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The Real Cost to Upgrade - AT&T Next vs T-Mobile Jump Vs Verizon Edge Vs Sprint One Up

Recently, manufactures have been offering options to allow frequent upgrades of mobile devices at least once per year. But what is the best value for your money, AT&T Next, T-Mobile Jump, upgrading yourself, or skipping it completely. We take a look at the hidden costs to show you how to save your money.

I have always hated the 2 year lock on my mobile phones. Phones are no longer just phones and mine is more often used as a camera, image hub, internet device, sharing device, and much more. I can use it to show off images to clients, pull up websites, manage my calendar, and many more things that are integral to my business as well as my communications. As a result, I have always loved the 1 year upgrade cycle as it allowed me to jump on board and take advantage of the new technologies available each year. However, in the past several years, this has become difficult. Wireless providers have taken away early upgrade perks, eliminated 1 year contract prices, and have increased the penalties for leaving your contract early. As a result, we have been almost forced into 2 year contracts…until now.


T-Mobile Jump

This program allows you to upgrade as often as twice a year at some cost. The program itself costs $10/month though it also includes insurance to your device. In addition, you must pay the monthly device installments (usually around $20/month) in addition to the down payment for the device. While this program looks more expensive, keep in mind that T-Mobile has reduced the cost of their plans to those that use these out of contract services while AT&T and Verizon are still charging the full amounts. 

AT&T Next

The AT&T plan allows you to pay for your device over the course of 20 months with the option of upgrading your phone at 1 year. While this plan does not have any fees, it also does not include insurance which would need to be added for $7/month. It also does not require any upfront costs or upgrade costs which make it the ideal plan for those who do not have the money to put down upfront. AT&T allows you to pay for the phone by charging you $25-$50/month ($32 for the Galaxy S4). If you ever decide not to upgrade, AT&T will stop charging you this monthly fee after 20 months of paying it. Of course, you could always just pay the amount in full if you decide to leave AT&T.

Verizon Edge

This program is almost exactly the same as AT&T next except that you pay for your device over 24 months instead of 20. This means that we should be looking at a slightly cheaper per month charge for the device. The other advantage is that we can upgrade our device anytime we pay off 50% of the value of the device, so, if 6 months after picking up your phone you decide it is time for an upgrade, just pay the remaining balance of the monthly charge so you have paid 50% of the device cost, and trade it in for an upgrade!

Sprint One Up

Sprints program is a bit of a mixed bag. While not including the insurance options as T-Mobile does, it does offer a discount on your monthly service. While not quite as low cost as T-Mobiles service (unless you need unlimited data), Sprint's $65/month service does seem like an attractive option. That $15/month reduction of your bill for being a part of this service does expire at the end of the 24 month period so owning your device longer than 24 months would yield a price increase. 

Do it yourself

So, your 1 year into your 2 year contract and you really want the new device that just came out, just buy it! Nothing is stopping you from paying the (usually) $600 and purchasing the device outright, swapping it out for your 1 year old phone, and selling your 1 year old phone for a couple hundred dollars. This is the most flexible options since you can upgrade at any time into your contract the minute the new device comes out. At the end of the 2 year contract you will be eligible for upgrade pricing again so thankfully the next phone should only cost you $200, plus you will then be able to sell your other now 1 year old phone for around $200+. Really, the only downside to this plan is the upfront costs associated with buying a phone retail for $600. However, you may be able to earn some miles, some instore credits, or use some lingering best buy gift cards to offset some of the cost.

