Like T-Mobile and some Prepaid services, AT&T has introduced plans that separates the subsidy for your phone and the price of your plan. AT&T calls them "Mobile Share Value Plans" plans, but they mean better prices, especially for those of us who don't adhere to a 2-year phone replacement schedule. Whether you want a non-contract plan or a bring-your-own-device offer, you can save a noticeable amount of money compared to the old way of pricing phones. Unless you replace your phone ever 24 months, you either got a penalty for upgrading early, or keep paying for a phone long after it was paid off.
This puts more pressure on Sprint and even more on Verizon who still tie their plans to the phone purchase. I will admit, this may mean the end of free or $100 to $200 phones, but most carriers let you pay these off in a more transparent way: when the phone is paid for, your payment drops.
AT&T, who, in our opinion, still needs to make more technical upgrades in their network (and they are making them), moves up one step in the Mountain Wireless Carrier Ratings. Offering better value helps make up for some of their other shortcomings. At the same time, Verizon Wireless leaps ahead in their network quality and I'm sure they're thinking if we want the better network, we'll pay for it. Hey, the other wireless networks are getting better, too. It just may be good enough when it's priced better as well.