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AT&T requiring smartphone data plans Sept. 6

The bad news: AT&T is going to mandate that all smartphone users have actual, honest-to-goodness data plans starting Sept. 6. Buy a smartphone from AT&T after that date and you'll have to shell out some more money for data services. [via BGR]

The good news: If you currently have a smartphone and but still have one of the old MediaNet plans, you'll be grandfathered in and keep your old plan.

The even better news: This is GSM, people! Unless you're just dying to buy a phone subsidized from AT&T, all you have to do is buy one somewhere else and slap in your SIM card.

That said, this would be much easier to swallow if we weren't still seeing headlines about certain data-heavy apps being disallowed on AT&T's 3G network. (And remember, we're not just talking iPhone here. ToS is ToS.) If any carrier wanted to charge me, say, $100 a month to serve up the mythical dumb pipe, I'd glady pay it.

That's it for me. Get your rant on in the comments.

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Reader comments

AT&T requiring smartphone data plans Sept. 6

29 Comments

I don't know how they could "require" it. You have always been able to just buy a phone and get it for the full price, and I would imagine that after this goes into effect, you still could just buy the phone at full price, then put a sim card in and get the same service with no data plan. And yes GSM is lovely...I love my $10 / month unlimited Data Plan for my Tilt.

Jason

Although I have a data-only plan and just use my Fuze for Skype calls, I have read that you can tell them you have an older phone with internet(whose unlimited data plans cost only 10 bucks a month). Since it's linked to the SIM card, and not the actual phone, they can't tell it is a smartphone, which has higher data plan rates. Hence, a little lie about your phone model can get you a 10 dollar unlimited internet plan.

Not true anymore. I purchased an ATT Fuze from someone on craiglist, because I didn't want to be stuck in another contract, and just stuck my sim card in it. A week later, I went to pay my bill online, the Fuze was listed as my current phone (it used to be the Moto Q9h). It was automatically updated. Not sure though if they can update to a phone that is not in their data base, like a T-mo or Euro Touch Pro 2.

I had an AT&T phone from Siemens. It sucked so I bought an unlocked Pebl U6 from an ebay store. It had no carrier branding. It was a T-mobile only phone though. AT&T stores refused to support it when I asked a simple question about setting up MMS on it. Found everything on the AT&T website though.

Anyhow, they could not tell what type of phone it was on their website. It just said unknown. I would change it back to say I was using my Siemens phone all the time, but it would keep going back.

As soon as I bought an unlocked Blackjack from ebay, within a week it had updated that I was using a Blackjack, and they changed the options of what types of plans and features I could add to that phone.

Hope that answers your question :)

$10 / Month data plan is for regular phones on a family plan. Take the sim card, stick it into an old RAZR, activate $10 / Month data plan, put sim card back in WM phone, and be happy :)

HUH? How is this news. I thought ATT already required that every new smarthphone purchased required a data plan, provided it's purchased with a contract. I guess not. I know the Moto Q9h, Fuze, iPhone and BB needed a data plan. There has always been the option to buy at full price or buy a used or unlocked one and just stick a sim in it.

Can the FCC mandate that all carriers for the satisfaction and comfort of the customer for them to offer an "All-or-Nothing" type of deal. Either get the data plan so you aren't suprised by horrendous charges your kid racked up downloading ringtones and what not, or just have a data block put on the line, I don't know how hard that is to digest or understand, instead of throwing the phone at them, letting them find out what the use of a data plan would be after they get the $8000 bill for data.
Also, does this apply to Premiere Customers? Are we sure unlocked phones are safe (couldn't they just tell from the IMEI?)?

VERY IMPORTANT !!!!!!!!! MUST READ

DO NOT add an IMEI of your smartphone even if you had it for past 2000 years. They will simply claim that you ADDED A SMARTPHONE after 6th Sept, 2009 and hence you will need a data plan.
(I had Nokia N95 for past 8months and today they ask me for the IMEI, hence a data plan for rest of the contract)

LOOPHOLE (workaround) :If you are caught in their crap, just add an IMEI of non-smart phone, remove the data plan and start using the smartphone again.

Quote from att.com/smartphoneplans: "If you purchased a smartphone prior to September 6, 2009 and are using data on a pay per use basis, you will not be required to add a data plan at this time."

They don't care about purchase date since you ADDED the IMEI after 6th Sept.

I wish AT&T would learn that just because we have a device that is a smartphone, we don't necessarily use data. I don't agree with any company forcing you into anything. I will be fighting this all the way, and I hope you do to!

My kid's smartphone works fine with wifi. She is added onto my plan for $10 a month including unlimited text but no data. Here smartphone's GPS also works fine worldwide with TomTom and no data connection. Her school, and I mean the ten mile square campus and her dorm are all covered by free wifi.

