AT&T Next Upgradeable vs 2 year contract Smartphone Plan Review
Last update: 9/8/2016
On 8/22/2016 AT&T Wireless rolled out the new Mobile Share Advantage plan with more data for less $$. It also added no overage charges, speeds will slow to a crawl after you hit your limit. This plan clearly shows the hidden costs of 2 year contracts.
An allotment of of data costs $30/month for 1GB, $40 for 3GB, $60 for 6GB, $80 for 10GB, etc..
Costs for each Smartphone line:
- $20/month if on Phone is on AT&T Next or Paid for
- $40 a month if Phone is on a 2 year plan
30 month plan is now AT&T Next, 24 month plan is now AT&T Next Every Year. The Next 20 month plan was removed in 2016.
End of ATT Wireless 2 year Contract
AT&T Wireless announced that the 2 Year Contract is ending January 8, 2016. New and Existing Customers will only be able to buy phones using the Next Installment Plan after this time.
AT&T created a new wireless phone plan in July 2013 called AT&T Next Installment to address the needs of customers who want to upgrade to the latest and greatest Smartphone every year. Normal Smartphone plans in the USA require shoppers to commit to a 2 year contract. They cannot change phones during this time unless they want to pay an expensive early termination fee, for cancelling their contract early.
AT&T Gives you up to $650 in credits when you switch.
BuyVia's AT&T Next Plan review shows that the Plan is a lot more advantageous than expected and maybe better than the normal 2 year contract, even if you do not perform the upgrade! 68% of iPhones sold in the 2nd quarter of 2015 were on the AT&T Next Plan.
In a separate blog post, we analyze Verizon’s Edge Plan, which is similar to AT&T Next, we also analyzed AT&T Next vs Verizon Edge vs Apple iPhone Upgrade Program
Be sure to download the BuyVia App, which helps you save money on items you want from stores you like, both online and locally.
AT&T changes its plans from time to time, so we will reanalyze it when the time comes. There are also limited time promotions like an occasional rebate with specific phones or credit to adding a new Next line.
The 2 year Contract is Costly
Two year contracts have been the norm in the US for years. If you wanted the latest phone, you would typically pay $199 and sign a 2 year contract. The phone's cost was heavily subsidized. A typical phone costs $649, so $450 was baked into your monthly bill. The problem is that after you finish paying off the phone in 2 years, your monthly bill would not fall. This makes it a BAD deal if you do not upgrade to a new phone after finishing your 2 years.
Prior to 2015, most people upgraded their phone within 2 years. With smartphones becoming more mature and features less worth the upgrade, the number of months before upgrading to a new phone will pass 26 in 2015 and approach 30 in 2016.
With the new installment plans like AT&T Next installment plan, you pay for the phone every month and once paid off, your monthly payments decrease. There is no interest charged.
Upgrading early with a 2 year Contract
With a traditional 2 year contract, a user wanting to upgrade to a new handset would have to pay the following:
- $325 Smartphone early termination fee
- $299 or $399 instead of $199 for the new phone
- Another 2 year commitment
This was a steep price to pay, hence the Next Plan was born.
If you are a good customer, nearing the end of a 2 year Contract, AT&T sometimes lets you upgrade to a Next plan before the full 2 years are up, usually at the 18 month mark. Call them to ask if you qualify.
Smartphone Product Cycle
The cellular industry is built around yearly releases of major products. Samsung and Apple introduce new flagship devices every year. Each year, customers have to make a decision whether they want to break their contract to upgrade to the newest Smartphone.
The Next plan allows users to upgrade every year without incurring penalties. There is always a catch, so we will examine the plan in detail. Most articles have labeled the Next Plan as expensive and a way for AT&T to generate more revenue. As you will see, this plan can actually be cheaper than the normal two year commitment that most people sign up for.
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Save up to $100 over the Apple store when you factor in sales tax.
