Thoughtful, detailed coverage of the Mac, iPhone, and iPad, plus the TidBITS Content Network for Apple consultants.

AT&T Allows Eligibility Transfers in Family Plan

[Note: This article was updated on 15 June 2010 after attempting to place a pre-order for the iPhone 4.]

I call my wife, Lynn, "the Early Rejecter." And I don't mean that in a pejorative way. She'd rather have the 2.0 or 3.0 version of some product, and chuckle as I suffer the pain of early upgrades and new hardware.

Of course, she's the one in our AT&T Family Plan to be eligible for a low-cost iPhone 4 upgrade, qualifying for the $199 (16 GB) and $299 (32 GB) pricing. My eligibility report says I have to wait until February 2011, or pay an extra $200 ($399 or $499) to get an iPhone 4 now.

Fortunately, an AT&T spokesperson confirmed for me that eligibility is transferrable among members of a Family Plan. But it will apparently be impossible to accomplish online.

To discover your eligibility, go to and log into your account, or call *639# from the phone you want to upgrade to receive a free text message with a date and more details. Whether AT&T will spot you an early phone trade-up isn't strictly about your contract date, but includes factors such as the service plan and other dollars you've paid them. Some friends who purchased an iPhone 3GS at the same time that I did already qualify for the lowest price.

I called AT&T on June 15th, while the company's Web site was broken after pre-orders for the iPhone 4 began, and was told that the way to handle eligibility was to place the pre-order for the eligible line. When you receive the phone, you take the iPhone 4 and the non-eligible phone to an AT&T store (check to make sure it's one operated by AT&T directly, not a reseller), where they effect a SIM swap.

In the past, it was possible to swap SIM cards among phones, transfer phone numbers within the account, or perform other hoodoo to make it work out. But the iPhone 4 uses a micro-SIM, just like the 3G iPad, which means you can't interchange a full-sized SIM from an earlier iPhone with the iPhone 4 (unless you buy one of these SIM cutters).

AT&T will apparently program the appropriate SIM and micro-SIM cards at one of its company-owned stores.


Make friends and influence people by sponsoring TidBITS!
Put your company and products in front of tens of thousands of
savvy, committed Apple users who actually buy stuff.
More information: <>

Comments about AT&T Allows Eligibility Transfers in Family Plan
(Comments are closed.)

Grover  2010-06-15 08:37
This article made me smile. I bet there's a lot of husbands trying to convince their wives that they need a new phone RIGHT NOW!
Assuming, of course, that ONLY MEN care about technology. I tried to get my boyfriend to take my 3GS but he's still happy with his flip phone.

See, it's not *just men* who care about technology.

Your sexist response in 2010 doesn't make me smile.
Glenn Fleishman  2010-06-16 08:22
I think the "sexism" is a joke about assuming only men spend too much money by purchasing high-tech products the second they come out.

I know plenty of women interested in technology, and the vast majority of them wait, like my wife, until the price reflects reality instead of the early-adopter premium.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2010-06-16 09:29
Just a quick note here if you're on an AT&T family plan. If you don't use a lot of minutes, there's a 550 minute plan that's not widely advertised that's $10 per month less than the 700 minute plan. I think this is relatively new; we signed up for the lowest minute plan when we started the family plan in July 2009. Combining that with dropping down to the $15 DataPlus plan (200 MB) for each line and we're saving $40 per month on a bill that was about $150 each month after all the taxes and fees were added in.

So, if you're switching to an iPhone 4 and have to make a visit to an AT&T store anyway, it might be worth asking about the cheaper family plan.
Tom Saxton  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2010-06-17 20:51
That 550 minute plan has been around a while, maybe since the beginning. It wasn't advertised so you had to know to ask for it.

When we added a fourth phone to our plan, they made us upgrade to the 700 minute plan even though none of us make much use of the iPhone's calling feature.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2010-06-18 06:59
Yeah, the AT&T guy was very concerned about the fact that it supported only 3 lines max, but since we only want two, it was a meaningless limitation.
Jonathan Reff  2010-06-23 12:25
I'm in the exact same situation- my wife's number is eligible for the iPhone 4, but she is happy to let me have it. I just received the iPhone 4 and called AT&T to swap the numbers between our two phones. They told me that they couldn't do it over the phone, that I have to go into an AT&T store and get new SIMs for both phones. Does anyone know if that's in fact necessary?
Glenn Fleishman  2010-06-23 12:21
AT&T posted this page that says that, in fact, you don't have to do this. So you should call back using the process on this page, and cite this page to them if they say they can't (and please update us on what happens!):
Jonathan Reff  2010-06-23 15:01
Thanks for the link Glenn. I called AT&T again and this time got someone who really understood the situation. It seems the activation instructions in iTunes are incorrect. When you first plug the phone in, it shows you the number under which the phone was ordered. There is a link next to the phone number that says "Not the number you want to use?" (or something like that). If you click the link, it takes you to a screen with instructions to activate the phone first in iTunes, then call AT&T to have the numbers switched. Unfortunately, once the phone is activated, AT&T can NOT switch the numbers, and you need new SIM cards for both phones. The rep told me that if I had called AT&T *before* activating in iTunes, they could have done the switch. So it seems like there was a communication problem between Apple and AT&T about this. So I'm off to an AT&T store with both phones to get new SIMs. Apart from this issue, I'm loving the iPhone 4.
Glenn Fleishman  2010-06-23 15:23
Great to know. I received email yesterday with the link I noted above that said explicitly _not_ to plug in the iPhone 4 first, but I suspect not everyone got that email.