UPDATED: AT&T to Allow Early iPhone 3G to iPhone 3G S Upgrades?


UPDATE: AT&T has a press release up. It's for real.

A toss-away line in Walt Mossberg's iPhone 3G S review (yep, it's up already!) made us do a double take. Then a spit take. Then... (what other kinds of takes are there again?)

AT&T, stung by criticism in recent days, has just decided to offer the lower, new-customer prices at launch to iPhone 3G owners eligible for upgrades at any time up to Sept. 30 of this year, even if they were originally told they’d have to pay the $200 premium.

No, we don't believe it either. But we'd love to believe it. AT&T, some confirmation?

If it's true, it's a catastrophically generous gesture from AT&T to it's beaten (by network issues) and battered (by lack of MMS and tethering) customer base. In essence, it's like handing every iPhone 3G upgrader $200 in cool hard cash. (That's why we're having such a hard time believing it!)

If it's true, however, (and not to look a gift carrier in the mouth) what's going to happen for those who already pre-ordered at the $499/$599 price?

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

UPDATED: AT&T to Allow Early iPhone 3G to iPhone 3G S Upgrades?


Why would att do something different for the iphone? There is lots of other phone owners feeling the same way because of a newer model of their phone. They dont get nothing. I highly doubt it unless apple made a deal!

yeah but what about me? I preordered on Apples website with the 200.00 extra....are they gonna give that back somehow? Us early adopters always get the shaft

Still sucks.....seems only helps people who become upgrade eligible through from now till September. I got my 3G the day of release last year and my eligibility is shown at 3/2010

@6: If your eligibility was before 9/30/09, they'll refund your $200. Read the full press release.
Me? My eligibility was 5/20/2010, so either way I'm paying the $200 extra...

I was eligable to upgrade on 7/12/09, now it lists my eligability as 12/10/09. Hopefully this will change tomorrow when the adjustments are put through.

My upgrade is December, so I'd've been screwed even with this new plan. Glad I didn't pre-order, because $600 is way too much for 3G[s].

AT&T will allow people who bought an iPhone 3G and spend more than $100 per month to upgrade a few weeks early saving the $200 and extending their 2 year contract. BIG DEAL.
All others get nothing at all. It is cheaper to cancel your account completely @ %175 minus $5 for each month passed (about $115 for many iPhone 3G owners) then to STAY with AT&T for another 2 years! Sound like stupid business move.
I bought my iPhone 3G at launch and pay $80 a month and I would NOT be eligible for an upgrade until 1/2010. So no upgrade for me and I will hope that Apple gets rid of AT&T. Their network is far from the best, NO MMS on launch, NO thethering, Neutered apps (SlingPlayer, Netshare, etc).
Watch the exodus when AT&T loses the iPhone exclusive!

that sucks so bad! i preordered last week for the 16G and if this is true and i'd get the upgrade price i would o got the 32G!!

Well this satisfies one group of upset people - those who would have had to wait a whole 3 months for an upgrade. However it does nothing for the people who bought it 5 weeks before the 3G S came out. I'm still unhappy...

Ultimately, I still say no one can blame AT&T for not being able to upgrade. Don't like the terms of the contract? Don't sign one!

I'm not quite sure I understand why AT&T did this. It certainly cannot help that many people, seeing as the vast majority are surely like me, and are not eligible until December at the earliest (I bought my 3G on release day). This deal would seem to only apply to people on the most expensive plans, or family plans of some sort. Looks like I will still be paying $499, oh well...

I just got off the phone with AT&T, I have unlimited everything except for minutes and I bought my 3G on 7/11/08 (day one) and I'm still not eligible for this. What a let down! With taxes and fees I spend $105 per month but I'm not quite at $100 in what I give to ATT itself, I'm SO CLOSE!!!

I'm curious about the long-term repercussions - for example, next summer, assuming a new iPhone comes out, every 3G user who doesn't upgrade now will be eligible for the full subsidy. But those who take advantage of this offer from AT&T, and upgrade to 3G S now, will be going through the same issue all over again next summer - not able to upgrade unless they pay full price. So the complaining will start all over again, and it's doubtful AT&T will throw another bone like this...

@Chris Vitek
You are 100% correct. The thing is now, does AT&T want me to sign my NEXT contract? Trying to work with me now will make me want to stay when this contract expires. Not working with me will make me look elsewhere.

