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iPhone 3G S pricing: Existing customers, beware

Sure the iPhone 3G S might sound affordable, but that's only for new customers. Existing customers will have to wait to get the good price.

One of the most attractive aspects of the new iPhone 3G S is the pricing; $299 for the 32GB model and $199 for the 16GB model isn't bad. Even better is the $99 for the old iPhone 3G with 8GB. But beware; not everyone qualifies for the announced pricing right off the bat.

The truth is, these prices only apply to new customers, new lines of service, and contract renewals. If you're still under contract, including existing iPhone 3G owners, you're probably not eligible for the upgrade. AT&T claims that most iPhone 3G owners will be eligible for the announced pricing only after 18 months. However, you might still qualify for an "early upgrade price", which are $499 for the 32GB, $399 for the 16GB, and $299 for the old 8GB iPhone 3G--that's only if you can't wait the six or so months to get the new phone. If you don't want the two-year contracts at all, you'll have to cough out the full price of the phones, which are $699 for the 32GB, $599 for the 16GB, and $499 for the 8GB.

I bought my iPhone 3G in August of last year, and so I tried to see what price I would get when I tried to buy the latest iPhone 3G S. This is the screenshot of my online order:

The "early upgrade" price for existing customers
The "early upgrade" price for existing customers Nicole Lee/CNET

Notice that it says that my eligibility date is 04/15/2010, which is about a couple more than the 18 months stated. I've heard plenty of coworkers say their eligibility date is early December of this year, while others said their eligibility date is February of next year. It seems like there's some inconsistency as to when existing customers can truly qualify for the announced pricing. On top of that, it looks like it costs another $18 to upgrade at all.

Of course I understand that AT&T doesn't need to cater to its existing customers; we've already signed our souls away to them. This happens with almost all cell phone carriers, not just AT&T, and this is nothing new. But that doesn't change that it's just a little frustrating to know there are these little hidden annoyances that happen to us existing customers just because we gave them our business before everyone else.

(Additional information via Gizmodo)