A New Phone Every Six Months?

Category: Mobile

T-Mobile disrupted the mobile communications market earlier this year with its 'no-contract' offering. Now, T-Mobile is upping its game with 'Jump!' -- allowing customers to upgrade phones every six months. Read on to see how the no-contract, frequent-upgrade paradigm works, and how AT&T and Verizon are responding to this move...

T-Mobile's Jump: "Just Upgrade My Phone!"

Yes, that's what T-Mobile's new Jump! program promises. In 2013, T-Mobile has been changing the way that mobile phones are purchased. And the Big Boys, Verizon and AT&T, find themselves playing catch up. A few months ago, I wrote about T-Mobile's “no-contract” offering. Their latest move is the option to Jump! to a new phone twice yearly.

And apparently, this new business model is popular with customers; AT&T and Verizon have launched similar offerings in the month of July. Let's take a look at how these three carriers compare.

Traditionally, carriers have sold phones at heavily subsidized low prices, and recovered the cost of the devices through higher monthly payments on service plans that lock customers into two-year contracts. That option is still available to those who want it. Note that if you keep the same phone and carrier more than two years, you end up paying more than retail price for the phone. Also, smartphones depreciate rapidly and are worth a lot less than retail price after two years.
T-Mobile Jump! -- Upgrades Every Six Months

The new paradigm charges full retail price for the phone, but allows customers to spread most of that cost out over 20 to 24 months. There is no service contract. Customers are free to pay the remaining balance due on a phone and switch carriers at any time. Also, customers can trade in their phones for newer models after 6 or 12 months. The new monthly payment for the new phone depends on what model you choose. So you can have the latest phone and the freedom to switch carriers whenever you wish.

Frequent Upgrade Programs Compared

That’s the feel-good part. Of course, each carrier throws in its own wrinkles to ensure that it doesn’t lose any money. Here is a comparison of the three programs using a Galaxy S4 phone as an example and the best-priced service option I could find.

The T-Mobile Jump program requires a $150 down payment on a smartphone, with the rest of the hardware balance spread out over 24 months; for a Galaxy S4, the monthly hardware payment is $20. There’s also a $10 up-front charge for a SIM card. On top of that, there’s a $10 monthly charge for being in the Jump program; that includes insurance against loss, theft, or damage. But really, you’re paying $10/month to insure T-Mobile’s property, because the phone isn’t yours until it’s fully paid off. Your $10/month buys you the privilege of upgrading to a newer phone after 6 months – provided at least 50 percent of your current phone’s price is paid off. You can pay a lump sum at the time of trade-in to meet the 50 percent requirement.

Not confused yet? See The Worst Place to Buy a Mobile Phone for an alternative to buying directly from the mobile phone companies.

The best price for T-Mobile service is $60/month for unlimited text and voice, plus a 2GB monthly data allowance. So the least you’ll pay for a Galaxy S4 and T-Mobile service for 6 months is $670. The first month will cost $220 including the down payment, Jump fee, and service. After that, you monthly bill will be $90: $60 for service, $20 towards the phone, and $10 Jump fee/insurance.

AT&T Next does not require a down payment, “insurance,” or SIM card fee. Its retail price for a Galaxy S4 is the same as T-Mobile’s but you have only 20 months to pay it off instead of 24; so you monthly hardware cost is $32. AT&T’s best service price is a Mobile Share plan for $85/month including unlimited talk and text, plus 1GB of data. Total cost every month is $117 or $702 after six months. However, you can’t trade in the phone until after twelve months. You will have paid more than 50 percent of the phone’s price by then.

Verizon’s Edge program, available starting August 25, requires no down payment, “insurance,” or SIM card fee. Like T-Mobile, Verizon spreads payment out over 24 months; its Galaxy S4 price is $650 or approximately $27/month. You can upgrade after six months if more than 50 percent of your current phone’s price is paid. Verizon’s best service price is a Share Everything plan at $70/month; it includes unlimited talk/text and 2GB of data. The six-month total cost is $582.

I love technology and gadgets, and I agree that two years is too long to wait for a new phone. But I do wonder if I'd want a new smartphone as often as twice a year. Each new device has a learning curve. It takes a while to learn the interface, customize the settings, play with the new features, and download the apps that make it uniquely yours. I've had a Samsung Galaxy S3 for five months, and I don't foresee giving it up any time soon.

