In a move that is likely to upset every single AT&T customer to some degree, the nation's number two carrier has decided that its current upgrade fee (a cost tacked on whenever a current customer renews their contract and gets a new phone) isn't covering the rising cost of subsidized smartphones. The current upgrade fee is $18, and will soon be doubled to $36, matching the current fee at Sprint.


At T-Mobile, the current cost is $18. At Verizon, there isn't one. Certainly puts things into perspective. Of course, the one thing to remember about fees is that a little sweet talking to a customer representative can often help you avoid them in the first place. No carrier likes losing a customer. AT&T had this to say:

Wireless devices today are more sophisticated than ever before. And because of that, the costs associated with upgrading to a new device have increased and is reflected in our new upgrade fee... This fee isn’t unique to AT&T and this is the first time we’re changing it in nearly 10 years.

The new pricing will take effect on February 12, and will apparently apply to all existing customers, not just new ones.


David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ Jaxidian

    So at AT&T where an upgrade consists of pulling a SIM card from one phone and plugging it into another phone, how is that getting more difficult? And how does that cost at least another $18 to AT&T?

    I'm confused.

  • Thaddeus Dannar

    Is it just me or lately has AT&T's policy been, "if they'll buy it at this price they will buy it at twice this price"?

  • Oliver

    Other than the same old process of pairing an old SIM card to a new IMEI, what exactly has changed with the newer and "more sophisticated" phones?

    AT&T is full of $#1T, as always...

  • doug

    Maybe it's time for me to make the jump to Verizon ...AT&T has really been fuxxing me lately

    • jon

      Yes because the $25 extra Verizon charges for early term and the $5 they pull off of that per month vs att's $10 is so much more appealing...

      • Tim

        Really? Your deciding factor is how much it costs to break your contract?

      • Dan DeMarco

        Agreed with Tim above, and honestly your phone will work when you want it to, magic. An extra $5 a month is worth it for getting reception on your phone, crazy idea I know.

      • george

        actually you are wrong its 10$ that comes off each month if it is a smartphone. and if your decison to be with a carrier is the ETF then be my guest and stay where you are please.

  • Roger

    When Americans learn to start looking at whole prices rather than what things are per month, companies will stop getting away with this. Instead of saying that a phone is "free", add up the cost of the phone, the fees, the taxes, the service etc over the useful lifetime. Then do your pricing comparisons on that.

    Another way of looking at this is that they now charge another 75c per month to upgrade your phone (on top of the 75c per month they already charged).

  • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com Cody

    This is probably to cover AT&T's blunder with the T-Mobile purchase.

    All things being equal though, this is an absurd cost. They are already raising the price on most handsets, so there's no excuse to also increase this charge as well. AT&T is already very profitable on handsets and hasn't seen a loss in revenues. In other words, this is an unwarranted padding of the bottom line.

    While I admit this alone wouldn't be enough to make me switch, the increased price for data plans from a couple weeks ago, the generally mediocre handset selection, this recent addition to the charges, and various other things lately are enough that I'd really consider it. Unfortunately they're still the best overall coverage in the areas I live and travel most so I don't have much of a choice anyway.

  • Jim Thomson

    The newer fancier phones also require the purchase of a data plan. win-win for ATT.

  • jon

    Getting away with what? A cell phone has become the most used device in history. Its locked to our collective hips 24hrs a day, everyday. Internet, email, text, calling, social networking, business and personal. Its used for absolutely everything.....and that's the one product people are up in arms about paying extra for? Please

  • Amanda

    that's factually challenged...

  • Amanda

    @jon really factually challenged...do you work for att?

  • jon

    No, I don't Amanda. And what might be factually challenged?

    • Tom

      @jon..Virtually everything you said could be factually challenged.

      You say you don't work for AT&T but I believe you are involved with them in some fashion.

  • rockingmyevo3d

    wow this is too bad for at&t

  • Mark

    They are trying to cover up for the T-Mobile merger loss so they basically shift the pain down to the customer.

  • fiji.siv

    So if I'm reading this right, it costs more money to stay with AT&T than to switch carriers. What's my motivation to stay? Better service? Nope. Better coverage? Nope. Better selection? Nope. Better pricing? Well now, nope.

  • Jeremy P

    I'm not surprised. These are the types of antics people expect from AT&T which is why everyone was opposed to their proposed acquisition of T-Mobile. Although I'm no fan of T-Mobile's "upgrade/activation fee" either. It's a BS charge.

  • Wraith

    I usually just buy an unlocked phone and swap my card in myself. The last time I upgraded with AT&T, I got the phone but told the rep I was going to use it later, that I was just using my upgrade to secure myself a backup. No activation fee. Then swapped my card in at home and started using my phone. And if you really want, you can call AT&T afterwards and tell them your new IMEI and they will associate it for free.

  • pmo

    Afaik, with such changes, if you have a binding contract with them, you can cancel it, and get out of the contract, for many this means a really cheap phone :)

    • pmo

      for free btw.. all you have to do is to say that you dont accept the new terms..

    • george

      no this has nothing to do with your contract

      • Kevin


        Yes, the upgrade fee is included in contract language. This is a material change to a previously agreed upon contract and therefore allows the customer to void the contract without paying the fee. However, please be aware that making a payment after a contract change is considered an acceptance of the new terms. Don't pay anything after this change if you plan to try and get out of the contract.

  • The Innovator

    Tmobile value plan with 2 years contract - till February 1, 2014: Loyalty department - helped by DANIEL (employee no. 1244098) Ingrid (employee no. 58046) Maira (employee no. 47271) Chris (february 1,2012)
    $49.98 - 1000 whenever minutes (unlimited nights & weekends and tmobile-tmobile unlimited call)
    $20 - 5gb (unlimited) (no overages) Super fast internet speed (18mbps-28mbps consistently here in Austin,Texas)
    $10 - 2gb (unlimited) (no overages) Super fast internet speed (18mbps-28mbps consistently here in Austin, Texas)
    $5 - 3rd line (we can add 2gb (unlimited-no overages) internet anytime for $10)
    $5 - 4th line (we can add 2gb (unlimited-no overages) internet anytime for $10)
    $20 - domestic & international (worldwide) - all kinds of messaging (unlimited) for all 4 lines
    Total - $109.98 plus taxes & fees with 15% corporate discount and $10 loyalty discount/month till the contract expires.
    So we are looking between $90-$110/month for 4 lines. That is one heck of a deal that NO ONE CAN BEAT.
    * Free wifi calling for all 4 lines (will not use minutes to call anybody (domestic) as long its in wifi zone)
    * Corporate discounts - effective till the contract expires
    * Replace all sim card - 4 lines to 4g sim (tmobile store) - free.
    * Can take off internet data features in any line, anytime? their answer is YES.   
    * $120 credit towards the coming bill
    * No migration fee
    * no upgrade fee
    * Block pay per use web for lines - (free)
    * Web guard - teen (free)
    * International long distance blocking for all lines (free)

    Theres more freebies we got from free phone (1 day sale of samsung galaxy s2 & htc amaze) to 1st month credit on our account.
    I was an AT&T subscriber for 8 years and will never go back to them forever...

  • http://www.unlocktheinbox.com wpfn

    I wonder if we can get it back to the old days where they send you an actual check in the mail to switch? ;P

  • Steve

    They forgot the last point under "Talking Points":

    - We screwed up with the T-Mobile thing and don't want to pay for it ourselves. Since you are a good customer, we thought we'd let you pay for it instead. Thanks, dude!

    There, fixed.