AT&T Comes Through

There have been a lot of anecdotal reports of iPhone users switching from AT&T to Verizon, driven in part by AT&T’s unwillingness to allow launch-day iPhone 4S purchasers to upgrade to the iPhone 5 at fully-subsidized prices given that it has only been 11 months since the last iPhone launch. Andy Zaky of Bullish Cross even details how AT&T effectively paid him $173.82 to switch to Verizon.

Upon discovering that I had to pay $250 for both my wife and sister to get them iPhone 5′s, I inquired as to how much it would cost me to essentially cancel my account at AT&T and go to Verizon instead. I wasn’t seriously considering leaving, but just sort of wanted to know out of curiosity what it would cost to not be under contract.

And this is precisely where AT&T completely and totally fails. This is why Apple is Apple and why AT&T is AT&T. For me to cancel the entire family plan and move to another carrier, it would only cost me $320.00.

AT&T then proceeded to give Zaky a service credit of $173.82, ostensibly to offset the amount of money he would save if he switched to Verizon for his iPhone 5 purchases over sticking with AT&T. But the service credit comes with no strings attached, and Zaky is still free to switch to Verizon and pocket the AT&T service credit.

I was very nearly in a similar Twilight Zone of pricing rationale with AT&T, as the carrier was initially quoting me full retail price on an iPhone 5 upgrade. I purchased the iPhone 4S on launch day, but had a relatively low-cost $69.99 monthly plan for most of that year and my “early upgrade” pricing was not scheduled to kick in until early November and a full subsidy wasn’t in the cards until May 2013. So, for the 32 GB model I wanted, AT&T was telling me I needed to shell out $750.

I contacted AT&T customer service to ask about the issue, noting that I could simply pay my early termination fee (currently $215) and switch to Verizon, where I could purchase the 32 GB iPhone for $299 and save roughly $235 over staying with AT&T. I was initially told that there was nothing they could do, but the agent eventually relented and agreed to escalate my case. I’d be receiving a response within 72 hours, which wasn’t a ton of help given that iPhone 5 pre-orders were going live roughly 12 hours later.

Not expecting AT&T to come through, I placed a pre-order for a Verizon iPhone 5 as they went live at 3:00 AM last Friday and prepared to have my number ported from AT&T. Later on Friday, I did receive a phone call from AT&T, but I wasn’t available to take the call, and the voicemail simply said that they would call back the following day.

Later that evening, I checked my AT&T online account and to my surprise saw that I was eligible for full subsidy on the iPhone 5: $299. I then canceled my Verizon pre-order and resigned myself to camping out this Friday to buy my iPhone 5 on AT&T because pre-order shipping estimates had long since moved out to 2-3 weeks. AT&T did call back on Saturday to confirm with me that due to my status as a valued customer I was eligible for full subsidy, and I thanked them while sharing just how close they’d come to losing me as a customer.

I’m not seeing many reports of people receiving similar treatment from AT&T, but then again I’m not seeing many reports of people who were initially being told that they needed to pay full price for their iPhone 5 upgrades. Whatever the reason, I was pleasantly surprised to see AT&T come through and offer a deal that would keep me with them rather than sticking with ridiculous pricing policies that make it considerably cheaper for customers to switch carriers than to stay.