Dallas – AT&T joined Verizon Wireless in announcing a new phone-upgrade policy in which subscribers won’t be eligible for a subsidized phone until their 24-month contract expires.
Consumers at both networks previously could get a subsidized handset in 20 months after signing a two-year contract.
Verizon announced its change in April.
The carriers are reducing incentives to upgrade to a new subsidized phone to reduce costs, in turn likely extending the industry’s upgrade cycle and putting downward pressure on handset vendors’ sales, analysts have said.
AT&T said in a blog post that it is applying the new upgrade policy across all of its wireless products and services and to any subscriber whose agreement expires in March 2014 or later.
The policy allows for subscribers to share an upgrade with another person on the same account as long as the upgraded device is in the same product category, such as a phone-to-phone upgrade or tablet-to-tablet upgrade.
In addition, for subscribers who have completed six months or more of their service commitment, AT&T gives them a partial discount off the full retail price if they sign a new two-year contract.
AT&T also offers a trade-in program that, for a limited time, lets users trade in a smartphone that is no older than three years and is in good working condition to get at least $100 off the purchase of a new smartphone.
Another option is to upgrade a phone at anytime during a two-year contract without signing a new two-year contract and pay full retail price without signing another two-year commitment.
AT&T also lets consumers bring their own compatible GSM-capable phone to AT&T and sign up for service without a Service Commitment.