- Optical Zoom Camera
- Better Battery Life
- New and improved camera (f1.8)
- Optical image stabilization
- No Headphone Jack (Comes with adapter cable)
Consider purchasing an unlocked cell phone if you are on AT&T or T-Mobile and want a new Smartphone without a contract. Unlocked Smartphones allow you to subscribe to low cost carriers mentioned below and function internationally, so you can use the same phone abroad.
Learn: No-Contract Plans, Unlocked Smartphones
Choosing the right plan for you is time consuming and can also be a hassle. We've done the research and you may save over $1,000 each year! Be sure to check out our no-contract Smartphone plan article: How to Find the Best No Contract Smartphone Plans where we compare all of the major network carriers. Check out our How to Buy an Unlocked iPhone article to learn what it means to have an "Unlocked" Smartphone.
About Apple iPhone 7 Plus:
The Apple iPhone 7 Plus comes with a new faster Apple A10 Fusion processor and runs on iOS 10. It has a a longer, larger 5.5" Retina display with a fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating. Cnet calls the redesign "sharp, slim, and feather-light."
Apple iOS 10 includes Airdrop, Siri, Family Sharing, QuickType Keyboard and more.
However the iPhone 7 Plus's new improved Lightning connector makes older docks and chargers obsolete. On the plus side, the new connector is a bit smaller, a little more rugged and easier to use than the previous one.
CNet gives the Apple iPhone 7 Plus a 4.5 out of 5 rating.
Apple iPhone 7 Plus Specifications:
- 12Mpixel iSight rear camera f1.8, 12Mpixel Facetime camera
- 1080p HD video recording (30 fps or 60 fps)
- 4K video recording at 30 fps
- Apple A10 Fusion quad-core 2.34 GHz processor
- Apple M8 motion coprocessor
- iOS 10
- 5.5" Retina HD 1920x1080 resolution touchscreen @ 401ppi
- Wide color display (P3)
- Bluetooth 4.0
- 1400:1 contrast ratio
- 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
- IP67 Rating: Splash, Water & Dust Resistant
- upto 14 hr talk time on 3G, upto 10 days standby
- 188 g (6.63 oz)
- 6.23 x 3.07 x 0.29 in
- 2G Network: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 + CDMA 800 / 1900 / 2100
- 3G Network: HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1700(AWS) / 1900 / 2100 + CDMA2000 1xEV-DO & TD-SCDMA
- 4G Network: LTE Band 1(2100) / 2(1900) / 3(1800) / 4(1700/2100) / 5(850) / 7(2600) / 8(900) / 12(700) / 13(700) / 17(700) / 18(800) / 19(800) / 20(800) / 25(1900) / 26(850) / 27(800) / 28(700) / 29(700) / 30(2300) / 38(2600) / 39(1900) / 40(2300) / 41(2500)
Low Cost Service Plan with Unlimited Talk, Text, and Data
T-Mobile offers a web exclusive pre-paid plan great for unlocked phones:
- $40/mo for Unlimited Talk & Text with 3GB of LTE Data
Straight Talk, a prepaid carrier that is owned by Tracfone and Walmart, sells micro SIM cards for the that cost $14.99 + Free Shipping. You can pop these into any AT&T-compatible, T-Mobile-compatible, or unlocked GSM phone.
- $45 a month buys you unlimited talk, text and 5GB high speed data with no contract or credit check
Posted: February 20, 2017 9:07 AM PST
Verizon Wireless Coupons
With Verizon Unlimited, you also get HD video streaming, Mobile Hotspot, calling and texting to Mexico and Canada and up to 500 MB/day of 4G LTE roaming in Mexico and Canada - included.
- $80 for unlimited data, talk and text on your smartphone with paper-free billing and AutoPay.
- $45 per line for 4 lines with unlimited data, talk and text on your smartphones and tablets with paper-free billing and AutoPay.
Free Phones with Trade in and Switching
To ensure a quality experience for all customers, after 22 GB of data usage on a line during any billing cycle Verizon may prioritize usage behind other customers in the event of network congestion.
