T-Mobile customers might be able to keep their rate plans even if AT&T acquires the company, but even a new clause doesn’t make the reality much better. Soon after AT&T announced its bid to buy T-Mobile, it eased T-Mobile customer concerns by saying they could keep their current rate plans. Of course, that all figured to change once a customer’s contract expired. Earlier this week TmoNews.com reported that T-Mobile employees got an update on that front. Not only will T-Mobile customers keep their current rate plans, but they can keep them “even when their term ends and the service continues on a month-to-month basis.” (Emphasis mine.)That’s all fine and good, but it doesn’t help people who intend to upgrade. Upgrading has become a regular part of the cell phone industry. It’s the payoff after two years spent with a wireless carrier. You pledge your loyalty for another two years, and they give you a hefty discount on a handset. From the sounds of the T-Mobile employee FAQ, that’s when things will start to migrate towards AT&T. Since there is no mention of what happens when a customer wants a new phone, we can presume that they’ll have to pick something from the AT&T side. This affects no customers greater than those with smartphones. As you can see detailed on the myriad tech blogs, new handsets hit the market every week. There’s always a shiny new toy for smartphone users, and the business model of the US wireless industry makes it possible for users to upgrade every two years for a reasonable fee. But if a T-Mobile customer wants to upgrade her smartphone to the latest model, she’ll soon have to pick a new, more restrictive plan with AT&T. The changeover, of course, is well within AT&T’s rights. It’s also expected. There is little sense in acquiring a company and then not assimilating it — for reference, see Sprint’s acquisition of Nextel. The easing of the terms is a simple play by AT&T to gain more support for the transaction. It’ll work, for sure. But it shouldn’t. Not much changes at all. If you want a new smartphone, you’ll have to sign up with AT&T.