AT&T Next Contract Madness

I love looking at new Apple iPhones when they come out. I usually cheap out and wait until my phone kind of dies. I recently went to the Mobile Share plan after my husband got kicked out of his corporate plan. I was shocked at the great pricing (compared to my old single phone plan). I then saw this tiny print that said that if I did any new 2 year contracts, that I’d lose all of the discounts. What?

I got way too obsessed with trying to figure out AT&T’s new “Next” plans. They have these new plans where you put zero down and pay for your phones on the installment method and then you trade it in and get a new phone after a set amount of time. And, they discount your monthly charges on a family plan. I personally think that AT&T is sick of subsidizing the phones and then everyone sells their phones on eBay and they get sent around the world and they lose all that action. So, they are heavily incenting people to trade back in their phone to get cheaper monthly plans. My brain kind of exploded when I saw this and I ran a whole spreadsheet.

Honestly, this is very six or half a dozen. Here is my take on the whole thing.

– If you like to upgrade every single year, then the Next 12 is for you. You can always have the shiny new gadget.

– If you usually keep your phone about 18-24 months, then the Next 18 is for you.

– If you like to resell your own phones on eBay like me or you like to hand your phone down to someone else, you need to do:

A. On the Next 12 – wait until you’ve made 20 payments and then the phone is yours – you can keep it and hand it down to a family member or sell it.

B. On the Next 18 – wait until after you’ve made 24 payments and then the phone is yours – you can keep it and hand it down to a family member or sell it.

C. Buy the phone unsubsidized outright – you keep it and do whatever you want at any time – switch to another carrier, travel overseas and pop another SIM card in it, or sell it for premium dollars because it will be unlocked.

– If you like to start with the lowest cash outlay, but pay more each month in installment prices, I recommend the Next 18.

– If you like to get the big purchase out of the way, buy the phone outright (it will hurt upfront) and then have the lowest possible rates.

– If you like to have an unlocked phone so you can travel overseas (and pop another SIM card in it), then, I think the unsubsidized full price phone is the best. This will hurt, as you need to pay the big bucks for a brand new phone.

– No matter what you do, you get the most bang for your bucks by holding on to your phone for as long as you can. Every time you upgrade, you need to pay the taxes on the full amount of the phone – there is ZERO price break for doing any Next 12 or Next 18 installment pricing. And, every time you upgrade, you will want to pay for new warranties on your phone.

Oh yea – did I mention that when you do an “upgrade” or “trade-in”, AT&T wants a clean and tidy operable phone – so you better get that AppleCare warranty.

– In no circumstances, do I recommend doing the 2 year commitment contract with the subsidized purchase. It never came out the best pricing. And, they charge you an upgrade fee every time.

Here are some other new benefits to being on the silly Mobile Share Plan:

– I have an iPad I use a lot for travel. I used to pay $30/month for 3g of monthly data. I added it to my mobile share plan for only $10 in my 10G pool. I saved $20 right there.

– When I moved my phone to the mobile share plan, I got unlimited text and voice. That was an upgrade to my previous plan.

– We now get Free Personal Hotspot. I never thought I’d use this, but it is nice when we are traveling to let my son tether his iPod to my iPhone plan.

– For the time being, I’m going to be boring and stick with my boring 5c and my husband will stick with his 5. As long as they are both working, I’m going to hang out with the low monthly pricing.  And, when we are ready for new phones, I’ll try to suck it up and buy unsubsidized phones up front.

ATT Phone Contract Analysis

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