Cell Service For The Commitment Phobic: AT&T Offers SIM Card Without 2 Year Contract

After reports started surfacing that AT&T was offering a SIM-card only option that was tied to a 2 year contract, we contacted AT&T for more information. As far as we knew, AT&T allowed new customers to bring their own compatible equipment and did not require a 2 year contract.

AT&T confirmed that 2 year contracts are not required for the SIM-only option, though in some cases certain promotional rate plans do require a contractual obligation:

..let me be very clear in saying that in most cases you don’t need a two-year contract. If you wanted a rate plan that is a special promotion, then we might ask you to sign a two-year contract, says William Marks, a PR rep in AT&T’s wireless division.

So why the mix-up?

The online offer went live last Friday as a way to make sure customers are aware of all the options we give them, including bringing their own device. We took a look at the way the offer was written, and felt it needed to be even clearer that you don’t need a contract if you bring your compatible device and want a SIM and service from us. We have removed the offer temporarily from att.com while we make the necessary revisions.

If you have your own equipment and are interested in getting SIM-only service from AT&T, just give them a call and ask for it. Let us know how they treat you.

(Photo:Todd Kravos)


Edit Your Comment

  1. foghat81 says:

    nice to see the AT&T building in Cleveland!

  2. forever_knight says:

    hurray for clarity!

  3. yg17 says:

    T-Mobile’s had this for awhile, called FlexPay. They’re cheaper and the network isn’t utter shite too….

  4. Sogarth says:

    Weird. The last time I asked (last month), I was told that to get AT&T service, a minimum of a one year contract was required. And that with a one year contract, there was no hardware reimbursement. All in all, I was told that if I wanted no-contract service, to go sign up for GoPhone.

  5. mac-phisto says:

    ehh…the problem probably exists in their activation terminal. the version i was using (~1 year ago) disallowed creation of a new account w/o selecting a contract term (1 or 2 years). perhaps they’ve updated their POS since (or perhaps this is another classic case of “left hand, meet right hand”).

  6. kc2idf says:

    @Sogarth: That’s the same sort of thing Verizon has told me. I already have a Verizon compatible handset that I am currently using with Sprint.

  7. freshyill says:

    @Sogarth: That was last month. This is now.

  8. tk427 says:

    Were you asking at a store? I’ve noticed a huge difference between the Cingular/AT&T stores within 10-15 miles of each other. They remind me of used car dealers. You can easily play them off each other by telling them what the other store is offering and asking “What can you do for me?”.

  9. socalrob of the 24 and a half century says:

    Exactly. I remember the last contract I got with Cingular/AT&T wich expires next month (YAY). I ordered a phone online and it said nowhere of having to sign up for a 2 year contract but the computer signed me up anyway. So I called to inquire about it and they told me that if I didn’t go for the 2 year that the phone I picked out for 20 bucks would be over 300. I almost crapped myself. It wasn’t anything big and fancy.

    What they need to make sure they clarify now is that if you bring your own phone or device, they wont give you support. I brought my own unlocked and unbranded Motorola Pebl for myself and a Razr v3x (not sold in america :( )for my girlfriend and AT&T refuses to give me any information at any of the stores. We have to bring in our old broken phones to the stores to get any information.

  10. jamar0303 says:

    @socalrob: I’ve never had an experience like that at any AT&T store. Sure, I had that “sign a contract or get GoPhone” bit, but they were quite a bit more helpful than that with my unlocked Japanese phone. Of course, it helps if the model matches something they already offer (I have a thing for Japanese/Korean phones- the 706SC is the a717 in the States, and the 708SC is the Trace, M702iS is the V3xx- the Japan-market versions of both phones come with neat extras like a Japanese-Korean-Chinese-English phrasebook that the US-market version doesn’t.)

  11. Sam2k says:

    A new AT&T activation if you bring your own equipment or pay full price for the equipment requires a minimum 1 year contract. It has been like this for at least a year that I know of.

  12. tinyrobot says:

    So does this mean you can get an iPhone at the Apple store, get a non-2 year contract from AT&T, toss the SIM that comes in the iPhone box and have an iPhone without a 2-year contract?

  13. toddkravos says:

    Awesome to see a photo of mine up here. Awesome!

  14. cde says:

    @tinyrobot: *Brain Splode*

  15. orielbean says:

    Tiny – there may be an issue as the Iphone has those special bundled phone/data plans. They may not offer any other plans than the special plans in order to force the lock in. I would love a verizon iphone. None of my friend’s iphones work in my house in downtown boston, but my verizon works everywhere. The iphone is verry nice.

