Read the Fine Print

About 6 months ago I moved my ATT account of 10+ years to the Mobile Share Value Plan from ATT, and I'm saving a lot every month thanks to that.

However, when the new iPhone 6 came out shortly after I changed plans, I quickly learned that I needed to read the fine print, closely, when purchasing new phones and adding them to my account.

We have 3 kids that are all at or nearing teenage years, so the need to add or replace phones on our mobile plan is ever present. In the past we've always just purchased phones directly from Apple using the "with 2 year service contract" reduced price. This has worked well for us over the years and given us some hand me down phones for the younger kids.

As I was planning to stand in line the next day for the shiny new goodness that was being relesaed from Apple, my brother cautioned me against buying in the same manner as I'd always done. Unconvinced, and because I'm the older brother, I set out to prove him wrong and show him that my way was still the best way.

As I started to dig into the various plans and purchasing options I discovered that ATT has made the whole comparison process much more complex. I also found that my little brother was right. Drat.

To illustrate the options available in April of 2015, the table below depicts the total cost of ownership of a new iPhone 6 (64GB) when added to an existing Mobile Share Value Plan with a shared data pool of 10GB or greater. At the time of this writing, there are three ways to purchase a new phone:

  1. Contract Free (street price, no strings attached)
  2. 2 Year Contract (carrier subsidizes the up front cost - traditional)
  3. ATT Next (free financing w/ installment payments)

The numbers speak for themselves. As long as you pay out of pocket up front or sign up for the Next plan, then you come out ahead. The service contract approach adds an extra $190 to the cost of the phone. This is very hard to spot unless you comb through all the fine print that is spread across several areas of the ATT site.

The 'contract premium' line was one of the hardest bits to decipher in all of this. If you follow the links below you'll see a table from ATT which states that normally you pay $15 per month for each contract free phone added to your shared plan. If you bring a phone to the party WITH a contract then that monthly price jumps to $40. Thus the $25 premium shown in column 2.

I've included a few links below to the ATT site to support the numbers in table.

In the end, I opted for the Contract Free approach. This allowed me to buy the phone as soon as it became available, rather than waiting 30-60 days for ATT to get them in stock. It also gave me the option to unlock the phone so that I can move it to other carriers or use internationally. While I don't have immeditate plans to do either, the option is worth something there.

Hope this helps.

ATT Next Plan Comparison

Charge for adding phones to MSV Plan