So there you have it: more options, more flexibility, and more choices to make. Will you jump on T-Mobile's new offering, see what's next with AT&T or stay on the bleeding edge of mobile tech with Verizon? Feel free to post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "A New Phone Every Six Months?"

Posted by:

19 Jul 2013

Taking into consideration that many people are like you and may not be ready to upgrade to a new device 2x a year, a consumer had better be sure that they will indeed take advantage of the option to upgrade more frequently. Otherwise, they'll end up paying a premium for nothing. If you keep your device 7 months on the 6 months plan or 13 months on the yearly plan, you lose.

Posted by:

19 Jul 2013

Excellent explanation. I was too lazy to calculate, but when I saw a payment for a phone, I just lost any interest to those offers - obviously a carrier calculated that to return whole price of a phone plus some. This is why I usually wait between half and full year after a flagship shows up at the market and buy it at ebay for usually half price. Used, but who cares - flagships are much more reliable and I've never had any problems with them. I stick for long time to Ericsson - Sony Ericsson and now going to upgrade to Sony (Xperia Z). Historically this manufacturer had pretty bad marketing that led to huge price drop in a year. Now it's a bit better (for them, not for me) and I paid around $300 for my current SE Xperia X10 years ago. I use T-Mobile plan for $30 (1500 min/text + 30Mb data). Since I have Wi-Fi in the office and home, I don't need more, than 30Mb for emergency. Actually you can easily find Wi-Fi in McDonalds, Starbucks, Coffee Bean, etc. Yes, I am unable to track Facebook's likes in realtime, but I don't think it's reasonable to pay for that another $30 or more monthly. Even if I take a phone for full price, I save on plan, since when you get plans with phone, you can not find anything cheaper, than $55 monthly. You carrier forces you to get more expensive plan. Moreover, I've heard that AT&T even checks if you have a smartphone and automatically switch your current plan to an inflated smartphone plan. Don't know if it still works, but easily believe in that.

So it's hard to oversmart your carrier, but worth to try. ;)

Posted by:

19 Jul 2013

liked your play on words to include all 3 networks catchphrase offerings in 1 sentence.
keep up the good work..

Posted by:

Bill Hebert
20 Jul 2013

Sounds good, but they will always come out on top.
But you do get a new phone a lot earlier than now

Posted by:

20 Jul 2013

We are such a wasteful society. In order to have the newest "keep up with the Joneses" electronics, we toss out perfectly usable equipment. Used to be things were made to last but that wasn't profitable to the corporations, so now they purposefully make things that don't last to feed our desperate need for the new and the shinny. It's pretty depressing. I've never bought a SmartPhone and I'm not inclined to waste money on one at this point. It's bad enough they use the phones to track our every movement, but they encourage us to bankrupt ourselves with junk we don't need. Common sense has certainly been eliminated from our waste all society (used to be waste not, want not, but now we want it all every minute of the day and we waste our resources with our greed...good for us).

Posted by:

Kit Kimes
20 Jul 2013

I do like the fact that the carriers are giving us more choices. I just don't like the price. I really don't see much of an upside. It seems that these prices will appeal to the people that failed basic math.

If I had well over $100 a month to spend on a smartphone and plan, maybe these offers would appeal to me. But I don't, and they don't.

Posted by:

21 Jul 2013

No thanks. If I want a new phone every two years, I will stick with buying an unlocked one from Amazon wireless.

Posted by:

22 Jul 2013

I need a new phone and despite reading many articles am still confused. What is an 'unlocked' phone?
If I purchase a phone outside of my carrier will the transfer/hookup fee be greater than my savings?
My mobile is my only phone, I make a lot of calls. I would like the benefits of a smart phone but doubt I would use it very much. Any suggestions for phone and carrier?
Many thanks for all input!

Posted by:

29 Jul 2013

I'm a early-retired-teacher [somewhat burt out!] with an advertising art diploma who does 99% of my work for charity. Do I need a smart phone? Not really but I've got one, a Samsung Galaxy ? that I'm very comfortable with, from Amazon, at a fraction of what it would cost from my carrier [Rogers] and I'm on pay-as-you-go for $100 a year for everything I need.
I only go on-line at home, rarely download anything and never at a free wi-fi spot like Tim Hortons [Yah, I'm Canadian, eh?]. Upgrade every 6 months? Not a chance! Before this phone the last time I upgraded was when I accidentally dropped it in a pail of water and didn't find it 'till the next day! Pay over $600+taxes and all the interest etc from a carrier

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