Why IPhone Early Adopters Will Continue to Request Early Upgrades
Two reasons AT&T should grant early upgrades for early adopters:
1) AT&T negotiated hard for the exclusive rights to the IPhone in 2007. They did this because of the enthusiasm Apple devotees have for Apple products, the IPhone was a revolutionary product, AT&T benefited from the prestige of being associated with a "best in class" company like Apple, and the per-subscriber revenue from the IPhone owners was significantly higher than that of standard cell phone users. As a result of this deal, AT&T has seen a wave of new subscribers flock to their service generating record new subscriber numbers and record profits. This came with difficulties as well, Apple fans are notoriously demanding (they flock to Apple products because of Apple's uncompromising design and customer service), they are frequently described as "emotionally attached" to their Apple products. Also, data traffic has at times overwhelmed AT&T's network. NONE OF THIS SHOULD BE NEWS TO AT&T. After enjoying the benefits of exclusivity from 2007 to 2011 and allowing these Apple devotees to upgrade early with each new release of the IPhone not to mention the positive PR created from the now Iconic images of lines of people curving around the block in front of both AT&T and Apple stores on release day, it is unsurprising that those same people are now angry that AT&T would suddenly change this practice and continue to be so flippant with their customers.
2) This will be brief. Concerning the "contractual upgrade cycle", we should remember that contracts are not unilateral instruments. They can be amended with the consent of both parties. If AT&T wants to relent they can change this policy for anyone or everyone who requests it. It does seem petty to make the very people who gain so much enjoyment from being one of the first to own a new Apple product wait an additional month or six weeks when allowing them to upgrade would generate continued feelings of good will. IPhone owners have every right to complain, cajole, and threaten termination under their contract to communicate their displeasure with this AT&T policy. They should continue to do so. It is up to AT&T to decide what course of action to pursue.