Looking at the graph, it is clear to see that even though the cell providers are marketing this material as though it will save you money, it really will not. T-Mobiles option so far appears to be the most expensive of the options and by the end of the day, you will end up paying more for the device than it is worth. Instead, head to Amazon.com for the best prices on new phones, and just pick out any phone you would like to have on your carrier, purchase it for the full retail value, and then later cell your old device. Or just check out the prices below on the latest handsets:


0 #18 JR 2013-09-20 18:01
The math is way off for T-Mobile. Down payment is variable, some phones have $0 down. With the unlimited phone, text, data, you'll pay about $60 in your MRC. $10 a month including insurance and Jump prospective, opportunity to upgrade every 6 months, and it does look like the best deal at a huge increase in savings over AT&T and Verizon on the MRC alone. Also, no contract is really nice. Even better if you just bring your own unlocked device.
0 #17 BubbyFiddler 2013-07-31 15:43
Also withthese upgrades, it doesn't seem to factor in the fact that no everyone UPGRADES their phone (as in get rid of the old one) but some people like additonal phones. I love both Android and iPhone and these plans are perfect for me....at least with the SIM carriers.
0 #16 BubbyFiddler 2013-07-31 15:41
Quoting designgears:
Quoting Ra:
Now add $480 to AT&T and Verizon for an average of $20 extra subsidy included their Monthly Service rate.

Ditto, if you are looking purely at the true cost of the hardware, $480 needs to be added to AT&T and Verizon. Otherwise you are falling for the AT&T and Verizon marketing, which completely obsoletes this chart.

Also, subtract $10 from T-Mobile, you don't buy a new sim card with every phone.

But if we're going to do that, then you can say you are paying for better coverage than T-Mobile (look at the coverage maps).

I mean if you look at one you have to look at all. T-Mobile is a great price, but for many of the places I'm at their coverage sucks which is why I dropped them.
0 #15 Scyzor 2013-07-23 18:45
It has no sense to add $480 to 'Upgrade Yourself' when my current AT&T plan (2 lines, one with grandfather unlimited data) is $28 less than similar T-Mo w/ Jump where I need to pay off value of a phone when I want to upgrade (or paid full up front)
0 #14 designgears 2013-07-23 17:36
Also, 'Upgrade Yourself' needs to have the $480 as well, unless you are on T-Mobile. Silly isn't it, buy a phone outright on AT&T and Verzion and you STILL have to pay the $480 over the course of the contract.
0 #13 designgears 2013-07-23 17:32
Quoting Ra:
Now add $480 to AT&T and Verizon for an average of $20 extra subsidy included their Monthly Service rate.

Ditto, if you are looking purely at the true cost of the hardware, $480 needs to be added to AT&T and Verizon. Otherwise you are falling for the AT&T and Verizon marketing, which completely obsoletes this chart.

Also, subtract $10 from T-Mobile, you don't buy a new sim card with every phone.
0 #12 Mina 2013-07-20 11:14
With the T-Mobile you must utilize all 4 phone upgrades per 2 years in order for you to attain the best value. If you only upgrade twice every two years then you are paying installments on each phone for a longer period of time, whereas if you upgrade every 6 months, you're only paying installments for those 6 months each time. It will still be "expensive" overall, but as previously stated above several times the service plan rates do reflect the unsubsidized price and you're getting a lot more for your money since you're getting 4 phones as opposed to just 2 per 2 years. I believe this holds true even if you take into account the down payments each time. Also, AT&T and Verizon have no concerns for their consumers and obviously solely care about profit margins. T-Mobile seems to care by trying to be fair to the consumer or at least they're doing a job masquerading. Who knows...
0 #11 Jaron 2013-07-18 19:42
The AT&T plan basically has you paying off the phone twice as fast as usual ( half through the normal subsidy fees baked into the monthly service plan, half through the Next payment. ) So at the end of one year, you've essentially paid off the phone and can get a new one without AT&T losing a dime. Every month you go past that first year without getting a new phone, you're giving AT&T extra money for nothing. It's the same thing if you don't get a new phone after your contract expires with nearly any carrier except T-Mobile.
0 #10 Ra 2013-07-18 19:38
And you need to add $3 per month for comparable insurance coverage for AT&T. So add another $72.
+1 #9 Ra 2013-07-18 19:26
Now add $480 to AT&T and Verizon for an average of $20 extra subsidy included their Monthly Service rate.

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