AT&T just slashed prices on its 10GB and higher family plans—but there’s one big catch.
Mobile Share Family Value plans start at $130 per month for two lines, and include 10GB of data, unlimited talk and unlimited texting. Each additional line costs $15 per month. Previously, AT&T charged $150 per month with an AT&T Next plan—$100 for data plans plus $25 for each of the two lines.
As for that catch, you can only get these plans by paying full price for each smartphone, or by paying in monthly installments through AT&T Next. For example, instead of paying $200 up-front for an iPhone 5s, you’d either pay the full price of $650 or monthly installments of $32.50. When you factor in the extra cost, the total savings are negligible compared to a traditional plan with annual service contracts.
As an example, let’s consider a family of four, each with an iPhone 5S. A traditional Mobile Share plan would cost $260 per month, plus $200 per phone every two years. That family would have a total two-year cost of $7,040.
With the new Family Value plan, the same family would pay $160 per month for service, plus $32.50 per month for each phone on AT&T Next. The total two-year cost would be $6,960, for a savings of $80.
The Family Value plan does let users upgrade once per year instead of once every two years, but doing so requires you to surrender your old phone to AT&T. It’s a fine option for users who always want to be on the cutting edge, but a traditional Mobile Share plan is better for saving money, because you can sell your old phones through buyback sites such as Gazelle and NextWorth. The traditional plan also gives you the option of having a smaller bucket of data, whereas the Family Value plan requires at least 10GB.
Still, it’s good to see AT&T retooling its early upgrade plan to make it less of a rip-off. Originally, AT&T offered no savings on the cost of service for Next subscribers, so it was significantly more expensive than getting a subsidized phone with a two-year contract. The new plans aren’t as flexible in terms of data options, but they’re worth considering if you plan to upgrade often.