I agree with ninjaap. This is the third place I've seen this news and I don't see anything different. At least all the ATT stores in my area, ATT wireless online and Amazon have required a data plan be purchased with a smartphone for quite awhile now. What are we missing. BTW, I'm grandfathered in anyway :-)

I work at Best Buy and we sell ATT phones and contracts. We did not require data plans with smartphones but soon we will. It was not mandatory before but starting sept. 6 we will have to sell the data package to every person buying a smartphone.

Yet another reason I will never switch to AT&T. Sprint is so much cheaper, and better coverage. Everytime I think about going to AT&T, my monthly cost would triple, and I back off on that. (And no, I don't have SERO).

To get the exact plan features I have now (4 lines, 2 data plan) would cost me much more on Sprint than ATT. I actually had a Sprint manager work it out for me and it couldn't even touch my ATT plan, so it's not always the case that Sprint is the best deal.

Well then the Sprint manager was a moron. In only the rarest of exceptions with certain family plans, Sprint is cheaper. (I've only seen one scenario where this is the case, and even then, AT&T was only cheaper by a small margin). What configuration do you have with 4 lines?

Alright, I'll bet that they're sweeping IMEIs. So, could I buy an unlocked phone from, say, Expansys, and use it on the AT&T network for the MEdia net rate? I know there would be ways for AT&T to block this, but is it possible?

And I hope that my money is going to improving the service quality- but something is telling me (very loudly, in fact) that AT&T is just gonna fill wheelbarows with my $100 a month.

Is data that expensive?
Is SMS/MMS really worth 10/25 cents, respectively?
Would the world come to an end if I just tether my laptop to my phone without forking over another $20 per month?

We all know the answers... so does AT&T, here's hoping something good will happen. (fingers crossed, not holding breath)

Yes, and they cannot block it. The IMEI is not in their system if it's not an AT&T phone.

what would happen if you gave them an unlocked device out of Tmobile IMEI and they added the Unlimited MediaNet plan and text for $30 and then used that phone for 5-7 days and popped your sim back into the iPhone as long as a rep does not catch that data plan and text pkg on my line, should you be okay? also i do notice the same as a couple comments above on auto-updating online, but does anyone know if at&t actually sees the bill and online like we do or do they just see basic account info like plans and imei's?

Err... it's foolish to think they don't see what we see. The reps have access to more parts of the system than the customer.

When I put my sim into my Nokia 6300, it doesn't show up on the AT&T website under my account. But if I put my sim in my Tilt it shows up.

So let's say you have two moto q9s. One you bought from AT&T with their logo on it, and one you bought unlocked, unbranded. Will they both show up on AT&T's system since the unlocked one is the same model?

Let me sum this up......AT&T SUCKS! Just went on vacation and took my nephew with me. He has an iphone with all the nonsense service packages that cost 3 time my plan on sprint. His service sucked ass the entire trip with no "3G" service with the exception of big citys. Remind me again what you are paying for if it is not available when and where you need it? As for my service with sprint I hand EV everywhere I went with the exception of towns with less that 25 people in them! AT&T runs the greatest con. Lets face it they have for years and are really good at doing it until the FCC bust them. It's a comin'!

This really isn't an example of AT&T changing its official policy; it's a matter of AT&T enforcing its existing policy. And yes, with the IMEI and the SIM ID, AT&T has all the tools it needs to identify customers in violation. By the way, if your in the habit, as I am, of switching SIMs between phones, better be careful and not switch a AT&T SIM into a device sold by AT&T regardless of where you purchased it. Let's face it, right now in the U.S., contractual data plans are where the money is. And if anyone thinks T-Mobile isn't doing the same thing needs to go over to HowardForums and read some of the threads there.

"If any carrier wanted to charge me, say, $100 a month to serve up the mythical dumb pipe, I'd glady pay it."

Isn't this part of the problem? Once you've paid for the subsidized phone, added voice, taxes, and fees, you're talking at least $3000 over a two-year contract. Really? For a phone? When did cell phones slot in behind homes and cars for the average consumer's biggest purchase?

I agree with one thing, it's time to start transforming the carriers into "dumb pipes." This whole vertical walled garden model based on exclusivity and premium services, premium in cost only, isn't working. All we've gotten for out troubles in the U.S. is the most fractionated, most expensive, and slowest broadband, both wired and wireless, market in the industrialized world.

I still have doubts that they can even control us using multiple smartphone devices off one unlimited data plan I think AT&T has bigger fish to fry than monitor 80million+ subscribers accounts and see if thy have proper data plans for their phones! I'm calling it a scare to the public on adding data plans!!

Back in June my wife cancelled her Verizon account and I added her to my ATT plan. We wanted a smartphone but they wouldn't sell us one without a data plan. So we got a cheap free phone and bought a smartphone off the web.

Ugh!! I can't stand that AT&T is doing this... and it's not even just for the phones that they are selling to their customers?

I think I know the best "plan" for myself -- don't renew my contract with AT&T, and take my business elsewhere!!!