AT&T inflates ‘early upgrade’ fee for iPhone owners

It’s becoming more and more expensive to own an iPhone.

AT&T customers who are willing to stick with the carrier and want to buy an iPhone, but haven’t quite reached the end of their contract, will now have to pay another $50 on top of the previous ‘early upgrade’ prices.

This now makes early upgrades a ridiculous endeavor for any AT&T user who wants the best AT&T phone. For example, the iPhone 3GS only costs $49 for new customers or those who are at the end of their contract term.

But for those who are in the middle of their contract and received notice of early upgrade eligibility, the price is now $299. The early upgrade price for an iPhone 4 now sits at a ludicrous $549.

In addition to iPhones, the early upgrade prices for all Windows Phone 7 devices has also jumped $50.

AT&T is justifying the move by saying phones are more expensive than ever. For example, a new customer may spend $200 on a phone that costs $700 if they sign a two-year contract. Customers then essentially make up that $500 differential by paying for two years of service. If you haven’t completed those two years of service, you don’t deserve the huge discount on a new phone.

“As mobile devices become more sophisticated, their cost goes up. This change reflects the increased costs, while still allowing us to offer customers the latest device before they qualify,” Computerworld quoted AT&T as saying.

But AT&T’s early upgrade prices are staunchly different than most other carriers.

By contrast, for example, Verizon usually tacks on no more than $20 to the subsidized price for customers who want an early upgrade. The company’s latest device, the HTC Thunderbolt, costs $250 for new customers, or $270 for early upgraders.