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AT&T to double upgrade fee as device prices go up

updated 05:55 pm EST, Fri February 10, 2012

ATT upgrade fee hike coming February 12

A staff memo has leaked plans for AT&T to hike its device upgrade fee. The BGR copy had the cost jumping from $18 to $36. The cost was allegedly necessary because the "overall costs" for upgrading to a new device had gone up, AT&T said.

The fee increase would take effect February 12. AT&T hasn't separately confirmed the change.

AT&T's price difference doesn't necessarily put it dramatically out of line with other carriers, but it does raise the effective price in those situations where the upgrade fee can't be waived. Most US carriers charge an upgrade fee that's ostensibly to recoup administration and the possibility of a return, although this has been doubted by critics who see it as padding and masking the real cost.

The hike is supported by a large shift towards smartphones that ups the initial subsidy hit AT&T has to take. Some devices, such as the imminent, $300 Galaxy Note, are pushing the overall phone costs upwards. A link between the price increase and fallout from the failed T-Mobile merger is doubtful given the infrequent nature of device upgrades and the small amount relative to monthly plan revenue.

By Electronista Staff


  1. prl99

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Mar 2009


    don't need AT&T to do anything

    If I buy my iPhone through Apple as an upgrade to an existing line (well passed the two-year period), why should I have to pay AT&T anything for the upgrade. I handle the upgrade through iTunes, keeping the same phone number and simply changing the hardware. Where does AT&T come into the equation? They're already getting a bunch of money every month, why charge more for the upgrade?

  1. jpellino

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 1999


    Horse manure.

    It costs them more to click "activate" for an iPhone than for a lowly feature phone? Nonsense. Prove it. My bet is they're simply doubling down on ever-shrinking product cycle times. This harkens back to the day when the phone company had us all convinced that it was more expensive to call 71 miles away than 70, and that each long distance call was carried over solid gold wires strung just for you by pixies who ate a steady diet of truffles and caviar. Sorry, folks, but wireless carriers have made the transition from luxury to commodity to utility, and IIRC utilities are subject to regulation.

  1. lamewing

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Aug 2004


    And now they all will follow

    Before the end of the year all the other carriers will also increase their upgrade fees.

  1. rwx

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Feb 2012


    Ask to have it refunded

    I have purchased four iPhones over the years at the AT&T store, and each time I was charged the $18 upgrade fee. The store employees were unable to waive the fee, but instructed me to contact customer service after the fee appeared on my next bill. A quick phone call each time resulted in having the fees refunded. All I had to do was ask, and they were very friendly about it.

  1. JEB

    Junior Member

    Joined: May 2001


    Suxxx ...

    ... a huge reason they've certainly pegged = they know all of the orig iPhone 4 early adopters' contracts are now (precisely 2 wks) away from our 18mos upgrade eligibility ... jerks!

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