If you are the individual who always must have the latest smartphone among your group of friends, you must hate paying the ETF every year to upgrade. Unlike individuals who get a new phone by the end of their service contract (usually two-years), upgrading each year means terminating your contract a year or so early, paying the difference in a early termination fee (ETF) and then getting a new phone for the price new contract signees pay.

However, AT&T and T-Mobile, along with other service providers like Verizon, are catching on to the trend many cell phone users have been doing for years and this is how the frequent upgrade plans of today are born. However, what are they truly all about? Are they a good deal in the end? We will discuss this today.

AT&T Next

Starting July 26th, customers will have the ability to pay a monthly fee that all depends on which phone they purchase. The newer and more advanced the device, the more you’ll pay. Chances are, however, that it will be no less than $15, officially the most you’ll pay is $50 a month as a fee, not including the $6.99 a month insurance.

There are still stipulations and it’s wise to tailor when you start this plan around when you usually will upgrade. For example, while there isn’t much released about the iPhone’s participation in this, iPhone releases are usually in the fall. However, if you join AT&T Next in December for example, you must wait a full 12-months to have a new upgrade. So if a new iPhone comes out in say October, you’ll still have to wait 2-months before getting one, which may defeat your purchase of upgrading right at release.

Aside from that, there’s no activation fee or contract you sign. Sounds too good to be true? Sort of. This is a program for the device, not the service. You’ll have a continuous line of service, meaning you’ll pay what ever monthly payment you continue to pay on top of the device cost (between $15-$50). That’s between $180 – $600 you’ll pay in the end for the device itself, over monthly instalments, along with your contracted voice/data/messaging plan.

This means that this isn’t an unlocked offer. If you wish to have an unlocked phone, that’s an upfront full price that can be between $300 and $800 depending on the phone.

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

T-Mobile Jump

Starting now, customers will have the ability to pay a set price of $10, rather than a range like AT&T Next. What you benefit from a set monthly price with T-Mobile means paying a down payment that depends on the device you are seeking. AT&T doesn’t have a down payment because their monthly payment is what depends on the device. However, unlike AT&T, where you’re paying a $6.99 a month insurance on your device, insurance with T-Mobile Jump is included in the monthly $10 cost. T-Mobile also allows you to upgrade twice a year, in six month increments. There’s an activation fee of $35, not included in the down payment. However, if you sign up for T-Mobile Jump online, you don’t have to pay this $35 activation fee. In the end, yes you do pay more up front, however because T-Mobile cellular plans are cheaper, you pay less in the end of the day.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Final Thoughts

You are paying more in the end to be able to upgrade your phone yearly. To be honest, this is recommended for people for must upgrade yearly. Not even to keep up with trends, but if their job warrants it or if they are pretty consistent with doing so every year. If there’s a dry year, when none of the latest phones out there interests you, you are out of a lot of money for nothing.

While there are those that may think that going with AT&T is the cheaper option must remember that they are paying more for service. Which can be a lot more significant than paying a couple more upfront. For the average or even tech savvy consumer, this isn’t a smart choice. You are better off paying the ETF which, depending on the device you are getting through Next or Jump, may be less money.

If I can summarize this all in one sentence, it would be: Don’t join a frequent upgrade plan unless you’ll always in every situation upgrade yearly

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Antony was born in Kerala, India, raised in Doha, Qatar. He works as a Systems/Network Manager.Antony’s interests don’t always seem to cross paths: football and technology. However, Antony is just as much a fan of Manchester United as he is of gizmos, maybe a bit more.