The Washington Times - July 1, 2008, 12:58PM

AT&T Inc. on Tuesday announced the pricing structure of Apple Corp.’s much-anticipated iPhone 3G, which is going to run on the company’s fastest network.

Here’s the deal: The devices roll out July 11 and are priced at $199 for the 8 gigabyte model and $299 for the 16GB model — that is, so long as you’re a new AT&T customer, an existing iPhone customer who bought the phone before July 11 or a current AT&T customer eligible for an upgrade discount.

Otherwise, it’s $399 for 8GB or $499 for 16GB for existing AT&T customers not eligible for an upgrade discount. All of the aforementioned prices include a two-year contract.

But the real scoop, at least as far as telecom reporters are concerned, might be the fact the company said it intends to sell the iconic handset without a contract. That’s right, you commitment-phobes out there will have the option of buying an iPhone without signing an agreement. The catch? Well, there are a couple. First, the cost of the hardware will be considerably more — $599 for 8GB and $699 for 16GB — since it won’t be subsidized by AT&T under a contract. Second, the phone will still be tethered to AT&T’s network to prevent buyers from using it on a competitor’s network.

The company didn’t specify when the noncontact versions will be available other than “in the future.”

In the Washington area, the phones go on sale in AT&T stores at 8 a.m. on Friday, July 11.

For those of you who need a bit more hand-holding, AT&T has tips, frequently asked questions and even a video to help people get “iReady.” The company encourages users to check out data plans and do an in-store credit check before July 11, probably to avoid the expected pandemonium, considering last year’s rollout.

So other than the faster network, what else is new about the new iPhone? To be sure, there are some minor tweaks, such as redesigned speakers and audio jack, but also some completely new features. There’s now GPS, and with the so-called iPhone 2.0 software, it works with Microsoft Exchange, making it more compatible with corporate e-mail accounts. The company also is touting the new games and other applications available since Apple opened the device up to developers.