I don't get what the crying is over. No commitment is 399/499 but if you qualify it's 199/299 login and check your acount. But are people crying now going to cry when lte goes hot next year and a lte iPhone comes out.

I can imagine that either Apple or AT&T has to do something. Just look at how many people are selling their old 3G phones on Craigslist!

apple went vz first and were turn down. You really think they will try again??
Tmo and sprint combied have userbase AT&T or verizon has and a sub par network.
But apple won't go vz it kills carrier roaming options lolcdma and Its apple fault that it took 3 years to get mms not AT&T.
So goodluck running an iPhone out side a major city on another network!

I was excited until I read the details, i'm not eligible til march next year, I don't think i can wait, I will have to ebay this phone and a couple family heirlooms, sorry future kids

Here are the official conditions according to the AT&T company intranet.
This upgrade offer will NOT apply to every iPhone 3G customer. All of the following conditions must be met in order to recieve the lowest upgrade pricing:

  1. You must have bought your iPhone ON YOUR LINE (meaning you didn't upgrade another line and then move the iPhone to your line) in July August or September 2008
  2. You must have AT LEAST $99 in monthly recurring charges including text messaging, voice plan, and iPhone data plan to be elligible. The kicker here is that these people would have been elligible for upgrade after 12 months with the 3G anyway, so AT&T is moving it up for you up to two months.

What qualifies:
*You have a 99.99 unlimited voice plan
*You have a 79.99 1350 voice plan
*You have a 59.99/mo voice plan + $30 data + at least $10 a month in text messaging
*You are the primary line on any family talk plan of 700 minutes or higher and you have an iPhone data plan. (because the primary line is charged at a flat multiple of ten and all second lines are charged at 9.99)
*You are the primary line of a 550 minute family plan, you have the iphone data plan, and you have AT LEAST a $20 text message package
Secondary lines on family talk accounts WILL NOT APPLY. Also if you try to change your line to the primary line, it will not show you as elligible unless you do it before 6 am on Thursday June 18. And even then there's go guarantee that will work.
The activation system will automatically change to follow the new rules. So if you go in and they tell you you are not elligible, you are NOT. Simple as that. Save yourself a headache.
PLease call your local AT&T store to confirm that this offer is available in your market.

@ Bugs: There is nothing stopping Apple from making a CDMA version of the iPhone. I could see AT&T and Verizon both selling the iPhone when LTE comes out.

I'm just going to wait until next summer, when my current contract runs out. I'll dump at&t, as they suck, and move on over and get the forthcoming 4G from Verizon, where I also have an acct.

apple is not a forgiving company and verizon will not give a device mfg support of a device.
they are on both ends of the table, apple wants full control. verizon wont give control. with lte, i see a possibility of possibly running an iphone on verizon but i really doubt it would be a iphone sold from verizon.

i forgot to add, apple is also not well know for making different builds of a device also. which means building a cdma device for a set number vs a gsm which can be sold world wide less japan.

I don't understand why people are complaining about not being able to upgrade to the new iPhone earlier. When you originally purchased your phone, you signed a new 2 year contract knowing you cannot upgrade for about 18 months. this is why the prices are subsidized people! i noticed someone complaining about upgrading due to the fact they just recently purchased their phone...sorry but that's your own fault. it's been common knowledge for months that new hardware would be released in June so you should have waited. THIS IS WHAT'S WRONG WITH AMERICA, PEOPLE ALWAYS FIND SOMETHING TO BITCH AND COMPLAIN ABOUT! NOBODY CAN EVER BE HAPPY! GET OVER IT! AT&T AND APPLE DO NOT OWE US ANYTHING! IF YOU'RE SO UNHAPPY, SWITCH TO ANOTHER CARRIER AND SEE IF THE GRASS IS GREENER ON THE OTHER SIDE! CHILL OUT, AND RELAX PEOPLE! DID SPRINT LET EVERYONE UPGRADE EARLY WHEN THE PALM PRE CAME OUT??? NO! DID VERIZON OFFER THEIR PEOPLE EARLY UPGRADES WHEN THE TOUCH DIAMOND WAS RELEASED? NO! YOU HAVE TO HAVE THAT THING CALLED PATIENCE! WHEN IT'S TIME, YOU'LL GET YOUR UPGRADE! RELAX!

