With Verizon Edge, and AT&T Next, you're getting ripped off. Folks still ask us what these plans are, and we agree that they can be confusing. We're going to clear the air as much as we possibly can and give you the lowdown on each of these upgrade plans, and why they're a horrible idea for consumers.
It all started with T-Mobile JUMP, which stands for "Just Upgrade My Phone." The idea is that it's difficult -and it really is - to hang onto a phone for two years. Generally, you're not eligible for phone upgrades until your contract is up, and U.S. carrier contracts last 24 months.
This means that your busted, year-old phone, which probably holds half the battery charge it used to, is going to be a thorn in your side until you can upgrade. Or you pay for a brand new phone at full retail price.
With JUMP, Verizon Edge and AT&T Next, you can upgrade much sooner for a monthly fee while turning in your current phone to get a new one at contract price.
It works like insurance if you've ever opted to have that feature on your plan. With insurance, you pay a monthly fee, and if your phone gets lost, stolen or broken, you pay a deductible to get a new or refurbished phone.
With these new upgrade plans, you pay a monthly fee, and if you want to upgrade, you turn in your current device and pay a reduced fee for a new one.
Here's the key thing to know about these plans: AT&T and Verizon have monthly plans that include the subsidized cost of your device. Put simply, when you pay $199 for your new smartphone, you're paying for the rest of the device via the cost of your monthly contract plan.
How Verizon Edge rips you off
With Verizon Edge, the cost of the phone is broken down into 24 parts - one for each month of your contract. You get to pay for your phone over time with the ability to upgrade every six months if you pay 50% of the cost of the device.
The major problem here is that no adjustments are made to the monthly voice, messaging and data plans, which have device subsidy costs baked right into them. By paying the normal monthly plan, you are also paying the full retail cost of a phone that you're never going to own.
By the time you're eligible to upgrade in six months, you'll have paid for a monthly plan that includes subsidy costs on a phone you're never going to own, you've partially paid for a phone that you have to trade in for a new one, then you're paying the additional amount to reach up to 50% the cost of that device if you want to trade in for a new one.
It's a rip-off.
How AT&T rips you off
If you decide to go the AT&T Next route, you're facing similar problems. Instead of paying for your phone over the 24-month contract, however, AT&T breaks down the monthly payments on the phone depending on the model, ranging from $15 to $50 per month.
The trouble here is you can only upgrade every 12 months. That means you could be paying up to $30-50 a month for a phone that you're going to have to return in order to upgrade to a new one. Do the math there, and realize how much AT&T is taking a dump on you.
On top of that, you have the baked-in device subsidy costs that are part of its current voice, messaging and data plans. You're paying for a phone you're never going to own, much like leasing a car.
T-Mobile is your best bet
T-Mobile seems to be the least offensive with JUMP. You're paying $10 a month on top of the cost of the device spread out over 24 months. You also have to return your phone when you upgrade to a new one.
The earliest you can make your first upgrade is after six months, so with this plan, the sooner you upgrade, the better. You won't drag out how much you're paying on the device by waiting it out.
The other upside with T-Mobile is its monthly plans and lack of contracts. Over time, you'll end up spending less with T-Mobile if you decide to go with one of these frequent phone upgrade plans.
In the end, you're really spending more money than you ought to if you want to upgrade your smartphone every 6-12 months. There are other ways to do it, like trying to sell your phone yourself every few months, but that can be such a headache.
But if having a new smartphone every few months or every year really matters to you, and you don't mind companies like Verizon and AT&T ripping you off, knock yourself out.