Sprint is expanding its annual smartphone upgrade programs to now include any smartphone the company markets instead of just Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy handsets.
The new Sprint Flex and Sprint Deals programs, which were unveiled July 14, allow customers to lease and use a smartphone for 12 months and then switch to another device. Or they can keep their device for 18 months and then upgrade.
Customers can also choose to keep their device after 18 months by paying any remaining balance on the phone in one payment or they can extend their lease and pay the balance off in six additional payments.
Sprint already has established iPhone Forever and Galaxy Forever programs for annual upgrades for those handsets. But the latest annual upgrade offerings allow customers to also now choose from all the smartphones the company sells from Samsung, LG, ZTE, HTC, Kyocera, BlackBerry and other phone makers.
Customers participating in the Sprint Flex program make a down payment which varies depending on the phone model, plus a $5 monthly fee or $60 per year in addition to the lease payment on the device, a Sprint spokesperson told eWEEK. Customers of the iPhone Forever and Galaxy Forever programs do not pay $5 monthly fees to participate in those programs.
Alternatively, customers can get their new phones under Sprint's Deals program, which is aimed at customers who seek to build a credit history, according to the company. Under this program, customers can choose to apply for credit with Sprint and then pay $25 down on a less-expensive smartphone model, along with a monthly fee of $5, or $30 down and a $10 monthly fee on a higher-end phone. After 12 consecutive on-time monthly payments, Sprint Deals customers are eligible for an annual upgrade to a new phone.
If a Sprint customer would rather bypass a credit check with the company, they can participate in the Sprint Spring Forward program, which provides an instant discount of 50 percent on a range of entry-level handsets or a 25 percent discount on the purchase of a higher-end phone.
"Sprint Flex is the ultimate option for consumers who want the latest device at our most competitive prices with maximum flexibility," Marcelo Claure, Sprint's president and CEO, said in a statement. "Sprint Deals goes one step further, giving price-conscious consumers incredible offers and the option to upgrade to the latest phones every year."
New Sprint customers are also eligible to sign up for the company's unlimited calling plan, which offers four lines of unlimited data, talk and text for $22.50 per month per line. Also included for a limited time is a fifth line for free.
The offer, which also includes HD video and 10GB of mobile hotspot data per month per line, offers the $22.50 monthly rate per line until Sept. 30, 2018, when the rates will change. On Oct. 1, 2018, the monthly rates will rise to $60 for the first line, $40 for the second line, and $30 each for lines three through five.
Similar annual upgrade programs are also available from Verizon and T-Mobile, including T-Mobile's almost four-year-old Jump! On Demand program, which lets T-Mobile customers trade their old handsets in as many as three times a year.
The Jump! On Demand program began in July 2013 and originally allowed customers to switch devices twice a year after a six-month waiting period.
More than 10 million customers signed up for T-Mobile's original Jump! plan in its first two years and upgraded their smartphones about 30 percent faster than other customers, usually about every 14 months compared with the industry-average of nearly 20 months, according to T-Mobile.
The carrier has since added several other Jump! options which integrate additional services, such as device security services and personal help desk options.