After Verizon changed its upgrade policy back in April -- bumping it up to 24 months from 20 months -- AT&T has decided to do the same. However, those with contracts that end prior to next March will still be able to upgrade at the 20-month mark, but for those whose contracts end in March or later will be subjected to the new policy.
Essentially, this means that customers must fulfill their full two-year contract on subsidized phones, instead of getting the opportunity for an early upgrade. However, some options will still be available for AT&T users, including the ability to share an upgrade with another user on the same account. Then again, users also still have the option to purchase a device at full retail price, or bring in a handset that's compatible with AT&T.
Interestingly enough, AT&T says that early upgrades are still possible after six months into a contract, but users will only get a "partial discount off the full retail price" of a phone. You'll also have to renew your two-year contract. This works for folks who like to upgrade often, but it'll take a bit more money out of your pocket to do so.
While this is quite a bummer, it certainly makes sense for device upgrade policies to match up with the two-year contracts, and frankly, I've never taken advantage of the early upgrade incentive, so it's possible it wasn't getting used as much as carriers thought originally.
We're still waiting on AT&T, Verizon, and other big carriers to take a page from T-Mobile's book, but we don't think that'll happen in a long time. T-Mobile got rid of contracts completely and offer only pre-paid deals that are significantly cheaper than what you'd pay for a plan on another big carrier. Of course, you have to pay full price for a new phone, but the overall cost is quite lower.
VIA: Android Community