Want the New iPhone 4? It Will Cost You, According to AT&T

by PocketGoddess on June 16, 2010

A very good friend of mine named Brad has an iPhone 3GS, and so does his wife. They both want to upgrade to the new iPhone 4, but they can’t both do so at the same time, for the same price–even though they both signed new contracts on the same day when they last upgraded their phones.

It has nothing to do with the preorder issues that so many people experienced yesterday; this is a problem with AT&T and the way they treat their customers. When AT&T offered early upgrades to customers wanting the newest iPhone, many were pleasantly surprised by the gesture. Unfortunately not everyone is so impressed now that we have all the facts.

I’ll let Brad tell his story:

I want to upgrade my iPhone 3GS to an iPhone 4.0. My wife and I both bought the first iPhone. We skipped the 3G, and got the 3GS when it came out. We bought both phones at the same time, and extended our contracts for 2 more years at the same time.
When I upgraded to the 3GS for both lines, we had no issues. For the 4.0, I assumed it was as easy as going to AT&T and happily giving them $400+ for the 2 phones. I’d be happy to extend my contract for another 2 years, as I am content with AT&T’s service.
My number, the “Primary” line was given a “no penalty” bump in upgrade availability. My wife’s line did not get that same treatment. Her line is available to upgrade in February 2011. We are on the same account, we’ve been with AT&T since it was Southwestern Bell (here in Dallas), and she has LITERALLY had the same cell number (and company) since 1993, 17 years. I don’t understand why one number, on the same account, the same model phone, and the same contract would be treated differently.
When I called AT&T, I was told that because I was the “Primary” number, and “that line brings in more revenue” that I was eligible to buy a 16GB for $199 or a 32GB for $299. When I asked the AT&T representative how much it was going to cost me to upgrade my wife’s line, I was told “That’s not an option for her”. I explained that I understood she was not “eligible for an upgrade” and I asked if there was a price to buy the phone, and I was told no.
Visiting a local AT&T store provided slightly better results, with an offer that Brad’s wife can purchase the 16GB version for $399 or the 32GB for $499, for an extra $200 more than the upgrade price.

Brad continues:

One of the biggest selling features of the iPhone 4.0 is the “FaceTime” feature. What’s the point of having a video chat app if I can’t talk to my WIFE, of all people. Yes, some husbands actually enjoy talking to their wives!

But, as a loyal customer who spends at least $2700 a year for service, not to mention nearly $1000 over the last 3 years for phones, I would think there would be some sort of concessions made. I’m basically asking a company to take my $400+ dollars for new technology, and being told, no, we want more. As a person who owns and runs a service based business, this seems to be a fast way to alienate customers, and make them consider taking their business elsewhere.

Now, I’m not asking for a free phone, or complaining about the price of the iPhone, all I’m asking for is for both lines to be treated fairly, and be charged the same price for the same item.

Yesterday, Brad received a call from someone at AT&T who said that he represented the “Office of the President.” Unfortunately that representative wasn’t able to offer any sort of concession, much less a reasonable explanation for why two customers who upgraded their phones and signed new contracts on the same day weren’t able to upgrade at the same time.

When AT&T made their goodwill gesture regarding early upgrades, there wasn’t any talk of fine print regarding the second line on a family account, but it seems that there is still a gotcha for couples and families who want to upgrade. That’s an even larger problem considering that FaceTime won’t work unless both users have the latest iPhone. When only one is allowed to upgrade, and AT&T is the only carrier offering the latest phone, the choice becomes whether to pay an extra $200 for the┬áprivilege, or wait until February.

Knowing Brad’s wife, he doesn’t really have an option at all.

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