Ina Fried

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AT&T Follows in T-Mobile’s Footsteps With Cell Plans That Separate Device Cost From Monthly Service Fees

AT&T is announcing new cellular plan options on Thursday that offer discounted rates to customers who forgo the usual subsidy given to those switching to the carrier or signing up for a new two-year contract.

Starting on Sunday, the new “Mobile Share Value” plans will be available to customers who buy new phones outright, bring their own device, or finance their purchase through AT&T’s no-money-down Next option. Current customers can also shift to one of the new plans once they have completed their contract commitment for their existing phone.

On average, AT&T says, customers will save $15 per month with the new plans.

T-Mobile led the way among major carriers with discounted plans that remove device subsidies. The company added them as an option several years back, and made them its primary means of doing business earlier this year. Sprint also offers a $15 monthly discount for customers who finance a full-price phone using its One Up plans. (However, Sprint only offers the lower monthly service during the 24-month period while a new phone is being financed.)

AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel denied that T-Mobile’s moves prompted the new plans.

“We look to our left and to our right and are aware of what our competitors are doing,” Siegel said in a statement. “But our primary focus is right in front of us — on our customers. They’ve told us they want even more choice and flexibility … when they buy services and devices. And, they want to get a great price.”

In addition to the new value plans, AT&T is adding a second option for AT&T Next financing. In addition to the current set-up, which lets customers finance a device over 20 months and upgrade their phone after 12 months, AT&T is adding the option to finance a new phone over 26 months, with the ability to upgrade to a new phone after 18 months without a down payment or activation or upgrade fee.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus