March 20117: If you like to upgrade your phone when new ones come out, the four leading carriers and Apple offer upgrade programs that cut typical two-year upgrade times by half or less —plus there’s no two-year contract. The concept is simple: you buy the phone and pay for it over time. When you’re ready to upgrade, trade it in and start a fresh plan with a fresh phone.
Here’s a comparison of the current smartphone annual upgrade programs — any of these work for you?
All programs require you to trade in a working phone that’s in good condition when you upgrade and you must choose a new device from the ones the program offers. Credit checks are required to qualify for the financing (there’s no financing fee on any of the plans at this time) although some carriers have no-credit-check plans. Sales tax is due at the time of purchase.
|AT&T Next and AT&T Next Every Year||Verizon Device Payment (formerly Verizon Edge)||Sprint Monthly Installment Program||T-Mobile Jump! and Jump! On Demand|
|When can I upgrade?||As soon as two months and once device is 80% paid (Next) or 50% is paid (Next Every Year)||Once you’ve paid 100% of your device, you can trade it in.||After 12 consecutive payments + 12 early upgrade option fee payments ($5 each), or once device is 100% paid||Once device is 50% paid (Jump!) or anytime up to three times per year (Jump! On Demand)|
|Tablets included?||No||Yes||No||With Jump! only (not Jump! On Demand)|
|How many payments?||30 or 24||24||Varies||24 or 18|
|Down payment?||No or 30%||Possibly||Varies||Possibly|
|Activation/Upgrade fee?||$25/$25||$30/$30||$30/$30||$9-$12 for Jump!, none for Jump! On Demand|
|Loss/theft insurance?||No||Available||Available||Yes for Jump!, available for Jump! On Demand|
|Anything else to know?||Above details apply to new Next customers only||Can only pay off phone early in a lump sum — no doubling up on payments||Also offers smartphone leases at a lower cost than installments||Can trade in a current device to get a lower price on a new phone|
The Apple iPhone Upgrade Program includes a 24-month payment plan and an unlocked iPhone with AppleCare you can use with any carrier. You can upgrade after 12 payments and as soon as 6 months if you double up on the payments. Samsung’s upgrade program is not currently available in the US.
Keep in mind that any of the information above may change at any time — few industries are as competitive and fast-moving as this one! So if you see something you love, hop on it. Or if you don’t, just wait a few months. Something different may come along.