You probably noticed that Apple announced the latest incarnation of the iPhone, the 3GS, earlier this week. It features mostly incremental upgrades over the existing model's features, alongside software enhancements that will work on earlier models, but it's still creating a lot of demand from existing iPhone 3G owners who want to upgrade. One speed bump, though: like any other handset it subsidizes, AT&T is only offering the lowest price for the new device to new customers, or people who are in the last six months of their contract. Since the iPhone 3G came out less than a year ago, that means users of the latest iPhone that want to upgrade will have to pay an extra $200. Which, of course, is making some of them unhappy. The iPhone's upfront price benefits from a hefty subsidy, like other devices AT&T sells, so the operator's going to treat its subsidy, and how it recovers it, pretty much like any other device. It may come as a shock to some iPhone users, but the device really is just another phone in the eyes of operators, and won't get them any special treatment. Another piece of evidence: the fact that some of the new features in the iPhone 3.0 software that Apple touted -- such as support for faster HSDPA data networks, MMS, and data tethering -- aren't yet available on AT&T, because the operator isn't supporting them (or hasn't figured out how to bill for them). That's more like the mobile world we're used to: innovation and new features from handset vendors making it to customers only with the approval of operators.
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