AT&T tells customers to buy new phones or their old ones will stop working

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If AT&T sent you an email telling you to upgrade your phone — or else — would you write it off as a scam? Well, that’s just what the company did this week, according to Android Police.

Under the big, blue, bold, all-caps heading “UPDATE NEEDED,” the carrier is telling some customers that their devices are “not compatible with the new network” and that they “need to replace it to continue receiving service.”

Here’s the email:

Image: Android Police

Image: Android Police

One obvious problem: the company sent this in the middle of an economy-wrecking pandemic, at a time when buying a new phone might be the last thing on someone’s mind. Some customers were so surprised to get the email that they posted on AT&T’s support forums speculating that it might be a scam, though Android Police says the email is legitimate.

Another problem: scared customers may not actually need to do anything until February 2022.

As Android Police points out, what AT&T really seems to be doing here is recommending upgrades ahead of the shutdown of AT&T’s 3G network. That’s scheduled to happen “by February 2022,” according to an AT&T link that reportedly appears in the email. When the 3G network goes away, AT&T says that phones that don’t support HD Voice, which routes calls over 4G LTE, won’t be able to make voice calls or use data on AT&T.

Weirdly, customers with newer phones, which should theoretically support HD Voice, are getting the email, too. The person who started that thread on AT&T’s support forum said they use a Galaxy S10 E, a phone that was released in March 2019.

If it’s true that these phones won’t stop working until 2022, sending out an email like this isn’t exactly the best look for AT&T; it could be seen as an attempt to boost sales during a pandemic, and there’ll no doubt be a wave of newer and better phones available (including more with 5G support) before that deadline passes.

It’s unclear exactly how many customers may have gotten this email, and AT&T hasn’t replied to a request for comment. But hopefully AT&T provides clearer communication about why and when customers will actually need to upgrade.

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