News by Andrew Kameka on Tuesday July 16, 2013.
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AT&T last month changed its upgrade policy and forced customers to wait a full 24 months before they could get a new phone at a subsidized price. AT&T customers now have an optional way to upgrade their smartphones sooner by joining AT&T Next, a program that permits upgrades once per year by splitting the cost of a device into 20 monthly payments.
AT&T Next follows the recently announced T-Mobile Jump program that also supports frequent upgrades, but it takes a different path. The key difference between the two options is that AT&T Next has no upfront down payment. Customers divide the cost of a phone by 20 monthly payments, so the $639.99 Samsung Galaxy S 4 would require an additional $31.99 monthly payment on top of standard calling and data plans. Once a customer has made 12 monthly device payments, he or she would be allowed to trade in the phone and upgrade to a new device. The remaining eight payments are then waived once the user upgrades to a new device and starts making payments on the new phone or tablet.
Next subscribers would have to ensure that their trade-in device still works and has no major damage like cracked screens or chipping; otherwise, AT&T may deny the trade-in and upgrade path. Insurance for damage, loss, or theft, is sold separately and not included in the program. Customers who keep their phones in good condition and return it to AT&T after making at least 12 payments can then upgrade and start a new payment cycle with a new device. At that point, the customer would have paid half of the retail value of a phone, which is $384 of a Galaxy S 4 instead of the $199 currently offered under the traditional subsidy model. AT&T, like T-Mobile, is effectively allowing customer to upgrade at a faster pace but forcing them to pay a premium. The plans do not require activation fees or interest.
AT&T Next will become available beginning July 26. Next will be available for any smartphone or tablet offered by AT&T, but qualifying credit is required.source: AT&T
Andrew is MobileBurn.com's managing editor. He is based in Miami, Florida.