AT&T is preparing to permanently rid itself of two-year contracts at the start of 2016. Engadget was first to report that the number two US carrier will soon allow customers to purchase smartphones (and dumb phones, for that matter) only through the company's Next installment plan or by buying devices outright. As of January 8th, two-year contracts, which AT&T has gradually been working to phase out, will no longer be available — at least for regular consumers. An AT&T spokesperson confirmed the news with The Verge.
With $0 down for well-qualified customers, the ability to upgrade early and down payment options available with even lower monthly installments, our customers are overwhelmingly choosing AT&T Next. Starting January 8, AT&T Next will be the primary way to get a new smartphone at AT&T. This does not apply to business customers under a qualified wireless service agreement.
Corporate accounts will be able to stick to the traditional, subsidized two-year contract upgrades. Earlier this year, AT&T's third-party resellers stopped offering two-year contracts, leaving the company's own stores and website as the only places where you could sign up for or renew them. But now that option is going away, too. It's really not a terrible thing. Though their names are incredibly confusing, AT&T's Next plans aren't what we'd consider a bad deal, unlike the two-year contracts that were the industry norm before T-Mobile went off course and ditched them. Over time, everyone else has followed. We've reached out to AT&T for confirmation on the rumored plan.
Update December 30th 2:25PM ET: AT&T has confirmed the end of two-year contracts and we've added the company's statement.