AT&T To Subscribers: Want A New Smartphone? Pay Up

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AT&T will soon require all new smartphone users to sign up for a $30-per-month smartphone data plan. The requirement starts Sept. 6.

While smartphone owners that bought their handhelds before the Sept. 6 deadline will be allowed to carry on without smartphone data plans and not have to upgrade their current plans, new smartphone buyers will have to choose a smartphone-specific plan that adds the $30 data connection, according to Boy Genius Report, which says AT&T's smartphone plan requirement is 100 percent confirmed.

Feature phone users that have a data plan who upgrade to a smartphone on or after Sept. 6, however, will not be able to keep their current MediaNet plan.

While most of AT&T's smartphone customers already subscribe to a data plan, there is still a good number who do not. Apple iPhone users and RIM BlackBerry smartphone users are already required to pay for the $30 data plans, so the change will likely only affect a small number of new AT&T customers who buy new Microsoft Windows Mobile, Palm or Symbian smartphones.

AT&T said the reason for the change is to make sure customers receive a more predictable bill each month.

"We want our customers to have the best possible experience with their smartphones," Boy Genius cited from an AT&T memo. "A predictable bill is a key factor in customer satisfaction, so effective Sept. 6, 2009, smartphone customers will need to subscribe to a data plan, as the vast majority of customers already do. Data plans let customers fully utilize their device, without the worry of bill shock."

AT&T added in a statement that smartphone users that do not subscribe to a data plan generally get socked by higher bills due to data consumption. The new initiative is an attempt to avoid those added costs.

"Smartphone users tend to consume a higher amount of data services, like advanced e-mail, mobile Web, applications and more," AT&T said in a prepared statement to Phone Scoop. "Being able to take full advantage of these features without having to worry about a fluctuating or unusually high bill generally leads to greater customer satisfaction, so effective Sept. 6, smartphone customers will need to subscribe to a data plan, as the vast majority of customers already do."

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