The iPhone 4 debuts on the 24th of June. I am one of the many users whose upgrade date falls after 1/1/11. Looking at the difference between no-commitment pricing and upgrade-date-after pricing, I've been considering the no-commitment option and coming up without many answers.

The math is not particularly compelling. AT&T's new smartphone early termination fee (ETF) is now running at $325, reducing at $10 per month. If I re-up with AT&T, the math becomes a wash after just over 12 months of use. The ETF goes down to $200, the actual price difference between the after-1/1/11 versus the no-commitment. Either way, I'm still under contract for the next 12 months regardless, unless I pay my current $120 ETF -- and I don't particularly want to give up my $30 unlimited data.
What the $600 price tag gives me is the ability to buy a nicely discounted iPhone 5 in June 2011 without all this bother about "am I eligible" or not. It also gives me the option of switching to another carrier at that time without pre-existing commitment, should such a carrier even exist.

The funny thing is this: if AT&T had lowered the after-January-2011 price to, say, $249 or even $299, I would probably just let the simple math sway me. The thing that's actually driving me away from committing to AT&T is the mathematical equivalence between my options -- assuming I want that freedom in June 2011.

If my choice is paying the same but being involved in extending my AT&T commitment versus being free of AT&T entanglement, I'll be honest in saying I'd rather go with the latter.

What do you think? What would you recommend for people like me, who are in the after-January-2011 group? Let us know in this poll and in the comments that follow.

What should post-Jan-2011 customers do?
Go for the $399/$499 price. The FCC may force AT&T to back off on the ETF260 (8.9%)
Go for the $399/$499 price. The $200 ETF isn't real until next June -- and all bets are off by then.378 (12.9%)
It's a wash294 (10.0%)
Pay full price. Who wants to be tied to an AT&T contract?1308 (44.7%)
Something else… I'll tell you in the comments!96 (3.3%)
I love choosing the "No Answer" option on TUAW polls592 (20.2%)

This article was originally published on Tuaw.
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