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AT&T drops iPhone 3GS to $49

Perhaps trying to get out in front of the momentum behind new Android devices—or merely snatch up as many fence-sitting potential iPhones customers as possible before any rumors of Verizon Wireless getting an iPhone come true—AT&T has announced it will begin selling the iPhone 3GS to both new and upgrade-eligible AT&T customers for $49 beginning Friday, January 7. The offer will be available online as well as from AT&T retail locations—and while AT&T notes Apple channels will also be offering the iPhone 3GS, pricing there will be controlled by Apple, not AT&T.

“We want to deliver the best, most complete package for our customers—from price, to speed, to worldwide access, and more,” said AT&T Mobility chief marketing officer David Christopher, in a statement. “Combined with our new, lower monthly data plans beginning at just $15 a month, this new price brings even more value to one of the most popular devices in our leading lineup of smartphones.”

The move is clearly intended to move more everyday mobile phone users into the smartphone market—which is much more lucrative to mobile operators thanks to revenue channels based on data plans, add-on services, and (of course) mobile apps.

The move also makes an Apple iPhone very price-competitive with feature phones and even the least-expensive Android-based smartphones. Although the iPhone 3GS doesn’t have the “retina display” and performance of the iPhone 4, it still stacks up pretty well against mainstream smartphones—and beats anything at the $50 price point hands down.

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