As many of our readers know, if you are willing to buy a cell phone or smartphone from an online retailer like Wirefly or Letstalk.com, you can get a discount of $50 to $150 on the phone within a few months after the phone is launched. These online retailers offer affiliate programs with publishers who link to the retailers. If you are waiting for next month to nab an AT&T deal, you'll be out of luck because AT&T will not be affiliated with many online retailers, starting March 8.
This may signal a shake up in carrier pricing. When the BlackBerry Torch was launched last year, there was a lot of flack from bloggers and analysts that the price had been reduced too quickly to $99 at online retailers. RIM's CEO said that it was common practice in the industry and was not a price cut. Online retailers often offer a higher discount on phones than the carrier and don't require rebates. AT&T doesn't want to lose customers, and its latest high-end smartphone, the HTC Inspire, was launched at the low price of $99. AT&T has also reduced the price of the iPhone 3GS.
Here's what we found. Online retailer LetsTalk sent out the following in a message to affiliates:
"We're reaching out to let you know of an upcoming change to our carrier offering. Effective March 8th, 2011, LetsTalk as well as other web indirect agents, including Simplexity (Wirefly), will no longer be able to offer AT&T Wireless as a carrier option to our customers. The primary reasons given for this change in AT&T's business strategy were centered around AT&T cost savings and retrenchment. We realize this may cause an impact to your business and will do everything we can to assist you with this transition."
So is this good news for consumers of AT&T and products? For AT&T customers who don't spend hours online searching for the best deal, yes it is good news, because AT&T is competitively pricing its products from the start. For super shoppers who have become accustomed to Wirefly specials that give a microSD card, waived activation and a smartphone free from AT&T, it may be harder to find a great deal. It may also pressure other carriers to start off with lower prices on their smartphones.
Wirefly is not selling the HTC Inspire yet. However, Amazon Wireless is selling the HTC Inspire for $59.99 for new customers and $69.99 for renewing customers with a contract. Letstalk.com is selling it for $59.99 for new customers with a contract, and $69.99 for renewing customers. You still have some time to take advantage of 5% any phone at LetsTalk.com. Receive 5% off the entire shopping cart up to $25 on LetsTalk.com. Use coupon code 'LTCART5'. Expires 2/28/2011.
As of today, LetsTalk.com offered a great deal on the AT&T Samsung Captivate, selling it for $59, which is lower than $149.99 at AT&T.com and $149.99 at Wirefly.
The LetsTalk AT&T deals will end on March 8. We have not been able to confirm if Amazon Wireless' relationship has been severed with AT&T. We will keep you posted with deals when we see them.
AT&T also knocked down the price of the iPhone 3GS