  16. socalrob of the 24 and a half century says:


    I’m not so sure about that. I was told by CSR from AT&T that you can change data plans and such anytime you want without effecting your plan. IE: I have a 450 anytime plan that is a 2 year contract. I wanted to add an unlimited data plan to try out the modem feature of my phone. They said as long as I don’t change the base minutes plan im fine and it doesn’t effect any contracts.

    so it is possible you can just sign up as a normal phone and add a data plan in later. I doubt they will know. They think I still use a siemens s66 which I haven’t for a year, but its what I bought when I signed up for a 2 year contract.

  17. taka2k7 says:

    Yeah, so my question is, do I get a phone on contract and then drop military orders on them since I’m going someone where they most definitely don’t have service…

    I have an unlocked phone (U600) with a GoPhone SIM card. I can’t send MMS, but I can access the internet… go figure. AT&T pointed the finger at Samsung, who didn’t reply to email for support. Yeah, $300 phone and I’m using prepaid. Got and used phone overseas first.

    I’m not convinced AT&T won’t try to screw you on this.

    Love to know what experience people have on this.

  18. rwalford79 says:

    There is ONE way to get iPhone without contract, on GoPhone…

    Tell them your social security number is 999-99-9999 and it will automatically deny you a contract, and require a deposit. Since the iPhone is UNSUBSIDIZED, you can buy it at Apple or ATT. Its best to get it at Apple and do the online activation, and type that in as your SSI number. Then when it denies you, it will offer you GoPhone plans for that phone.


  19. mikecolione says:

    @Sam2k: Actually it was changed the beginning of this year. If you have your own equipment, or purchase new equipment at full price you can do a no committment plan. Same plans as contract customers.

  20. billvo says:

    On March 31, 2008, AT&T announced:

    “The company noted that it continues to offer options for those customers who do not want term commitments or ETFs, including:

    * Buy a phone at full price and go on a month-to-month service plan.
    * Bring your own compatible GSM device. With this option, you can buy a SIM (subscriber identity module), slip it into the back of the phone, and select a month-to-month service plan.
    * Choose one of AT&T’s GoPhone prepaid wireless plans.”


    As I read this, customers who do not want term commitments (with ETF) have two options (in addition to Go Phone prepaid) which are:
    1. Pay full price for equipment
    2. Bring your own equipment and buy a SIM card

    Today I brought this press release to my local store (4754 in Tampa) where assistant manager Louis reviewed it and after initially suggesting he had no way in his “Opus” software of activating without a contract, contacted others who reported that my only option was a GoPhone “Pick Your Plan” account.

    The press release above clearly differentiates two “month-to-month” options from the “GoPhone prepaid” accounts. Perhaps someone has a contact at AT&T that can tell us how to actually realize the service promised on 3/31/08?

  21. billvo says:

    @billvo: AT&T tracked me down, apparently in response to either my previous posting here or a duplicate sent to gigaom.com. I heard from West Florida Director of Sales Kim Tiger Gephart and Karin Garrido, another AT&T Sales exec. She explained that the press release was poorly worded so as to miscommunicate the availability of month-to-month service plans on a non-prepaid basis. [Two points to Kim for making this argument really well. Who wouldn’t believe that somebody at corporate fumbled their syntax? Just me, I guess.] After some discussion we agreed that I would accept a contract with ETF waived.

    Today I was met by both Kim and Karen as well as store manager Arol Abel. Through their research they discovered that no-commitment post-paid was indeed an intended option, though the availability of this was dependent upon an update to their Opus software. Arol recalled seeing this briefly about a month ago, before it disappeared and then reappeared only today with an Opus update.

    I walked out the door with four SIM cards set up on a Family Talk Nation 1400 plan with Term of Service indicated as “NONE”. This plan includes the usual mobile to mobile, unlimited nights and weekends, and rollover minutes. I signed nothing.

    Based on my past experience with Verizon FIOS and Verizon Wireless, this kind of response is completely unexpected. Actually, any response is unexpected. Note to other communications companies, we’ve learned from AT&T there are two things you can do to make your customers love you:
    1. Deliver what you promise.
    2. When you fail, pick up the phone (thing on desk with buttons), call the customer, and figure out how to make it right.

    Kudos to Kim, Karin, and Arol for their hard work and quality customer service.