AT&T’s iPhone 3G S upgrade pricing plan for current iPhone 3G owners has caused quite a commotion in the U.S. The upgrade policy is actually not so different from any other U.S. carrier. Here’s how phone upgrades work in general: The vast majority of cell phone users pick a phone that fits their needs reasonably well and sign a 2-year contract. At the end of that contract they are eligible to buy a new phone at a subsidized price and sign another 2-year contract. Generally speaking this is not that much of a problem for most people. Power users and gadget fans (like me) who might prefer to switch phones every year (or even more often) are not thrilled with this but understand it.
But, the iPhone exists in its own distortion field enclosed universe and it somehow seems wrong for it to be held to this contract type that most of us have lived with for a long time now. I acknowledge that as an iPhone 3G owner who does NOT qualify for either the new iPhone buyer price or even the upgrade price, I am annoyed even though I understand the policy is no different from the smartphone I bought that is used with another carrier. So, AT&T has been taking a lot of heat this week from possibly millions of annoyed iPhone 3G owners who can’t upgrade to the 3G S for less than $599 (full price for the 16GB 3G S model).
AT&T tweeted the message you see in the screenshot above which points to a PDF document that tries to explain the upgrade policy and pricing.
Here’s the problem with its FAQ. It doesn’t disucss time frames for the so-called Early Upgrade pricing ($399 for 16GB model and $499 for 32GB model).
They do explain, however, why iPhone owners were able to upgrade to the 3G in 2008 for a subsidized price because the original iPhone was sold at an unsubsidized price.