AT&T Cranks Up Early Upgrade and No-Contract Phone Prices

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Bad news for AT&T customers who don’t like two-year commitments: the carrier is raising prices for early upgrades, one-year contracts and contract-free smartphones.

Buying an Android phone or Windows Phone 7 handset without a contract is now $50 more expensive. For one-year commitments, AT&T is raising prices by $150. For feature phones and quick-messaging phones, the price of no-contract and one-year contract devices will increase by $20 and $10, respectively.

Things work a bit differently for the iPhone. Early upgrades will now be $50 more expensive, so if you’re in the middle of a contract and want to buy a 32 GB iPhone 4, it’ll cost $549 instead of $499. No-contract pricing will remain the same.

Here’s AT&T’s explanation, courtesy of Boy Genius Report:

“As mobile devices become more sophisticated, their cost goes up. This change reflects the increased costs, while still allowing us to offer customers the latest device before they qualify.”

More likely, AT&T wants to make anything less than a two-year commitment unpalatable to customers. Avoiding this contract is already impossible when buying a phone through AT&T’s website, and now it’s less attractive when buying from an AT&T store.

But if you prefer to beat the system, there’s still hope. An AT&T representative told BGR that it’s “happy to discuss individual account and upgrade needs one-on-one with customers.” Better deals may await those who can prove their worth as AT&T customers.