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AT&T just increased fees to activate a new phone – even if you bring your own

Updated Apr 7th, 2016 1:25PM EDT
AT&T Upgrade Fee Increase

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AT&T customers, you’re being selfish. You’re not already spending enough money each month on your wireless bill, and it’s time to stop being so greedy with your hard-earned cash. Instead of saving your money or putting it to work for you using one of the life-changing apps we told you about recently, you should give it to AT&T because, well, just because.

The nation’s second largest carrier saw an opening earlier this week when Verizon’s new smartphone upgrade fee went live. So, beginning immediately, AT&T will charge users a bogus $20 fee to upgrade to a new phone instead of the bogus $15 fee it had been charging.

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AT&T made its standard activation fee $15 just last August, but far be it from the carrier to pass up an opportunity this easy. After all, if Verizon can get away with it why shouldn’t AT&T?

Are you buying a new iPhone or Android phone on an AT&T Next plan? $20. How about an installment plan? $20. Or perhaps you’re activating your smartphone on a new two-year agreement? $20 isn’t bad enough, so let’s make that one $45 — though this only applies to business lines since consumers no longer have the option of a two-year service contract.

Oh, and here’s our personal favorite: If you purchase your phone unlocked or you buy a phone from somewhere other than AT&T and activate it on your account, you still have to pay the $20 fee. Thankfully though, you won’t have to pay the fee again if you switch to a new phone that you purchase elsewhere.

Here’s the exact wording from AT&T’s site:

  • Activation and upgrade fees for smartphones with AT&T Next®Activation and upgrade fees are $20 per smartphone added or upgraded with AT&T Next.
  • Activation fees for installment agreements and bring your own devices – The fee is $20.
  • Activation and upgrade fees for two year agreement – Fees are $45. Note: Two year agreements are available only on select devices.

AT&T’s revenue for the last reported quarter (Q4 2015) was only $42.1 billion, up 22% from the same period a year prior. The carrier’s full-year revenue in 2015 was $148.6 billion, up nearly 11% on year. Tack on another $5 from every subscriber who upgrades to a new (or used) smartphone, and you’ve got yourself a nice little boost. And in exchange for the fee increase, subscribers get… absolutely nothing.

With moves like this from Verizon and AT&T, it’s a complete mystery why T-Mobile’s “un-carrier” marketing ploy has been a big success in recent years.

Updated to clarify that only business lines can upgrade on two-year contracts, and to clarify that you only have to pay an activation fee once for BYOB devices.

Zach Epstein
Zach Epstein Executive Editor

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content. Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment.

His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.

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