At the heart of the matter is that existing AT&T customers who recently bought a subsidized phone from AT&T may not be eligible to purchase the subsidized ($199/$299) iPhone 3G. Instead, these upgrade ineligible AT&T customers will be required to pay $399/$499 for the iPhone 3G. iPhone Alley suggests a procedure in which you could get around this issue, but does carry with it a number of assumptions, so we are not sure it will necessarily will work as advertised.
When AT&T launched the original iPhone in 2007, upgrade eligibility was not required because the original iPhone was an unsubsidized phone. As a result, there were early reports of individuals taking advantage of this situation by buying a subsidized phone and then immediately upgrading to the iPhone. Typically this action would trigger an early termination fee on your existing account, but it appears the original iPhone is (was?) an exception.
iPhone Alley suggests that an individual borrow a friend's iPhone and use their existing AT&T SIM card to activate iPhone service. This is said to replace your current phone service and suddenly make your account "upgrade eligible" since you are considered an iPhone customer. They believe that you can then use this iPhone-account to qualify for discounted iPhone 3G pricing on July 11th.
This procedure carries with it a number of assumptions that may or may not be true:
- AT&T is still not charging termination fees when upgrading to iPhone from an upgrade ineligible plan
- That it will not affect the upgrade eligibility of the person's iPhone you borrowed
- That they will only look to see an active iPhone plan on your account as verification
A quick look at the AT&T discussion forums reveal others plotting similar strategies to become iPhone eligible, including purchasing a broken iPhone for the sole purpose of activation prior to July 11th.
You're mileage may vary and we certainly don't recommend following these steps, but provide them for interest.