AT&T introduced its new Mobile Share Value plans this morning, in a clear effort to show that it can roll with T-Mobile when it comes to offering customers savings. The deals are indeed pretty solid, especially if you have a plan with several devices and a large bucket of data. I alone used to pay $200 per month for 20GB of data, and now only have to pay $150GB, but that's not really what I'm here to talk about.
Instead, it's a smaller portion of AT&T's new plans that drops the price you pay each month for a smartphone that's either unlocked, on a Next plan or has fulfilled the obligations of a contract. Instead of paying $45 each month to keep that phone on AT&T's network, you're only going to pay $25, a savings of $15 per month. Sure, it's still a fee, but it's a cheaper one, and it's a trend that we've started to see across the industry.
T-Mobile technically kicked it off by allowing you to bring your own device, or purchase one at full cost, and pay only for the services you want. With these new plans, and the lower cost packages, AT&T is very much doing the same. You'll only pay $25 per month to keep your phone on the network and access whatever bucket of data you want to buy. No matter how you look at it, it's a lower cost to the end user, and shows that AT&T may not be trying to "nickle and dime" consumers as much as its competitors want you to think.
To understand it in more depth, you have to understand how carrier subsidies work. Basically, you might pay $200 up front for a phone and sign a two-year contract with AT&T. Then, over those two years, you're paying off the price of that phone in your bill. You have to, because AT&T is essentially fronting the cost of a much more expensive handset. Before today, if you completed your contract and didn't upgrade, you were still paying the same monthly fee – the same one that factors in a subsidy. That's why we always recommend you upgrade when it's time to, because you're paying for it anyway. Now, when your contract is complete, you'll no longer be paying that sort of fee. Instead, the monthly cost to keep your phone on AT&T's network drops by $15.
At the end of the day, the choice is yours when it comes to wireless carriers in the United States. You might have great coverage at home with one carrier but awful coverage from another one, and that's just how it is. If you're an AT&T customer, however, you can expect to start saving some money when your contract expires, and we applaud its efforts. T-Mobile is still cheaper, and Verizon still has a larger 4G LTE network that you'll pay for, but AT&T has a great deal right smack in the middle.