T-Mobile's bullish new tactics may not have made a huge change in the wireless industry just yet, but they've certainly prompted its biggest players to take notice. AT&T's latest reply is to offer T-Mobile customers a $200 credit for every line that they switch over to its network. Though that credit can go toward any AT&T products or services, it's not about to cover the cost of a new iPhone: customers who want the credit will either have to buy a new phone at full price, activate a phone that they already own, or sign up for AT&T's Next early upgrade plan, which will have them buying full-price devices anyway.
An off-contract deal, just like T-Mobile
In fact, two-year contracts aren't available at all as part of the deal. For T-Mobile customers who already own a phone outright, that can still make it a fine offer, as they should be used to off-contract pricing and payments already. With those limitations, the deal is a clear push by AT&T away from on-contract phones (and potentially onto the regular payments of Next).
AT&T is also offering up to $250 to T-Mobile customers for trading in one of their existing smartphone. That's among the higher sums for carrier trade-ins, but it's far from the best deal smartphone owners could get if they shop around. The deal — which AT&T is advertising as a single offer of up to $450 — is only available for a limited time, and right now, AT&T isn't saying for how long. That may depend on what we see T-Mobile do at CES next week: it's been rumored that the carrier is working on a similar deal to what AT&T is launching today, and it's easy to see this as a preemptive response. If it does, this time AT&T will at least be able to say that it was ahead of the curve.
Update: this article has been modified to clarify details of AT&T's offer.