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We’re three weeks away from Steve Jobs’ keynote at the Apple WWDC convention in San Francisco, where it is widely expected that the 3G iPhone will be unveiled. Excitement is building and rumors are flying.

Perhaps no rumor is greater than the one suggesting the device may be only $199 after an AT&T subsidy. This could transform the device from a must-have gadget for geeks and trendsetters into a mass-appeal new mobile device that will wreak havoc on the rest of the cellular industry.

All of that is great for those who didn’t take the plunge to buy the first generation iPhone. But what about those of us who did? I’ve already questioned what will happen to the first generation iPhones that people will inevitably stop using when they buy the 3G version, but at what price will we get the 3G version? Will Apple once again pull a fast one on its most hardcore fans as it did with the $200 iPhone price drop last year?

The answer, luckily, appears to be “no.”

I called AT&T this weekend to inquire about a scenario in which a new version of the iPhone was released and subsidized with a new 2-year-contract. I was worried because Verizon, for example, won’t give me a deal on a new phone unless my contract has almost expired. With more than a year left on my current AT&T contract (which I signed when I bought the iPhone on day one last year), I knew I was nowhere near such a window — if AT&T had one.

It took two tries to get someone on the phone who could answer the question (most seemed curiously apprehensive about talking about a new version of the iPhone). When I did get someone, he told me that while he couldn’t speak to the existence of a new version of the iPhone, AT&T’s policy was that as long as you sign a new contract, you can get the subsidy deal across any of the phones it offers. He used the new Blackberry as an example.

And so, fellow early-adopters, it looks like we’re safe — assuming the AT&T rep is correct. If the 3G iPhone is in fact subsidized (certainly still no sure thing), we’ll get a fair shake this time.

[photo: flickr/CJ Sorg]

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