While AT&T—thankfully—isn’t forcing prior iPhone users upgrading to the iPhone 4S to give up their unlimited data plans, it is forcing them to choose between one of two message options, neither of which are universally appealing. During the process of ordering multiple iPhone 4S units earlier this morning, iLounge found that if you have a grandfathered unlimited data plan, it will appear to be removed from your account during the ordering process, only to be replaced soon thereafter by an identical option specific to the iPhone 4S. For those on messaging plans other than the pay-as-you-go or unlimited options, however, the carrier is not as accommodating—during the ordering process, those users will need to choose between either a pay-as-you-go or unlimited plan, setting users up for charges of either $0.20 per SMS and $0.30 per MMS message, or $20 per month for unlimited texts, respectively. For a user on a $5/mo. messaging plan, these changes could mean an increasing in charges of $15/mo., which over the course of a two-year contract becomes $360.
AT&T announced the changes to its plans in August, and stated at the time that current customers would be allowed to keep their current plans even when changing handsets. It has not been confirmed, but seems likely, that the move was in part a response to Apple’s new iMessage service, which allows for direct iOS device-to-iOS device messaging, circumventing any carrier’s existing SMS/MMS servers, and thus incurring no additional charge to the user, save for the minuscule amount of data used when away from Wi-Fi.