What sucks for me is I just opened a AT&T account 2 weeks ago and I bout the Iphone 3G. Technically I can go in and exchange it for the Iphone 3GS (after paying restock fee)since i'am still in my 30 day trial. But I dont think its that much different from the 3G. I just wish they would make one really good phone that does everything, then make newer phones every year and a half to two years.

@Bighoward305 do you know how many of us would love to be in your position and you sound like it doesn't even matter, lol the torture

ummm... what's the deal with all the cry babies?? You signed a contract - deal with it. I think if it was ANY phone but the iphone, no one would complain... I am eligible under their terms to get the early upgrade after these new developments, I got my 3G last summer (but I guess since I had the first iPhone as well and have 5 phones under my contract i guess i fell through a loop hole, but i'm still not in a hot rush to get one, to be honest - the only thing i'm looking forward to is the upgraded memory and the anti fingerprint screen... I already have the 3.o update and there isn't much the "s" does different. Stop all the Bitchin and relax - it's a phone. And At&t, like ANY wireless company makes their money on contract re-ups - they have guidelines to follow, not just to please iPhone users. This "early upgrade" thing is going to do one thing - make them money, and it's freakin brilliant if u ask me.

I got the rebate. I bought the 3GS for a non-upgrade price, predicting it would be worth the price. AT&T has gone beyond the call of duty here, IMHO, and I appreciate it.

Maybe it would be better to just add another line, cancel this one and pay the 115, I kinda want a new number anyway, I think its cheaper too, will I be able to transfer
my apps to a new phone?

So...will those of us who stood in line to get the iPhone 3G last year...but don't need all the minutes in the world (I pay $80 per month and don't need texting and never use more than half of my minutes) be able to get the special pricing 2-3 months ahead of our elibility dates? No of course not. This is a desperate move to keep customers....nothing more...they DO NOT care about those of you eligibile for this...they only care about your money. They know a huge number of people will jump at this and get roped into another 2 year contract when they might not have done so.

I was able to get an early upgrade to 32GB Black 3GS for $499 + tax yesterday through AT&T. It took a lot of convincing the CSR as I had purchased my 16GB Black 3G in Nov 2008. I was shot down several times but got lucky once. I plan to list my old phone on ebay when AT&T deliver my new phone.

I can tell you exactly what this is. AT&T and Apple didn't get the amount of pre-orders that they thought they would. Sales of the iPhone 3GS will not exceed the iPhone 3G, but will more closely resemble the original iPhone.

I spoke with AT&T today and I purchased my iPhone 3G last August 2008. According to them, as long as you purchased your iPhone 3G in July, August or September 2008 and you pay over $99.99 monthly per line then you can get the early upgrade. Between the 2 iPhones in my bill, I spend $140 monthly but they wouldn't upgrade any of my lines because my first line bill calculates at $95 ($60 family plan + $30 data plan + $5 text plan) and my second iPhone 3G line is only $45 ($10 additional family plan + $30 data plan + $5 text plan). I pled my case all the way up to the area manager and director but they wouldn't budge since I was about $4.99 short of their requirement and they cared less even if I've been an AT&T customer for 8 years.
I highly suggest you speak to a manager so you can get your upgrade if you purchased your phone in July, August, or September 2008 and pay over $99.99 per line monthly because many of the customer service reps are unaware of the new early upgrade announcement.

So it has to be $99 per line to get the upgrade? I have 4 lines on my account and I'm the main account holder. Shouldn't it just be for the iPhone line? Which is my line. I pay $60 plus $30 data and then $30 unlimited family.
But it still says on the site that I can upgrade on 7/13/09.When I went to the Apple Store last night they said it looks like I cannot upgrade. But they agreed with me and said that it must be wrong because I meet all the steps. Anybody else have any suggestions?? Thanks

Even with the hassles and costly fees associated with the upgrade, was it worth it for most people to switch from their old 3G to the 3G S iPhone? Or would merely adopting the 3.0 OS update been sufficient? Were the new features truly worthy of the fanfare surrounding the upgrade, or does Apple risk harming its brand by putting out a new iPhone that doesn't offer a substantial difference from its predecessor model?
We're trying to get a debate going on our blog about the future of Apple, especially following the recent upgrade and new release. Please check us out: http://uimagicinc.com/blog/?p=165 We think you and your commenters would have a lot to contribute to our discussion!