The word on the web is that AT&T wants to clear out its iPhone inventory before Apple releases the successor, quite possibly in the next couple of months. The rumor started from a Gottabemobile  report which was subsequently picked up by CNET. It was about the fact that select AT&T customers who are not yet eligible for a fully-subsidized upgrade may be offered the option of getting a new iPhone 5 for $450, which is about $200 less than the full-price. The 32GB and 64GB iPhone 5 will be available in this deal for $550 and $650 respectively. Intriguing theory, but is that what’s going on?

AT&T later pointed out to that this is not a “discount”, or a new “deal”, but that it is simply part of the carrier’s ongoing early update program, which is not specific to the iPhone or iPhone users.

Who’s eligible? AT&T answers: “Customers with an account in good standing have the option of paying the standard two-year pricing for a phone plus $250 to upgrade early after six months. Using our existing early upgrade plan that applies to all smartphones, if you select an iPhone with a $200 two-year price + $250 early upgrade fee = $450”.

AT&T has done this type of upgrades in the past and AT&T representatives told Ubergizmo that this was “business as usual” and that the company “offers an early upgrade option for customers with an account in good standing and who purchased their current phone at least 6 months earlier”.

We actually tried on one of our AT&T work accounts, which is linked to a Galaxy Note 2 by calling *639# to check on our upgrade status. Any AT&T wireless customer can do the same. We got this message from the system:

“This line is eligible for an early upgrade with a partial discount off of the full retail price when you sign up for a 2-year service agreement. This line may be eligible for an upgrade at our best pricing on MM/DD/YYYY. A $36 upgrade fee will apply. Upgrade now at att.com or visit an AT&T retail store”

Others argue that AT&T is moving to clear its existing inventory before the next generation smartphone, the iPhone 5S, comes in stock. It’s debatable, but without knowing the scope of the offer, it’s difficult at best to reach any broad conclusions. History shows that despite a spike in demand for the latest iPhone, the previous one continues to sell very well.

Filed in Cellphones. Read more about AT&T and iPhone 5.

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