The Year that Phone Contracts Died

One of the significant developments of 2015 in the United States was the general implosion of some very traditional phone purchasing models. For years, we’ve been signing contracts and counting days until those contracts are over so we could get a new phone and sign up for yet another contract to start the process all over again.

Not anymore.

I was genuinely surprised how quickly that all fell apart this year. Recently AT&T announced that starting early next year they are killing contracts entirely. Verizon hasn’t made any such announcement but they are pushing non-contract plans and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them punt on contracts too.

It’s still unclear whether this will truly be better for us consumers over time but it is clear we at least now have more options about where we buy our phones. This year I bought a phone on a payment plan from Apple. It didn’t involve giving blood to AT&T and that felt pretty great.

Also still up in the air is the question of what impact these changes will have on consumers’ upgrade plans. Removing the arbitrary contract date may mean some people get off the 2-year upgrade cycle. Apple’s own payment plan makes yearly upgrades pretty convenient and I wouldn’t be surprised if this results in Apple selling more phones, not less.

Either way, we can remember 2015 as the year that cellular phone carrier contracts were put down. 

Now only if I could write a similar post next year about cable companies …