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AT&T drops iPhone 3G S prices for early iPhone 3G adopters

AT&T on Wednesday published an open letter to customers on its iPhone 3G S upgrade eligibility program in which it announced that, for a limited time, it will offer early iPhone 3G adopters the opportunity to purchase an iPhone 3G S at the same $199 and $299 price points as new customers.

The exclusive U.S. iPhone carrier said that generally speaking, the more a customer spends with AT&T, the quicker they become eligible for a price break on a new device. For example, iPhone customers who spend more than $99 a month per line are generally eligible for an upgrade between 12 and 18 months into their contract.

However, with iPhone 3G having launched last July and the new iPhone 3G coming out this June, no iPhone 3G users are eligible to upgrade to the iPhone 3G S at the advertised $199 and $299 price points under AT&T's standard policy because 12 months have yet to pass.

Instead, AT&T said iPhone 3G owners could upgrade to a 16GB or 32GB iPhone 3G S for $399 or $499, respectively, if they wished to do so before they became eligible for upgrade pricing either 12 or 18 months into their iPhone 3G contract.

This led to widespread criticism of the carrier by loyal customers who felt they were getting the shaft for being amongst the quickest to plunk down the cash for last year's iPhone. In its letter Wednesday, AT&T says it hears its customers loud and clear, and concedes it made a mistake.

"Since many of our iPhone 3G customers are early adopters and literally weeks shy of being upgrade eligible due to iPhone 3G S launching 11 months after iPhone 3G, we’re extending the window of upgrade eligibility for a limited time," the carrier said in a statement that was also accompanied by the YouTube video, below.

Specifically, AT&T said it will offer iPhone 3G customers who are upgrade eligible in July, August or September 2009 its best upgrade pricing, beginning Thursday, June 18.

Affected customers who've already preordered from an AT&T store will see the cost of the device adjusted when they come to pick it up. If you pre-ordered from AT&T online, AT&T says it will send you an e-mail and issue a credit.

For customers who pre-ordered an iPhone 3G S through Apple’s online store, your upgrade eligibility will be reassessed based on AT&T's new upgrade policy for iPhone 3G owners. If you are eligible for the lower price, Apple will issue you a credit for the difference as applicable.

"We’ve listened to our customers — and hope our response helps answer some of your questions and concerns," AT&T said. "We are incredibly proud to be the U.S. carrier for the new iPhone 3G S and will work around the clock to be ready on June 19 to serve customers who are interested in the fastest, most powerful iPhone yet."