May 17, 2012 at 6:55 PM ET
Wednesday brought reports that Verizon would be ending its policy of allowing grandfathering in of contracts when purchasing a new phone. The company clarified the news Thursday, saying that only purchasers of subsidized phones (like the iPhone 4S and other flagship devices) would have to adopt the new pricing plan.
Verizon included the policy change while announcing new shared data plans that can be accessed by multiple devices. But being able to retain a previous contract often has benefits, as the wording or pricing on promotional or just older contracts occasionally gives a user a better deal than anything offered by the carrier at present. So the news was poorly received by thrifty, longtime subscribers.
The company said Thursday that making the change to the new data plans could be avoided by not buying carrier-subsidized phones:
When the new options are introduced, Unlimited Data will no longer be available to our customers purchasing handsets and signing a new contract. Customers who choose to purchase phones at full retail price and are currently on an unlimited smartphone data plan will be able to keep that plan. The same pricing and policies will apply to all 3G and 4GLTE smartphones.
This follow-up announcement should temper the anger somewhat, though very few people will opt to pay full price up front for the latest phones.
Many are barely willing to pay even the $200 price for a new top-of-the-line handset; the $650 price for high-end phones like the iPhone 4S, Galaxy Nexus, and Droid Razr Maxx would probably give most consumers sticker shock. Verizon is likely relying on the past behaviors by customers to opt for the subsidized price and pay more over their two-year contract than if they had they bought the phone outright.
But in the meantime, you can keep your contract and your phone as long as you'd like if you don't try to pick up something new. And any phone capable of reaching the 4G LTE network will be able to do so with no new restrictions — some carriers reduce the speed of a phone after a certain number of gigs, but a Verizon representative told msnbc.com this won't be the case for any subscribers on their network.
Devin Coldewey is acontributing writer for msnbc.com. His personal website iscoldewey.cc.