Posted: February 20, 2017 12:00 AM PST
Even better today, time to switch. T-Mobile Unlimited Plan - 2 Lines $100 - Includes Taxes & Fees - Switch: Get Back $150/Line started with your February charges. Expires Soon
Competition is good, Verizon added a new Unlimited plan, so T-Mobile is one upping them.
- Unlimited HD Video streaming
- 10 GB of 4G LTE High speed hotspot data at no extra charge
- $100 for two lines ALL IN - no other fees
- $160 for four lines ALL IN
- They now pay for your Taxes & Fees
Get back a $10 Bill Credit for each line that uses less than 2GB of Data.
Switch to T-Mobile and get a $150 Prepaid MasterCard per line. That is $600 for a family of 4. Expires 2/22/2017
T-Mobile ONE Plan
- Unlimited Talk, text, 4G LTE data
- Unlimited Streaming video and music
- Unlimited travel Abroad + GOGO
- It starts at $70/month
- The new plan has some gotchas
- On all plans, during congestion the top 3% of data users (>26GB/mo.) may notice reduced speeds until next bill cycle. Video typically streams on smartphone/tablet at DVD quality (480p). Tethering at Max 3G speeds.
- One Plan Caps hotspot usage to 2G speeds unless you pay extra $15/month
- One Plan Throttles video to 480p unless you pay extra $25/month
- Prices are $5 higher for customers who do not enable automatic payments
T-Mobile Plans have these special features
- Free video streaming with select services - Netflix, Hulu, ESPN, etc..
- No limits or overage fees
- Jump! on Demand to upgrade to a new phone
- Free Data Roaming and texting in 140+ countries
- Upto $650 trade in when switching carriers
Posted: February 19, 2017 12:00 AM PST
ATT Wireless Coupons
Clearly AT&T's goal is to meet the competition. This does not require DirecTV any more!
AT&T Unlimited Wireless Plan Details
- Unlimited talk/text
- Stream Saver will limit video to 480p, but can be turned off
- $100/month for first phone
- $40/month for next 2 lines
- 4th line is free after bill credit - After 2 months of paying $40.
- Tablets $40/month
- Watches $10/month
- Basic / Messaging phones $25/month
- No hotspot - tethering function
- You can also make unlimited calls from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico
- Send unlimited texts to over 120 countries
After 22GB of data usage on a line in a bill cycle, AT&T may slow the data on that line during periods of network congestion for the remainder of that cycle.
Posted: February 17, 2017 12:00 AM PST
75% of people purchase their phone from their wireless carrier, instead of buying direct from Apple.
AT&T Next Plan Overview
Here are the main features of this AT&T Smartphone Plan:
- Get a new Smartphone every year - AT&T Next Every Year Plan
- Upgrade to a new Smartphone with eligible trade-in after 80% of retail price is paid - AT&T Next Plan
- Next Plan lasts for 24 or 30 months
- Available to new customers or existing customers if they are qualified for an upgrade
- This is an installment agreement along with wireless service
- No down payment, No upgrade fee, No financing fee
- No activation fee, but sales tax is due at signup
- Need to trade in the phone in good condition or else you’ll be charged extra
- When you trade in the Smartphone, you will receive nothing
- You will own the Smartphone after 24, or 30 months of payments, before that, you are just leasing it
- If you cancel or lose the phone, you have to pay the remaining balance
- Tablets are no longer on the plan
- Limit of 4 Smartphones
- Early payment is ok
- 14 day return period with a $35 restocking fee
- After you trade in your Smartphone, you can start a new Next Plan
AT&T Next Every Year Plan for iPhone 7 or Samsung Galaxy S7
We will list out the charges due when you setup a Next 24 month Plan for 2 of the most popular Smartphones on AT&T Wireless.
iPhone 7 32GB or Galaxy S7 32GB with Next Every Year Plan. Full price is $649. This allows us to upgrade after one year. The S7 may be slightly cheaper.
