rid of both bills will save me 400 a month. $4800.00 a year. We are all hooked like crack on this tech. Well I think it's time for alternatives so I can put my money to better use.

  43. Boy, I wish I'd found this post and all its comments before stumbling into AT&T's trap. We've upgraded iPhones before but never run into this. How in the world were we supposed to know our rate silently increased last February but didn't change because of a "grandfathered" mobile share discount of $25/phone/month that vaporized if we upgraded (at the Apple store with no warning). Now we signed a two-year contract and increased our yearly bill by $300 (plus the $40 activation fee) presumably forever? Just because I upgraded my wife's phone. I'm scared to do anything with my iPhone 5 for fear of getting screwed with my pants on yet again.

  44. Spent over an hour messing with ATT today. Used the "on line" chat and was consistently given incorrect info. At first, the rep said that to upgrade to an IPhone 6 would only cost the monthly charge for the new device. Then I asked about the loss of the $25 discount for our 4 device plan. The ATT person went back and forth. Told me absolutely that the only cost would be the cost of the phone. Ultimately she admitted that I would also see a higher plan cost of $25 a month. So doing the math, the cost of upgrading through ATT would be 21.47 x 30 ($644) plus the loss of the $25 discount for at least 2 years ($600). And who knows if that $25 discount will ever reappear. This brings the total ADDITIONAL cost to $1244. Apple sells the unlocked IPhone 6 for $659. The rep never acknowledged this was the actual and true cost of upgrading with ATT. They sell the option for an early trade in via the Next program, but the rep was unable to tell me what that might cost. Would I then be on the line for 2 payments? Probably not, but without a doubt, this is the shadiest thing I have even seen. And it looks like Verizon's program is about the same.

    1. The cost to upgrade under Next depends on how long you've had the phone, and which Next you chose. There are now three Next tiers - 12 (20 installment pmts), 18 (24 pmts), and 24 (30 pmts). You can upgrade when you've made 12, 18, or 24 payments, respectively. There is no cost to do so if you upgrade after those times.

      If you want to upgrade early, you just need to pay the difference, without any added fees -- so if you want to upgrade after 10 months on Next 12, you pay two months' installments, then the phone can be upgraded.

      It's pretty clearly explained on the AT&T Next page; hope that (and the above) helps...

      -rob.

  45. So, if I buy a phone outright with my tax return while still within my two year contract, will I still have to pay the $40/mo fee even though my phone is not subsidized because I'm on contract? My contract doesn't end until November but I would like a new phone before then.

  46. Been with att for 14 years. Went into best buy. Going to trade my s4 for 5. They will give me 75 for my phone. Now I pay 122 a month for 2 smart phones and regulations phone with 3gb. The said if I did upgrade. That would be 15. Next month my husband gets upgrade. Now my bill is going up 30 a month for same ser service. T his is bull S_€_€€_. Does any one have recommendations. Thks. Soon to be a former att customer and will discount home phone. Att

  47. My husband and I are on the family share plan, I upgraded to an iPhone 4s on the next plan 2 yr contract he has a flip phone(non smartphone) if he upgrade to a smart phone we lose our 25 credit that's really a way of thanking long time coustomers.

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