AT&T Used Scare Tactic in Mass Email to Sell More Phones, Later Apologizes

ATT Wireless Credit: madamF / Shutterstock
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AT&T needs a lesson in timing and clarity for their mass email campaigns. When the world’s economy is in the trash, the wireless carrier is sending out an email warning its customers that they need to upgrade their phones if they want to continue their service. The urgent tone of the message is not only misleading, but it also is confusing customers who have newer phones and angering those who may not want to upgrade for financial reasons.

According to Android Police, AT&T told its customers via an email campaign that their existing mobile phones are “not compatible with the new network,” and admonishes them “to replace it to continue receiving service.”

The email then advertises AT&T’s existing phone lineup and offers free same-day delivery.

It appears that all customers received the email, not just those with older phones. Confused customers with a newer phone like the one-year-old Samsung Galaxy S10E are getting these “upgrade or die” messages even though their phone will continue to work.

Multiple forum posters asked if this email was a scam and one commented that it must be fake because “no year-old phone is going to be suddenly incompatible.”

AT&T is indeed transitioning its wireless service away from 3G/4G and onto 5G. This switchover, though, won’t be completed until 2022 at the earliest. A fact that AT&T left out in its email to customers.

The email does link to an AT&T support web page that explains this transition in detail. Apparently, not many customers clicked on that link.

According to the linked support page, AT&T will phase out its 3G network by February 2022. Once this transition is complete, existing “3G devices and 4G wireless devices that don’t support HD Voice (Voice over LTE) will no longer work on our network.”

AT&T does provide a list of compatible devices on its webpage, but this list is not complete. Some unlocked phones with HD voice like the Nokia 6.1 are not yet on the list.

AT&T apologized “for any confusion this email may have caused” saying “it should have included the date that certain devices would no longer be supported.”

The company did not state how many customers received the email, nor did they explain why subscribers with a compatible phone were sent an “upgrade now” email even though their phones will not be affected by this changeover.

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