Amount due at Sale:
$20 Activation fee
Sales tax on full value of phone $60 in our area.
Total due at time of sale: $80 - This is the main advantage!
AT&T Monthly Plan:
$27.09/month installment charge for iPhone 7 or Galaxy S7 for 24 months
Mobile Share 3GB with unlimited talk and text
$40/month + $20 Device Access Charge = $60/month – this is $15 cheaper than 2 year plan.
Total due each month: $87.09
Amount paid after one year:
$87.09 X 12 months = $1045 + $57 Sales Tax = $1102.
You can now get a new Smartphone if you wish.
Amount Paid to fulfill Next contract: (24 months)
$87.09 X 24 months = $2090+ $57 Sales Tax = $2147
iPhone 6 or Galaxy S7 value after 2 years, is now roughly $250
Surprise – this is $75 more than normal 2 year plan over the same 20 months!
True premium over 2 years is $165 for the AT&T Next Plan when compared to traditional 2 year.
First two years of Smartphone Ownership:
Year 1: iPhone 7 or Galaxy S7 $1102
Year 2: iPhone 7S? or Galaxy S8? $1102
Total cost for 2 years: $2204
$75 per year premium over 2 year contract to get the latest phone
Caveat – you do not own the phone unless you fullfill installment period
After fulfilling your phone's installment plan (24 monthly payments in the case of Next plan), your bill would fall to $60/month because you paid off the phone and you now own it. This in contrast to a 2 year plan where the bill would remain the same at $70. Both plans have the same monthly bill after contract fulfillment.
AT&T 2 Year Contract for iPhone 7 or Samsung Galaxy S7
We will list out the charges due when you setup a Standard 2 year commitment for 2 of the most popular Smartphones on AT&T Wireless.
iPhone 7 32GB or Galaxy S7 32GB with Mobile Share. This allows us to upgrade after two years.
Amount due at sale:
$45 Activation fee
$199.99 for the Smartphone
Sales tax on full value of phone $60 in our area.
Total due at time of sale: $199.99 + $60 Sales Tax + $45 activation fee = $305 - A lot more than Next Plan
Mobile Share 3GB with unlimited talk and text
Total due each month: $70.
Amount Paid to fulfill contract: (24 months)
$70 X 24 months = $1680 + $199.99 + $60 Sales Tax + $45 activation fee = $1984.99
iPhone 7 or Galaxy S7 value after 2 years is now roughly $250.
Surprise – This is Less than Next Plan when looking at full contract fulfillment and 24 months of use.
First two years of Smartphone Ownership:
Year 1,2: iPhone 7 or Galaxy S7 $1981.99
Total cost for 2 years: $1981.99
You are ready to get another phone finally!
After 2 years your bill would remain the same at $70/month even though you paid off the phone, but Next would drop to $60/month. It takes 5 months to make up the difference.
When is the AT&T Next Plan worthwhile?
There are specific situations where the Next Plan is worth considering. One of these situations might depend on your timing on fulfilling the contract.
- You are already on AT&T
- If you want to have the latest Smartphone every year
- You don’t sell your Smartphone after fulfilling the contract
- If you like the shorter 20 month contract
- If the 20 months brings you closer to an Apple (September) or Samsung (February) release date
AT&T Next Plan Conclusion
AT&T Next Installment Plan adds more ways for Smartphone owners to upgrade to the latest technology without waiting 2 years for their contract to be finished.
- If you are a frequent upgrader, this Next plan is a no brainer.
- If you are interested in a shorter 20 month contract, the Next Plan is also the way to go.
- If you plan to hold onto you phone for 2 years, the traditional 2 year plan is $75 cheaper.
- Both plans cost about the same after about 2 years, 8 months.
Do you have a different opinion of this AT&T Next Plan review or a suggestion? Please leave a comment below.