Subsidized AT&T iPhone no longer available through the online Apple Store

Since the days of the first iPhone in 2007, Apple has sold the smartphone -- set up for AT&T service ---- as a subsidized purchase. In other words, you'd buy your iPhone for a discounted price with a 2-year AT&T contract, say $199 or $299, as opposed to $599 and $699 for a non-subsidized phone. Well, it appears that those days are over. Last night, Apple removed the option of purchasing a new iPhone on a two-year contract with AT&T from the online Apple Store. Instead, all purchases are now done with AT&T's Next plan using a monthly fee.

On the plus side, the Next plan makes it much more simple for iPhone fans to move to the newest model at the end of 12, 18 ,or 24 months by bundling the unsubsidized price of the phone with a service plan and then splitting that cost into a monthly fee. There's also no required down payment.

The pricing for a 16 GB iPhone 6 starts at $21.64 per month without a voice and data plan, while the 128 GB iPhone 6 Plus starts at $31.64 -- once again, without a voice and data plan. If you prefer to pay for your phone up front, you can do so by buying an unlocked iPhone or buy purchasing your new iPhone through AT&T web or retail stores that still show the existing subsidized plans. 

Plans without subsidies may become the norm in the US, similar to the way they are in most other countries. For example, Apple offers T-Mobile phones only at full unlocked price or through the Jump upgrade plan. Sprint and Verizon currently have subsidized plans, although the companies also offer "fast upgrade" programs like Next and Jump.