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AT&T cuts monthly cost of smart phones with no contract required

AT&T has introduced a new mobile plan that can cut monthly wireless phone bills for new and existing customers.
AT&T has introduced a new mobile plan that can cut monthly wireless phone bills for new and existing customers.Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

AT&T launched a new pricing plan yesterday called Mobile Share Value Plans which don't require a two-year commitment and can cost a family of four just $160 a month for unlimited talk and text plus 10 GB of monthly shared data.

The catch is that you have to either pay full price for the phone - over $600 for a high-end model like the Samsung Galaxy S4 - or sign up for AT&T Next, the company's monthly installment plan that allows payment over the course of 12 or 18 months. If you pay for four mid-level phones as part of your monthly bill, you could shell out roughly $260 a month - the same as you would with Verizon Wireless for a similar plan, but with no money up front to pay for the phones.

With AT&T Next, you can either trade in for another phone after 12 or 18 months, or drop the installment payments after 20 or 26 months and keep the phone until you'd like to select a new one. Both new and existing customers can sign up for a Mobile Share Value Plan.

AT&T says that when it comes to voice, "AT&T is in a dead heat with Verizon for fewest dropped calls, at less than one percent. Our other two national competitors have twice as many or more dropped calls." The company also says its 4G LTE network covers nearly 280 million people across the nation, which is over 60 million more than Sprint or T-Mobile covers.

The new mobile plans sling another volley in the heated battle for customers that mobile carriers have escalated in the past several weeks. It also marks another effort for a wireless company to wean users from heavily subsidized phones. Mobile companies lose money on these phones on the front end in return for a lengthy contract. Over the years, this strategy has become less profitable to mobile companies and less palatable to consumers, who've begun fleeing in large numbers to no contract carriers like Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile.

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