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The skinny on upgrading to the iPhone 4 (Q&A)

Once again iPhone subscribers are looking for the best and cheapest way to upgrade to the latest iPhone version. An AT&T spokesman offers some help.

The new iPhone 4 unveiled Monday.
James Martin/CNET

The new Apple iPhone 4 goes on sale June 24 and eager fans are already trying to figure out how they can get their hands on the latest and greatest iPhone.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs called the iPhone 4.0, which is the fourth generation of iPhone, the "biggest leap since the original iPhone" was launched in 2007. The new device has a homegrown processor like the one used in the iPad and a bigger battery that offers up to seven hours of talk time, six hours of 3G browsing, and 300 hours of standby. It also comes with a new 5 megapixel camera that can record video in high definition.

There's also a camera situated on the front of the phone that can be used with Apple's new FaceTime video chat application. The iPhone 4 will sport the latest iPhone operating system software, iOS 4, which includes a ton of new features, such as multitasking, a unified in-box, and conversation threading.

With all these new features and more, there's no question that many existing iPhone, iPhone 3G, and iPhone 3GS users will be chomping at the bit to get a new iPhone 4 when it hits store shelves later this month.

But navigating the confusing world of carrier contracts and upgrade policies is no easy task. We contacted Mark Siegel, AT&T's wireless spokesman, to get some answers about who is eligible to upgrade to the new phone. We also asked Siegel to clarify what type of new data plan is necessary for the new iPhone 4.

Last week, AT&T introduced new data plan pricing for all its smartphones. The company eliminated the $30 unlimited plan that was mandatory with the purchase of all iPhones. Instead, the company is offering two tiers of service: $15 for 200 megabytes of data per month and $25 for 2 gigabytes of data per month. Subscribers who exceed the 200MB on the $15 plan will get another 200MB for $15 a month. And those on the 2GB plan who exceed their monthly allotment will be charged $10 and will get an additional 1GB of data.

Below are some questions likely to be asked by those wishing to upgrade to the new iPhone 4 on AT&T's network might have.

Q: Let's say I already have an iPhone, but I still am on a contract for my previous iPhone. When am I able to upgrade to the iPhone 4 for the discounted price?
Siegel: iPhone customers eligible for an upgrade between now and the end of the year can get the discounted price on the device. We've accelerated upgrade eligibility for iPhone customers so they can experience the new device as soon as possible.

So this means I can get the 16GB for $199 and the 32GB for $299, correct?
Siegel: Correct.

During the keynote Jobs said that if your contract ends any time during 2010, you can get a new iPhone 4 for the discounted price if you re-sign a new contract. Is this true?
Siegel: If you are an iPhone customer who is upgrade-eligible this year, you can get the best price. Eligibility may or may not coincide with the end of your contract. It depends on your individual situation.

Will this extend my contract another two years from the new purchase date?
Siegel: Yes, when you upgrade, you will start a new two-year contract.

If I am upgrading from an iPhone to an iPhone 4, will I need to subscribe to one of the new data plans AT&T announced last week, or can I still keep the unlimited plan I had with my previous iPhone?
Siegel: If you want to keep the $30 unlimited data plan, you can.

Let's say my contract doesn't end until sometime in 2011 or 2012. Can I buy the new iPhone 4 at full price and activate that phone using my existing service plan?
Siegel: Yes.

If I do this, will I be able to continue to use my unlimited data plan? Or will I have to switch to the $15 or $25 a month plans?
Siegel: You can keep the $30 unlimited plan if you want to.

How much will the 16GB and 32GB models of the new iPhone 4 cost without a subsidy and contract? Is that option available?
Siegel: Yes, the phones are available without a contract and without a subsidy. The 16GB iPhone will cost $599 and the 32GB iPhone is $699.

If I buy my iPhone without a subsidy and without a contract, can I still keep my unlimited data plan, if I already have one from my previous iPhone?
Siegel: Yes.

So exactly who must get one of the new data plans?
Siegel: The people who must sign up for the new data plans are new customers and current AT&T non-smartphone customers who want to upgrade to the iPhone 4 or any other smartphone.

Will AT&T continue to sell the iPhone 3GS? Will the price change?
Siegel: Yes, and we announce a new iPhone 3G S priced at just $99.

Can I get the new iPhone 4 as part of an AT&T Family plan?
Siegel: Yes.

Is the iPhone 4 offered using a prepaid plan? Can I get the older iPhone 3GS with a prepaid plan?
Siegel: There are no prepaid plans for iPhones from AT&T. But you can get the device on a month-to-month basis if you are willing to pay the full retail price.

Can I activate the new iPhone 4 at home?
Siegel: Yes. In fact, we encourage people who pre-order to have the device sent to their homes, where they can activate it at their convenience.