It’s going to feel really weird to talk about deals on smartphones without ending with the line “with a two-year contract,” but that’s exactly what’s going to happen when talking about AT&T phones. The company has been phasing out those contracts for a while now, and as of January 8th they will be gone – like tears in the rain.

Here’s the official company statement:

With $0 down for well-qualified customers, the ability to upgrade early and down payment options available with even lower monthly installments, our customers are overwhelmingly choosing AT&T Next. Starting January 8, AT&T Next will be the primary way to get a new smartphone at AT&T. This does not apply to business customers under a qualified wireless service agreement.

So come January 8th, if you pick up a phone through AT&T, you have to either buy it outright or go with AT&T Next, where you pay the device off over 20 months. Either way, this change is going to result in more expensive phones. Off-contract phones have always been pricey, and if you go with a payment plan, the payments will certainly be manageable but in the long run you’re going to end up paying even more.

The upside in this is that you’ll have more freedom to jump between carriers. Hopefully AT&T will offer cheaper plans since users will need incentive to stay with them now that they won’t be locked in. Plus they’re no longer subsidizing phones, so they’ll have the financial wiggle roomto reduce costs.

It might be your best bet to buy an unlocked phone elsewhere, where you can find a good deal, and then take that phone to AT&T. Of course, if you’re not happy with that, you can just switch over to another carrier, and even follow the deals and promotions.

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