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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.

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