Frequent Wireless Upgrade Plans Require Customers to Choose Carefully

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2013-07-25 Print this article Print

There's also a down payment on most devices, which varies according to the device. You pay T-Mobile's standard monthly plan prices. The T-Mobile plan lets you upgrade as often as twice a year.

AT&T's plan lets you get an upgrade once a year. There's no monthly charge, and the handset protection coverage isn't required although it's encouraged. As is the case with T-Mobile, you're not required to stay with AT&T. But if you leave, you have to pay whatever cost is remaining on your phone. You pay AT&T's standard monthly rates for your service. AT&T's Next plan will be available on July 26.

The Verizon Wireless Edge plan lets you upgrade as often as every six months. Like AT&T, there's no extra monthly charge, and there's no down payment. Unlike AT&T and T-Mobile, you don't have to pay for the remainder of the retail cost of your phone if you leave Verizon, but you do still have to pay off the monthly hardware cost until that's paid off. Verizon initially said there would be a $1.50 per month finance charge. However, on July 29 the company disclosed that it decided not to levy the finance charge. The Verizon program starts on Aug. 25, according to Verizon Wireless spokesperson Melanie Ortel.

With all of these frequent upgrade plans, you have to return your existing phone to the company when you upgrade, and half the cost of the phone has to have been paid, which may mean that you'll have to come up with some extra cash if you do, indeed, choose to upgrade before you hit that halfway point.

"This is a plan that's intended for the person who wants to get a new device every year, said Mark Siegel, AT&T's executive director for media relations. There's no deposit, no finance charges, no activation, no upgrade fee. There's no fee to be in the program and no early termination fee."

Siegel said that with the AT&T plan the phones are paid off in 20 months. But Siegel also noted that the Next plan isn't for everyone. "Look at the kind of user you are," Siegel said, noting that there are a lot of users that don't want to trade phones frequently and would prefer the traditional two-year contract. Or they may prefer to bring an unlocked phone to AT&T and buy a Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card for a month-to-month plan.

It's worth noting that each company has a wide range of plans, and that no one company has a lock on having the cheapest or best deal. What matters most is to match your wireless plan to how you actually use a phone.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect Verizon's decision not to charge a $1.50 finance charge on the balance that customers owe on their mobile phones if they leave Verizon's service before the end of their service plans.


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