Why your at&t upgrade eligibility date is different than your neighbors (Updated)

by Justin Horn on Jun 9th, 2009 @ 7:09 pm

UPDATE This is no longer true. AT&T made some significant changes to their policy in June of 2012. Read More: AT&T changes iPhone 5 upgrade eligibility policy

Just read an article on MacRumors titled “Contract and Subsidy Issues for iPhone Users Looking to Upgrade to iPhone 3G S”:

But AT&T iPhone 3G customers, for example, appear to be receiving varying information about when they will be eligible for subsidized pricing on the iPhone 3G S. One MacRumors forum member reports that an AT&T representative claims that this discrepancy stems from whether the customer purchased an original iPhone prior to purchasing an iPhone 3G, in which case the customer would qualify for subsidized pricing on the iPhone 3G S only 12 months after signing their iPhone 3G contract instead of the 18 months required for customers who had only purchased an iPhone 3G. A number of other forum members, however, claim that the pricing offers they are receiving do not reflect this supposed set of rules.

Because it remains unclear exactly how much of their contracts iPhone 3G users will need to fulfill before becoming eligible for subsidized pricing on the iPhone 3G S, customers looking to upgrade should anticipate additional clarification on this process from their carriers.

I recently posted an article discussing the 3 different options for purchasing a new iPhone; upgrade eligible, early upgrade, and no contract. There seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding when you become “upgrade eligible” for the full discount. The answer is actually pretty simple…the more you spend, the earlier you can upgrade. I got this info form a polite at&t rep about a month ago and doing the math (see below) it seems to be pretty accurate.

Below are three real examples of the monthly bill to upgrade date:

Example 1
Family Plan Main Line: $50 voice + $30 data + $30 family SMS
Total: $110 / month
Upgrade Eligible:  12 months in (Purchased July 11, 2008, eligible July 12th, 2009)

Example 2
Most common iPhone Plan: $40 voice + $30 data + $20 unlimited SMS
Total: $90 / month
Upgrade Eligible: 17 months in (Purchased July 11, 2008, eligible December 12th, 2009)

Example 3
Family Plan Additional Line: $10 voice + $30 data
Total: $40 / month
Upgrade Eligible:  20 months in (Purchased July 11, 2008, eligible March 12th, 2009)

Based on the data above it looks like the an iPhone 3G owner with the basic $70 plan should have to wait 18 to 19 months (probably 18) to get the fully subsidized price. I’m trying to find someone with a $70 plan to confirm the exact date, but 18 months looks about right to me.

UPDATE Here is the official at&t upgrade chart. This chart isn’t exactly what we are looking for, but it does show how they break the different monthly cost. Their top teir is above $99, the middle teir between $69 and $98.99, and the bottom teir less than $68.99. This break down does match up to the examples above so I would assume you can assume that teir 1 will be able to upgrade after 12 months, teir 2 after 17 months and teir 3 20 months.

UPDATE 2 From new at&t FAQ PDF (read more):

Am I eligible for an upgrade?

Upgrades are based on a number of factors including the outstanding time left on your service agreement, payment history and other factors. Check online, visit our store, or text *639# from your AT&T handset for information about if or when you may be eligible for an upgrade.

Quoting myself from the “read more” above:

I found that your upgrade date is tied directly your monthly bill. Not sure how much payment history effects it as my girlfriend has paid her at&t bill late more than once and she still has the standard upgrade date based on her monthly bill. I don’t understand why they can’t just come out and tell it like it is?

UPDATE 3 at&t allows some iPhone 3G customers to upgrade early at full discount

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View 6 Comments
at&t, iPhone


  1. [...] my online account back in March before I reduced my calling plan. Check out my blog post on this Why your at&t upgrade eligibility date is different than your neighbors | When Will Apple? (I’ll be updating as I get more info). I got the info form an at&t CSR, and then started asking [...]

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  3. [...] last year since the average user’s monthly bill makes them upgrade elgible in December 2009 (read more about monthly bill and upgrade eligibility).  For those of you, like me, that have a bill of $100 or more you should have an eligble date 12 [...]

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  5. [...] for a blog post I did on the subject for my website. Here is the main research behind the post: [...]

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  7. [...] http://whenwillapple.com/blog/2009/06/09/why-your-att-upgrade-eligibility-date-is-different-than-you… [...]

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  9. [...] little over 3 years ago I wrote an article describing how your AT&T upgrade eligibility date was formulated. Your date for full upgrade could range from as little as 12 months out of your 24 month contract [...]

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  11. joseph chrisple
    March 26th, 2013 6:19 pm

    when can i upgrade my phone

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