August 10, 2020

AT&T spooked customers with misleading phone upgrade warning

The carrier says it made a mistake when alerting customers.

Samsung Galaxy S10e in hand front

  • AT&T scared customers with an email telling them to upgrade phones to continue service.
  • However, it didn’t say customers had until February 2022 to switch, making some wonder if it was a scam.
  • The carrier said the omission was a mistake.

AT&T has been accused of misleading customers before, but its latest incident was particularly worrisome for some people — if apparently unintentional.

Android Police reports that AT&T customers received an email message telling them their phones are “not compatible� with its latest network technology and need to be upgraded to “continue receiving service.� That’s slightly worrisome when the phones are relatively recent, like Samsung’s Galaxy S10e or the Nokia 6.1. One S10e owner on AT&T’s forum wondered if the message wasn’t a “scam.�

The email linked to a support article making clear that customers have until February 2022, when AT&T shuts off its 3G network and stops supporting phones without HD Voice calling. AT&T’s message didn’t clarify that, though, making it sound like customers are losing service soon instead of a year and a half later. The carrier added to the confusion by sending messages to subscribers whose phones do support HD Voice.

Read more: How Enhanced HD voice makes your calls crisp and clear

In a statement to Android Police, AT&T characterized the omissions as mistakes. It acknowledged that the email “should have included� the 2022 cutoff date, and that only customers without HD Voice “should have received� the message. The provider recommended contacting customer support if there was any uncertainty about a phone’s long-term future, although it stopped short of promising a clarifying message.

Whatever AT&T’s intentions, the timing of a message like this was more than a little unfortunate. It was effectively telling customers to spend money on a new phone in the middle of a pandemic defined by economic hardship. Thankfully, the truth is decidedly less alarming. If you do have an affected phone, you still have the better part of two years to plan your upgrade strategy.