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Upgrading to an iPhone 6s Plus: all AT&T “deals” are the same bitter pill with a bit more or less sugar coating

A year ago I wrote What does an iPhone 6 Plus cost?, in which I showed how no matter what you do, AT&T will nick you. There exists no good deal; all deals are variations on the same pricing in which you end up paying in full for the phone (or more), one way or another.

Your options boil down to three cases:

  • Buy the phone outright. I bought an iPhone 6s Plus 128GB from Apple for $949 (plus tax). I will replace the 5s with the 6s Plus and keep exactly the same data plan, then sell the 5s after I get AT&T to unlock it. No commitment since I bought the phone outright.
  • Buy the 128GB iPhone 6s Plus from AT&T at $500 (if eligible) with a 2-year commitment. In this case, AT&T jacks up the monthly data rate to the tune of $600 over two years, which makes the total cost $1100, or $150 higher than buying the phone outright! Plus that 2-year commitment. So this option makes no sense at all.
  • Buy the phone on the installment plan, which is called AT&T Next. Do the math: you pay the full price of the phone and have a commitment until it is paid off. You do get the upgrade benefit periodically, and that may be worth it for those wishing for relentless upgrades. But each such upgrade locks you into the same ongoing payment system (rental essentially).

So now that Apple now will sell you a phone outright or on the installment plan with no commitment to any particular carrier, there is no reason to spend your money at AT&T on a new phone. Take your business to Apple, and help send AT&T a message that they suck: make-believe deals that require extensive study to grok in effect are disrespect to customers.

Note also that you will be charged sales tax on the full price of the phone no matter what (in states with sales tax, like in California). The State wants its cut.

As a decade+ customer at AT&T, having never gotten a deal I could understand at a glance, and thus having wasted many hours sorting through the misleading and convoluted pricing schemes, I’m grumpy that I cannot get any kind of loyalty deal—ever and never. My cynicism about AT&T is a long-term liability for them, since I am hardly alone. I tire of gimmicks and games and being forced into or out of data plans. Push on one side of the balloon, it bulges out on another side. So I bought my phone from Apple outright.

Note that the text below is at best misleading (MPG sees it as fraudulent) when you run the numbers: “switch to AT&T next and Save $25 per Month”. In reality, there is no real savings: you pay the full cost of the phone in installments versus a discounted phone with higher data plan rates. That said, once the phone is paid off, then the lower data plan rates will start saving money, and that is indeed a benefit if you plan to keep the phone after it is fully paid off. In this regard, paying off the phone on the shortest term is the most attractive option if going with the rental plan (AT&T Next), noting that the shortest rental period is a whopping 20 months. All these figures are designed to tightly constrain the customer—to get maximum dollars—no real deals at all.

AT&T Phone Upgrade Options = pay up with no deals anywhere

Erik P writes:

I read your comment about the ridiculous options for upgrading your iPhone with ATT.
I share your opinion. I am not sure if you are also aware or the recent revelations by the New York Times that AT&T also was eagerly willing to participate VOLUNTARILY in helping the NSA spy on US citizens on a vast scale:

That and their inflated prices and lack of any decent affordable international coverage made me switch to T-Mobile and I am very happy with the decision. I felt that I just had to act on such horrible corporate practices.

There is also an interesting bit about the new iPhone being able to access a much farther-reaching band in the LTE spectrum which T-mobile covers and which should allow better reception in a lot of areas now:

MPG: Yet another reason to love AT&T. Alas, everyone loses in the end when the Constitution is pushed into a corner as an anachronism. The Rule of Law is under siege in so many areas. Always there are rationalizations to nibble-off things at all edges.

The remote areas to which I travel have taken some years to learn all the spots with good coverage (tiny slices or gaps in mountain areas), so it’s hard for me to just switch. But I suppose what could work is a 30-day trial, timed just right to see if an alternative carrier would work.

As for international, a recent 3-day trip to Germany cost me a whopping $120 at AT&T for a meager 300MB of data—all of which I used. And on top of that I had to pay for internet at my hotel so I could push half a gigabyte to my server for my photography publications.

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