Price slide: AT&T poised to slash the iPhone plan rate soon

This one's still in rumor mode right now, but even all the experts say it's nearly a sure thing: TheStreet.com, says that AT&T is probably going to cut the price of the monthly iPhone usage plan by $10 this summer as Apple wheels out the phone's new model. That means the current, insultingly off-putting $69-a-month rate (combining the phone plan with data usage) will become a more moderately offensive $59 a month, which is a 14% price drop.

Space that $10-a-month savings over the lifetime of a two-year contract, and users will be saving $240, which is more than the $199 price of the most "basic" (hardly the word) iPhone. If customers can start thinking of the subscription price cut as paying for the device itself, lots more iPhones stand to get sold. Just ask early adopters of the iPhone, who paid $400 for their units, how they feel about the fact you can get one for half that now. Also ask Apple, which saw sales leap from 4 million to 17 million in one year after that price drop went into effect.
Which is the plan. AT&T's exclusive contract with Apple is up soon, and with T-Mobile and Verizon salivating over the chance to grab all those subscribers (and with the BlackBerry Curve outselling the iPhone), old Ma Bell wants to prove that it can help Apple net more customers.

Anyone who has owned an iPhone can tell you that the subscription plan is hardly the final cost. There's the tough hit for the unit itself, of course. Then there's the cost of mini-programs, or apps, which nearly no user can resist purchasing. Many good ones are free, but many more cost $1 to $10. (The most expensive one I've seen costs $75, but granted, that's a specialty app for airline pilots. They tell us we're not supposed to be using electronics on board, but apparently they do anyway.)

Add to that any accessories you want, like a cover for that wafer-thin phone. And if you travel internationally and try using your iPhone the way you would back home, you can quickly rack up some heart-stopping extra charges -- downloading a photo of 5 megabytes could cost you from $40.

So the new-found price cut would be welcome, regardless of the backroom nail-biting that's making it happen, but if you don't know how to use your iPhone to begin with, you can wipe a year's worth of savings out with just a few minutes of app-happy downloading or hastily posting Facebook pictures of your visit to the Eiffel Tower.

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