Update: AT&T has sent over a statement that both confirms, as well as clarifies, the carrier's plans:
"With $0 down for well-qualified customers, the ability to upgrade early and down payment options available with even lower monthly installments, our customers are overwhelmingly choosing AT&T Next. Starting January 8, AT&T Next will be the primary way to get a new smartphone at AT&T. This does not apply to business customers under a qualified wireless service agreement."
Original story: AT&T looks like it is finally close to getting rid of the old-fashioned two-year contract plan for buying smartphones. A new report, citing a leaked internal document from the wireless carrier, says that AT&T will no longer offer such contracts starting on January 8 for smartphones.
The report from Engadget says that on that date, new and existing AT&T customers will have to pay the full price for a new phone upfront or pay for it using its AT&T Next installment plans. In addition, basic phones and "Quick Messaging Devices" from the carrier will also be under these new purchase options. It's not clear yet if products like tablets and smartwatches will also ditch two-year contracts.
T-Mobile has already done away with two-year contracts for its smartphones, but Sprint still offers them for its products. Verizon customers with current contracts can also choose to continue with that kind of payment plan.