AT&T makes Next plans easier to get, still not a better value

AT&T makes Next plans easier to get, still not as a good a value as they should be

AT&T is making their Next plans, which can allow for more frequent phone upgrades, available to some existing customers already on regular contracts. AT&T:

AT&T customers on a two-year agreement as of January 18, 2014 are eligible to upgrade to AT&T Next six months into their contract. To check their eligibility, customers can dial *NEW# and begin to take advantage of this early upgrade opportunity in AT&T retail stores, and online at

Unless I'm missing something, it's still not as good of a deal as it should be. Essentially, it's phone leasing on top of a subsidy, which smacks of double-dipping. Anyone run the numbers and found them in their favor?

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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

AT&T makes Next plans easier to get, still not a better value


It's the price of their service that kills me. I compared AT&T's Mobile Share Plan against what my wife and I are paying T-Mobile and came up really short. It turned out that I'd end up paying about $50-$60 more per month (before taxes and fees) for AT&T than T-Mobile. So thanks but no thanks, AT&T.

What do you expect from a bunch of capitalist's. I so want Tmobile to succeed and force the other companies (Ma Bell) to stop being so arrogant. TEXTING SHOULD BE FREE PERIOD!! It costs all of the carriers nothing when a person texts so why do they charge for it? O sorry kinda went left there but you get the point (I think/hope :)

I kind of wish we'd all just start to move away from SMS in general. I'm much more likely to send a Hangouts or Skype message than an SMS these days, since we all have smartphones anyway.

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Yeah but then we have to download whatever app of the moment you happen to be using. SMS is perfect because everyone has it. If you have a cell phone, you can send/receive a text. Now, some folks might be in crappy plans and it costs them each time, but they are few and far between and at least the capability is always there. The last thing I want to do is download a suite of apps and have to go into them based on who uses which one. I've heard of Skype but I have no use for it, never even heard of hangout. Yet I can send a text to my mom or coworkers or anyone I know and they get it, without any special actions on anyone's part.

It's a better deal if usome simple math

I'll use a 2gb plan for this convo

It cost 55 for the plan 40 for the phone a total of 95/mo.

The iphone 5s is 25/month

U get a 15 credit toward the phone price.

So u are increasing from 95 to 105/mo fir everything

Make 18 payments and u get a new phone.

18 x 10 is 180.
Old way is u pay 200 upfront with 2yr contract and 36 act fee

So u pay 180 on next program instead of 236 on contract plan

A few questions, if you don't mind?

  • What do you mean $40 for the phone? Is that for the voice plan?
  • What's the $15 credit for and when does it apply?
  • After you've made 18 payments and gotten a new phone, do you get to keep the 5s or do you have to give it back?

In other words, is it just a better deal than the bad deal it used to be, or is it truly a good deal?

The $15 credit is for each line that is not under a two year contract. Seems to me like a better deal than it was, still not a GREAT deal, but it's worth it for the early upgrade now.

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it's a gimmick. If you read over my other comments down below, you can see how it's not better than a 2 yr contract. but to answer your questions:

- the $15 credit applies for people who:
1. elect to do the NEXT plan
2. have a 2 year contract that has expired (don't get the discount during the 2 years, but are eligible afterward)
3. buy their phone somewhere else (ebay, amazon, etc)

- the way ATT "Mobile Share" (the only way to get a cell phone contract now) works is that you start with a base rate. This base depends on how much data you want ( Ex: 2 GB is $55/mo, 8GB is 90/mo, etc). This base rate also includes talk and text. On top of that, you also add phones to your plan, which cost $40/phone. The $15 discount applies at this point. So, if a phone is eligible for the discount, the phone cost $25/mo ($40-$15).
- With the NEXT plan, you don't "own" the phone til you made all the payments. At that point, you do.

yes, the ATT make it confusing on purpose so consumers are ignorant. Then, when you go in, they rapidly throw numbers at you to try to prove that the NEXT plan is cheaper. It's not- look at my comment below for the math. Hope this helps

Agreed. I just left an AT&T store mad. I went in to make a quick simple upgrade which I have available. My Iphone 5 just broke and I just wanted to use my 2 year upgrade to get another phone. They refused. Spent 30 minutes telling me how the NEXT plan was better and that my bill was going to go up $40 a month if I did the standard 2 year upgrade. I kept pressing drilling into his numbers and he couldn't answer my questions. He finally turned off his tablet and said I guess we are done here. I said looks that way and walked out. LOL. They won't even sell me the 2 year upgrade in the store now. It felt like the sleeziest kind of used car dealership in the AT&T store. Thanks but no thanks.

