T-Mobile Jump vs AT&T Next vs Verizon Edge: which is cheaper

Really, that iPhone 5 or Galaxy S4 is worth at least $300 in "good" shape on Gazelle.com, and a lot more on eBay, more than the $259 you're saving with AT&T Next.

Verizon Edge's math

Verizon Edge is a little more cost-effective and flexible than AT&T Next.

It drops the $199 price of the exampled iPhone 5, and in its place are 24 monthly payments of $27.08.

That works out to be $325 in a year (compared to AT&T's $390), plus forking over the phone in proper working condition, a savings of $325 compared to an unsubsidized iPhone 5.

And here's where it's more flexible: Verizon notes that early upgrades can be made in as little as six months, as long as customers pay the difference between the 50 percent of the phone's retail worth and what they've paid monthly so far.

Verizon Edge vs AT&T Next works out to a difference of $65 in the favor of Verizon customers. That's more than what you can get on Gazelle.com in most cases, but still not as much as on eBay if you're willing to do the leg work yourself.

There's no such thing as a free upgrade

Two years is too long to wait to upgrade a smartphone, but in most cases the smartest phone owners realize that these new policies aren't unexpected gifts from carriers.

AT&T and Verizon are selling what used to be free: early upgrades that happened 12 to 18 months depending on how heavy your plan was. AT&T bumped the upgrade cycle up to 24 months recently, following Verizon's lead.

They're selling what used to be free, and reselling your smartphone refurbished to other people for anything but free - as much money as they can get for it.

AT&T Next and Verizon Edge can save you money, but only if your phone collects dust and you'll never get around to sell it online for a fair value.

T-Mobile Jump, on the other hand, offers twice as many upgrades in a year, which is a deal for technology enthusiasts who want to own the latest and greatest phone for an extra $10 a month.

Two upgrades a year for $120 and a waived deductible is a godsend for technology buffs who hate being stuck with an old-generation smartphone for 24 months or 730 days.

Matt Swider