Following Verizon's lead, AT&T has extended the period customers will have to wait before upgrading their phones. The company announced in a blog post that it was raising the threshold for a subsidized replacement from 20 months to 24 months. That new limit applies both to new customers and to anyone whose contract ends in March 2014 or later — meaning most people currently on a contract will get one more 20-month upgrade before the change takes effect. As always, customers can buy unsubsidized phones at full price regardless of date.
Verizon has already announced that it's changing from a 20-month to a 24-month upgrade cycle, starting in January of 2014, so two-year periods between subsidies are now standard across the board. In its statement, AT&T says the change is meant to "align" the device upgrade cycle with its two-year contract periods. Sprint, meanwhile, continues to list a 20-month upgrade policy, and T-Mobile has abolished traditional contracts in favor of an installment plan for its phones — though the company has been forced to backtrack from claims that this means fewer obligations for customers.