(Update: AT&T wrote to tell me that the eligibility date shifts MobileCrunch wrote about are nothing unusual.)
When the iPhone 3GS went on sale last June, AT&T told folks who’d bought subsidized iPhone 3Gs a year previously that they didn’t qualify to buy a 3GS at the full subsidy. Seemed reasonable enough to me. But after lots of vocal complaints from iPhone 3G owners who wanted to be iPhone 3GS early adopters, the company decided to let some of them buy the 3GS model on contract at the same price as new customers and those who had fulfilled earlier contracts.
When the next iPhone comes around–I don’t know anyone who’s predicting a release date later than this July–AT&T presumably wants to avoid the confusion, bad publicity, and need for backpedaling that accompanied the 3G release. And Greg Kumparak of MobileCrunch has an interesting post noting that some AT&T customers are seeing their upgrade eligibility dates moved to June 21st, as if AT&T is prepping to let them buy new iPhones at full discount from day one.
As of today, I don’t seem to be one of the lucky ones:
This message isn’t exactly a model of clarity–it says additional discounts “may” be available on November 20th, not that they will be. “A discounted iPhone upgrade at a higher price” is a wonderfully confusing phrase, and I’m not sure why A&T is offering me iPhone upgrades at all at the moment, given that I already own a top-of-the-line, up-to-date iPhone.
But if I’m interpreting this correctly, it’s saying that I don’t qualify to buy a new phone at full subsidy right now, but I can get some sort of unspecified intermediate iPhone discount. I believe that the discount varies from customer to customer and is based on factors such as the monthly service charges a given customer pays. And of course it’s possible that my eligibility will change before a new iPhone appears.
I persist in thinking that it’s moral for AT&T to offer something less than a fully subsidized price to customers who are still part way through two-year contracts they signed to get earlier subsidized phones. (Whether it’s smart marketing is another question.) But wouldn’t everybody involved be happier this time around if it was brain-dead simple to figure out how much a new iPhone was going to cost you?