February 8, 2017
AT&T wants you to think that they’re giving you an iPhone 7 if you sign up for their “unlimited” data plan. They are not!
The fine print is your friend when you see a commercial like this. They are fairly clear when they say that you must also have DirecTv in order to get the deal. (In the interest of full disclosure, DirecTv is owned by AT&T.) After that, things get a bit more fuzzy.
First, their “unlimited” plan is not unlimited. They point out that after 22GB of data, they reserve the right to throttle your data speeds. And most people rarely, if ever, need even a tenth of that bandwidth. As for the fine print… “AT&T Unlimited plan starts at $100/mo. and req’s elig. TV svc. If not elig. AT&T will change your plan. Plan will include Stream Saver. Add’l usage & other restr’s apply. See att.com/unlimitedplan for details”. That heavily abbreviated disclaimer appears for about 4 seconds in the middle of the commercial.
Now to the “New iPhone 7 for $0*” – That asterisk at the end of the phrase is very important here. It leads you to even more fine print… “*Req’s $649.99 on installment agmt, port-in, well-qual. credit & elig. TV (min. $29.99/mo) & wireless svc (min $50/mo). iPhone 7 32 GB free after $650 in credits over 30 months. Credits start in 2 to 3 bills. If wireless svc cancelled, device balance due. Taxes, fees & restr’s apply.” That is significantly longer, so they give you 6 seconds to read the tiny print at the bottom of the screen.
Ed. Note – Most of those abbreviations are not recognized by spell check as actual abbreviations. Making it almost as hard to read (in too little time) as it is to type.
The translation to this is you will get the iPhone 7 with no money down as long as you are paying them at least $129.99 per month for their “unlimited” plan AND their DirecTv service. Plus, you’ll be making installments payments on the iPhone 7 over the course of two and a half years of approximately $22-25 per month. Then, they will credit that amount back to your account as long as it’s in good standing. Since the credits start in 2-3 billing cycles, they’ll always be ahead on money. And, if you cancel you’ll pay for the phone in full.
There’s a hidden secret here as well, the AT&T version of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus cannot be used on the Verizon or T-Mobile networks. So you’ll basically be buying a brick if you decide to switch carriers during the course of the contract.
AT&T is counting on you to be a typical American consumer. They know that within the course of this contract there will likely be a iPhone 8, maybe an iPhone 9, possibly an iPhone 10… and you’ll want to upgrade at least once in those 30 months. And who is to say that they’ll be will to give you a similar deal on one of those?
There are a lot of moving parts here. And make no mistake, AT&T is well within their legal rights to make these claims. They have many, many lawyers to make sure that is the case. But, like most corporations, the whole truth is fluid (at best).
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