AT&T has announced a change to the upgrade cycle and moving forward users will need to wait a full 24-months before they will be eligible. According to details coming from AT&T, the carrier has said this change will allow them to align the "device upgrade eligibility with our standard two-year wireless agreement." Moving forward this will affect all users, however there is a grace period before it will kick in for everyone.
The carrier has said this change will apply to all users whose agreement expires in March 2014 or later. Or in other words, if you current agreement ends in February 2014 or earlier -- you will still be able to grab your upgrade after 20 months. Otherwise, from March 2014 and after you will be waiting the full 24 months between available upgrades. AT&T did offer some options, however we suspect they will not apply for many users.
It looks like AT&T users will still be able to share an upgrade (with another person on the same account), purchase a device at full retail price, bring a compatible handset or trade-in your current handset towards the purchase of a new device. Of course, said new device would still be charged at the full retail value. There is one option that may be of benefit though.
AT&T users are eligible for early upgrades after 6 months. The carrier has said that after you complete 6 full months on your agreement you will be eligible for a partial discount off the full retail pricing. Granted, this is not going to be quite a low priced as a fully subsidized handset, however it could help those who find themselves stuck with a handset that don't like or even one they damaged.
Finally, while AT&T has just recently announced this change, it is one that should sound familiar to Verizon Wireless users. In fact, Big Red announced this change back in mind-April. The details between Verizon and AT&T are rather similar, however Verizon did offer one bit that may help some users -- they also announced a device payment plan which could help those needing to purchase a device at full retail.