Not to be outdone by T-Mobile’s “Jump” program and Verizon’s rumored “Edge” program, AT&T on Tuesday announced a plan called “AT&T Next” that will allow its customers to upgrade their smartphones and tablets more frequently without having to pay the full, unsubsidized price for the devices.
AT&T Next gives customers the option to get a new phone or tablet with no down payment in exchange for an extra charge, equivalent to about five percent of the device’s unsubsidized price, on their monthly bill. After paying this fee for 12 months customers can then trade the phone or tablet in for new hardware, again with no down payment. Keeping the old device is only an option after you’ve made 20 monthly payments or paid for the phone or tablet in full—there’s no penalty for paying the device off early if you’d like. The plan also waives AT&T’s customary activation fees (for new customers) and upgrade fees (for existing customers).
As with the other versions of this system, the value proposition with Next is dubious for anyone who doesn’t upgrade every year. Let’s take three high-end phones: Apple’s iPhone 5, Samsung’s Galaxy S 4, and HTC’s One. The unlocked versions of those phones all start at $ 649, and they’re commonly sold for $ 199 with a two-year contract.
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