Yeah, that's what the att reps are told to say, and you played right into their ploy. First of all, after 18 payments, you don't own the phone. At that point, either you relinquish it to att or pay 6 more months worth of installments to own it. It would make no sense to give it up, because you can sell it for upwards of $400 online, or at the very least keep it as a backup. Sure, at the 18 month mark its $20 cheaper to do the Next plan, but if you do the $200 contract, you at least own the phone. There's a reason why wireless carriers are trying to move away from subsidized phones.

okay. here's some math for you for the iphone 5s 16gb:

let's estimate that a service plan costs $50 on contract.

NEXT 12:
$32.50 per month x 20 months = $650 for the phone
$50 - $15 for the discount = $35/month for the service x 24 months = $840
so after 2 years, the NEXT plan would cost you $650+$840=$1490

2 year contract:
$200 for the phone
$50 for the service x 24 months = $1200
so after 2 years, a 2 year contract would cost you $1200+$200= $1400

after 2 years, both plans are the same, because both are eligible for the $15 discount at that point.

and you're trying to tell me the next plan is better?

People keep writing articles saying that the Next plan is terrible and a rip off...but in the end its basically not much different from the old 2 year plans.
They took out the subsidy cost by offering a discount on Next plans, so basically the reason it was a rip off at the beginning is gone now.
Now if you trade it in at 18 months, then you're basically getting $200 for the phone as a trade-in since you still owed $200 to buy the phone. But by trading it in they waive the remaining payments..and you can then start a new 18/26 month plan on a new phone with no down payment again. But I'd rather buy out the phone, then sell it and then start a new Next plan.
What's wrong with that? really nothing

NO!!! You do not own the phone after 18 months! You must give it back to receive a new one and continue paying monthly. You only own it if you pay for 26 months. That is what I read on AT&T site. So.....if you pay 25.00 for an I phone or android (prices slightly vary monthly) then you are paying $650.00 for that phone!!!! No discount there! I believe the 2-year plan is cheaper. What if you lose your phone or it breaks? still have to pay the monthly fees for that phone! With that in mind, you should get the insurance that Now costs $10.00 per month per phone...with a $200.00 deductible!!! ripoff! Not happy about this plan now that I just switched over and discovered all the details. I'm going to find out if I have to upgrade all four phones on the plan, if not, then we may purchase the other phones on the plan. I was told you could purchase your own by at&t employee...need to confirm this.

Well you get $15 off each line that's on NEXT so it almost offsets the price for some devices to pay for the installment each month.

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These are the desperate throes of carriers trying to keep people on the endless upgrade path. SmartPhones are hitting that point PC's did, where no, we don't all need to upgrade every 18 or 24 months so they are losing their cash cows. I have an iPhone 4s - yes, I know, simply ANCIENT, I know some folks would think I must be in the dark ages. It works perfectly fine for me - well, did, until iOS7, but that's another topic (being forced to upgrade to continue using the same dang apps I already was). In any case, the amount of folks who feel they must have the brand-newest model to get an extra few pixels out of the camera, or a biometric unlock gimmick, are dwindling. The plateau has been hit with truly innovative "must have" features on new phones, so the carriers want to make sure you stay on the upgrade path so they can keep churning out phones, which brings you to these desperate programs trying to lock you in. For people that are going to stay on that train anyway, they can make some sort of sense - but for everyone else, it's just more money that you very likely wouldn't need to spend that quickly anyway.

That's completely not at all why they're doing the Next plan. They're doing it because offering $200 phones that cost $600 off contract is a huge defecit for the carriers. Consequently, your statement is completely wrong; wireless carriers DONT want (smartphone) consumers upgrading. They have to pay a huge phone subsidy and can't make any money out of upgrading people to newer devices.

THEY don't pay the subsidy. We do. They simply "loan" it to us at a very high interest rate as part of our monthly bills already. It's just not itemized for you to see, but it's obviously built in. Of course they have a vested interest in us constantly upgrading - why else do they send out constant offers and reminders to customers encouraging them to do so? It gets us to sign those high priced contracts again, and more and more people are switching to much cheaper plans with places like Walmart (which runs on the same networks the big guys do) at half the cost. Don't be fooled, they are not paying any of that subsidy. In no way, shape, or form does the service I consume actually cost $130/month that ATT wants to charge (for one smart phone and one feature phone). It's all about getting reeling you in and keeping you on that upgrade cycle so they can justify these enormous prices.

