The state of North American cellular contract plans might be something that makes Europeans shake their heads in disbelief, but when it comes to phone pricing, Americans have always had it pretty good. Hand over your soul for two years, get Phone X for free (after MIR). Well, it looks like AT&T doesn't think that's the best way to go. No, that doesn't mean cheaper tariffs; don't be silly. Instead, it means more expensive phones, of course! AT&T has just about had enough with the likes of Wirefly and Let's Talk offering their phones for free online, when they could be making $200 on them in their own retail stores.

As a result, AT&T handsets will, from March 8th onwards, only be vendible in bricks-and-mortar stores or on the carrier's website. Walmart and Radio Shack's online sales are also done through the aforementioned duo of online sellers, so you may well have to give their websites a miss, and head straight to your AT&T-approved local if you're looking to pick up our recently-reviewed HTC Inspire 4G. It's an interesting tactic from AT&T, and one that is surely a defensive move in the light of a certain exclusive's lapse.

We've gotten in touch with our friends at Wirefly, and we'll let you know what they think of this move when we hear back. Stay tuned. We'll also have to wait and see whether or not this affects the Amazon Wireless sales channel as well.

This is the email sent out to Let's Talk affiliates, which makes this sound pretty official to us:

We're reaching out to let you know of an upcoming change to our carrier offering.  Effective March 8th, 2011, LetsTalk as well as other web indirect agents, including Simplexity (Wirefly), will no longer be able to offer AT&T Wireless as a carrier option to our customers.  The primary reasons given for this change in AT&T's business strategy were centered around AT&T cost savings and retrenchment.  We realize this may cause an impact to your business and will do everything we can to assist you with this transition.

Update: Wirefly posted this official blurb on their blog:

A Letter to Our Valued Customers from the CEO

Since 2003, Wirefly has remained the Internet's #1 authorized retailer of cell phones and plans. We have achieved this success by delivering on our promise of:

  • 1. Better Selection
  • 2. Greater Savings
  • 3. Straightforward Pricing
  • 4. Free FedEx Shipping Both Ways
  • 5. Your Satisfaction Guaranteed

Unfortunately, circumstances prevent us from being able to deliver on this promise with regard to AT&T phones. It is therefore with regret that I must inform you that effective March, 2011, we will no longer offer AT&T products and services on

If you purchase an AT&T phone through Wirefly, you are still protected by the Wirefly Satisfaction Guarantee, offering free returns for any reason for up to 30 days after purchase; and of course, you can still bring your phone to a local AT&T store at any time for questions, assistance, or warranty issues.

As circumstances allow, we will work with AT&T toward the goal of offering their products and services again in the future.

In the meantime, our priority continues to be delivering a superior way to shop for the latest offerings from Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Sprint, and our expanding list of prepaid carriers including Net10, TracFone, and soon MetroPCS, Boost Mobile, and Virgin Mobile.


Andy Zeinfeld

Source: Wireless and Mobile News via Pocketnow