Sprint, as anticipated, joined T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless and AT&T in making it simpler for subscribers to upgrade their smartphones more frequently.
On Sept. 20, in sync with the launch of Apple's newest iPhones, Sprint introduced One Up. The upgrade program offers unlimited talk, texting and high-speed data (while on the Sprint network), and the ability to upgrade a device after 12 months, for "an introductory rate" of $65 per month. The offer is a $15 dip-down from Sprint's $80 Unlimited, My Way plans.
To sign up, a customer can purchase a new phone or tablet and agree to 24 monthly installment payments. For a limited time, Sprint isn't charging a down payment for the device. After 12 consecutive payments have been made, the customer gives back the device, exchanging it for something newer.
Existing Sprint customers who are not yet eligible to upgrade but have had a device for 12 months or longer can give back their device and sign up for One Up.
Sprint CEO Dan Hesse called One Up "the best value in wireless."
In addition to the offer of unlimited data and the offer upgrade after 12 months, "Sprint guarantees the unlimited talk, text and data for life," added Hesse. "No other plan can compare.
Should you care to compare, Sprint points out that One Up offers savings of up to $45 per month, compared with similar plans from AT&T and Verizon.
In January, T-Mobile introduced Simple Choice plans, which forsook the industry standard of a two-year contract in exchange for a heavily subsidized, usually $199, device. With Simple Choice, T-Mobile separated the data plan from the device, offering three pricing options for data and services and the option to pay for the device in monthly, interest-free payments—as well as to leave the service at any time (though in that event, one's complete bill for the device becomes due).
In July, it added Jump—an offer to pay $10 per month and be eligible to upgrade every six months.
Days later, AT&T introduced Next, which lets subscribers pay for devices in monthly installments and upgrade every 12 months.
On Aug. 26, Verizon Wireless followed with Edge, also an offer to pay for a device in monthly installments, plus the option to upgrade after six months (though to do so a user would have to make 12 months' worth of payments, or basically pay off half the phone).
The Sprint offer is a strong one, and it'll be interesting to see how long the company can continue to offer the limited-time offers.
In a Sprint slide leaked ahead of the One Up announcement, Seeking Alpha reported, Sprint asserted that One Up subscribers will pay $1,192 in phone and service fees during the first 12 months, which is $228 less than T-Mobile subscribers taking advantage of Jump and more than $500 less than AT&T Next and Verizon Edge customers.
In July, Sprint finalized its merger with Japanese carrier Softbank. The deal, in which Softbank paid $21.6 billion for a 72 percent share of Sprint, came with promises from Softbank to be aggressive in taking on Sprint's rivals. Luckily for consumers, it seems to have begun following through.