Sure, it is built into our plan, but they still ideally don't want people to constantly upgrade, assuming they're gonna stick with AT&T. Up until the introduction of the Next plan, a service plan was the same price regardless of whether or not you were on a 2 year contract. A person who bought an iPhone 3g and didn't upgrade at all still paid the same amount for service as someone who bought a 3g, then upgraded to a a 4s, then a 5s, etc. The only difference there is AT&T had to fork ~$400 each time person 2 upgraded to the newest device.

People know the costs upfront. If they aren't willing to pay them, they wouldn't have signed a contract. It's not like they sign a 2 year agreement and then find out how outrageous their bill is. If that's the case, then it's their own damn fault for not taking 30 mins to find out. So it's not like people really want to cancel in the middle of their contracts-- the majority wouldn't have signed one in the first place. They get in the "endless cycle" by choice.

It might not be a better deal but I won't leave for tmobile until they have better coverage nationwide,

Wow, I'm always surprised how expensive the plans in the US are. And people are fooled by that "100 and 200 dollar for the phone" model. In the end you pay like 1800 to 2200$ for an iPhone... Crazy. Or do I miss something here?

I don't think you are missing a thing, and no. My family consists of three college graduates and we didn't really understand how it worked until I started becoming interested in mobile computing.

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I am on ATT and have been keeping data on my family's bill for there. The price we pay varies, which doesn't make sense to me, since we don't go over. That is just attributed to taxes on a bill, and then a decrease for each additional line. This plan makes sense for my family, especially now that they have sweetened the pot with changes as reported with this article. The costs are more transparent, which is something that if you look at a cellphone bill is very much not the case.
It is not as great of a deal as Switching to TMO but, it may be a step in the right direction and I can see it being good for my family.

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I called and told AT&T I was switching if they couldn't do something to match T-Mobile. They gave me $30 off a month for a year. Give it a try.

How did you approach this conversation? I'm very interested in this because I'm actually considering switching but if they could come down in my bill I would consider staying.

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I literally asked if they could do anything match tmobile, fan advised that I would have to switch because the monthly savings was too great. The rep placed me on hold and came back with the $30 offer.

Wow that's pretty awesome. This is friendly competition for competitors like T-mobile who have the Jump program.

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I love how Jan 18 2014 is the date they give, but I won't have the option until nearly the end of April. I do find it hilarious how they set it up so you pay 130% for a thing, but they won't let you pay 130% for a thing until the time they say they want you to.

It's like not letting you have more than 4 skips on internet radio, or only giving you 30-second replays on videos instead of timeline scrubbing. For some reason, it's not enough to give them your money... You apparently need to do things in their weird way that only makes sense to creepy baby boomers.

What makes it worse is that you know that AT&T will soon be doing away with subsidies and you will have to pay full price for a phone and have the more expensive price. I want them to let me buy the phone outright and give me a cheaper monthly service fee. Matter fact if the iPhone 6 is a 4.9" screen I should be good for at least 3 years if not longer.

From my calculations you're saving $9.17 a month if you sign up for the 2-year contract compared to the Next Plan. That's a $110.04 a year savings. $220.08 savings in 2 years.

I did a sample thru the AT&T web-site -- trying to sign up as a new customer comparing the charges for:

(1) two (2) year contract
(2) the Next 12 plan (20 mos)

The selections were:

iPhone 5s - 16GB
Data plan is 2GB Mobile Share

For the 2-year, the monthly cost (excluding taxes & fees) were $88.33

For the Next 12-plan, the monthly cost were $97.50

Go ahead and try it on their web-site

If you don't mind paying and losing an additional $9.17 a month, and really want a new phone every year, then get the Next.

I still think it's a rip-off and a marketing gimmick.

I dont mean to further anger the mob here but I actually did the math. Someone please correct my faulty logic.

When you do the next plan you can save up to $25 per month if youre part of the 10g or higher data plan.
and you pay for the full cost of the phone. No where does it say you HAVE TO turn the phone back in. You are allowed to keep it as long as you pay the full amount.

So lets compare assuming we're buying an iphone 5s.

With contract: paying the extra $25 x 24(months) = 600 + $299(subsidized cost of iphone)= $899

Next Plan: $650(full price of iphone)

$650 < $899

No where in the agreement did I read that there is an additional "subsidized cost" for the next plan.

Someone please correct my logic.