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iPhone rate plans revealed, at-home activation announced

Even though they could probably charge $500 a month for service and still sign up a grip of Apple fanboys, AT&T has announced that it will be offering the iPhone for much more reasonable rates, starting at just $60 for 450 minutes and "unlimited" data; that's right, the data plan is wrapped up nice and tight with voice service in your obligatory two-year contract. Scoring 900 or 1,350 minutes will set you back $80 and $100 per month, respectively, although no matter what plan you choose, you're getting 200 text messages, unlimited mobile-to-mobile calls, and a ton of night and weekend minutes (5,000 for the starter plan, unlimited for the other two). If you're unfortunate lucky enough to be stocking up on iPhones for the whole family, shared bundles of 700, 1,400, and 2,100 minutes (all with 200 SMS messages and unlimited night and weekend calls) can be had for $80, $100, or $120 plus 30 bucks per line. Finally, to keep existing customers from going crazy waiting for their contracts to expire, AT&T is also offering its current subscribers a $20 option to tack on the iPhone data plan -- which goes up to $30 or $40 if you need to jack up your SMS limit to 1,500 or unlimited messages.

In more good news -- well, depending on how you look at it -- Apple has announced that customers will be able to activate their new phones via an iTunes sync, saving them from spending even an extra minute in an AT&T store they will have surely have grown to despise. On the down side, if you do have problems with your activation -- remember those initial iTunes / Vista issues? -- it'll be just that much more difficult to troubleshoot as you and two million other frustrated users flood AT&T's customer service line simultaneously. Good times, folks, good times.

Update: That's some, ah, good journalism there Lou. Apparently there are actually six packages each available for both of the individual and family plans, as reader Christopher K. noticed by simply clicking on the "More Minutes" button at the bottom of those plans' respective tabs here. Heavy users will be also be able to choose from 2,000, 4,000, or 6,000 minute bundles for $120, $170, and $220, respectively, with families getting 3,000, 4,000, or 6,000 minutes for $160, $210, and $310, also respectively.

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[Thanks to everyone who sent this in]