T-Mobile started the trend to stop all 2 year contracts and advertising its "Uncarrier" status. Ironically, with AT&T recently stopping its 2 year contract plans for consumers buying smartphones, now all major carriers in the US have the same policy as T-Mobile. The "Uncarrier" has become like all the other carriers.
AT&T was the last holdout and stopped this policy at the beginning of 2016. Instead of heavily discounted phones, consumers now need to choose between buying their phones at full price or buy in monthly installment plans.
I visited the official AT&T store in Fremont, California to purchase the iPhone 6s. Like the Apple Store itself, the store was packed with both shoppers and people waiting for service.
The new monthly payment schemes were out in full force and the AT&T sales associates had to explain to longtime customers that there were no more 2 year contract upgrade or purchase options.
Beyond phones, the AT&T store is similar to the Apple Store where it is well stocked with other accessories like headphones, wireless speakers, fitness wearables, and drones. They even have a Digital Life section supporting alarms, remote control of temperature, cameras, and locks in a smart home.
Consumers that were used to spending little for the phone will now need to get comfortable to paying full priced for the phone either up front or through installment payments. Without these contracts it's also easier to switch carriers so the benefit is hopefully lower bills for everyone. While you can buy a generic smartphone for next to nothing nowadays, premium phones from Apple and Samsung will still cost a pretty penny. Those with certain AT&T business accounts can enjoy getting 2 year contract discounted phones for some time more but the rest of us will have to adjust to this brave new world.