Apple fans whooped it up yesterday when the company announced its first sub-$100 iPhone and a pair of faster, improved iPhone models.******But if you’re an existing AT&T customer and you’re looking to get your mitts on Apple’s newest gizmo, you might not be so excited by the fine print.******It turns out that the $99 iPhone is actually $499 for many existing AT&T customers. The new 16GB iPhone 3GS -0 the one that features video capture, faster throughput and a digital compass — which Apple unveiled for $199, will cost AT&T customers $599. And the new 32GB version is available to AT&T customers for the very special price of $699, which is significantly more expensive than the $299 price tag that anyone else can buy it for when they walk into an AT&T store for the first time.******The higher prices require renewing a 2-year contract with AT&T.******Update: AT&T said on Thursday that existing AT&T customers who renew their two-year contract can purchase the iPhones for $299 (for the 8GB model), $399 (16GB) and $499 (32GB), rather than the $499, $599 and $699 prices listed on Apple’s Web site. The higher prices are to purchase phones without any contract.******And the folks at AT&T also throw in an $18 activation fee. This activation fee applies to all AT&T customers who get a new device, whether it’s an iPhone or a more basic gadget. The problem is that the iPhone is such a high profile device that it brings everything from the carrier’s network quality to its contract fine print right into the forefront.******In fairness, it isn’t unusual for a carrier to hold off on selling its existing customers heavily subsidized phones until they’ve been a customer long enough to have repaid the debt. AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel explained:***
The key here is that the iPhone and our other devices are subsidized. The consumer is paying much less than the cost we will typically pay for devices.
As a way of offering those prices we ask them to enter a 2 year contract to cover the cost and give a return to our shareowners.
******Siegel noted that certain customers may still be eligible for the low iPhone prices, depending on how far along they’ve gotten in their existing contract and how promptly they’ve paid their bills. But he said there wasn’t a specific cut-off point in in the 2-year contract that guarantees the better prices — the terms are different for different customers.******So, if AT&T likes you, you’re in luck. Otherwise, you may have to shell out more duckets than your neighbor for Apple’s latest goodies.