The personal website of Chris Coyier

Bullhonkey on AT&T

I just wanted to help fuel the flames a little bit in the general internet atmosphere of being pissed at AT&T and their dropping the ball with the new iPhone 3GS.

Apple goes and throws out $199 and $299 price points on the new models and we ooooh and ahhhh and start dreaming of standing in line. Then the fanfare is over, the new phones are up on Apple.com, and we are able to check our plans to get ready to buy them. This is when we all find out that if we already had an iPhone 3G, we were ineligible for the upgrade pricing. In my particular scenario, It gave me price points of $399 and $499 with an upgrade date of 12/13/2009.

So this means that any old customer off the street can walk in and get a phone for 3/5 of the price that me, a loyal customer for years and years can. That just doesn’t feel right.

Of course, this is how the cell phone industry has worked forever. The prices of the phones themselves are subsidized by the carriers, and we aren’t eligible for that subsidization any ol’ time we please. We are only eligible when they say we are, which is typically at some percentage of being completed with a contract. The reason this wasn’t a problem with the 3G, is that the 1st generation phones were not subsidized (hence why they were so damn expensive), so literally everyone was eligible for the subsidization when the 3G came out.

It gets a little more confusing, as my own boss has in iPhone 3G which he bought close to when they came out and his eligibility date is 7/15/2009. Not sure I understand that, I’ve been a customer longer and my date is later. He also pointed out some text in the footer on Apples iPhone page.

For non-qualified customers, including existing AT&T customers who want to upgrade from another phone or replace an iPhone 3G, the price with a new two-year agreement is $499 (8GB), $599 (16GB), or $699 (32GB).

Hey that’s weird… so where is this $499 for the 32GB coming from? One or the other must be a mistake. Which is it?

It boils down to this. I fricking want the new phone. It has video, its faster, it has longer battery life, it has a bigger hard drive. I’m a lifelong fan-boy and I want to buy the thing but I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay hundreds of dollars more than random folks. If anything, I should pay less.

This is how it has always worked, but since Apple is changing all the rules with this phone anyway, why not now? It’s really AT&T that is the problem, and this pricing crap is just the tip of the iceburg.