The major wireless carriers, and many of the smaller carriers across the United States have essentially worked the same way for a very long time. There have been some subtle, sometimes barely noticeable changes made over the years, but for the most part we're still dealing with the same companies we were many, many years ago. They had a system that worked, and they obviously didn't feel the pressing need to change all that much all that often. That's why it's surprising enough when change does finally come around.
And there's plenty of change happening now.
Up until late last night, though, it seemed to be coming from one major company, while the others were sitting idly by, just watching. We've seen over the last few months as T-Mobile USA has done all it can to make some waves in the wireless industry on the carrier side of things. They've gone the route of the "UNcarrier," and with it dropped one of the major focal points of the traditional carrier: the phone subsidy.
That was just a first step in a lengthy process though, apparently. T-Mobile just recently unveiled a new addition to the UNcarrier initiative called JUMP!, and with it the ability for subscribers to upgrade their phone twice a year. For just a simple monthly fee ($10, which covers insurance on the device), you'll get to upgrade twice a year, and pay for the new device what a new customer would pay. It's a good deal, if you've got the network to support your usage that is.
So, interestingly enough, one of the carriers that's been rumored to be following in the steps of T-Mobile's initiative is Verizon. I know what you're thinking, but it's true! And, sure enough, earlier this year Big Red announced their Device Payment Plan, which lets customers spread out the cost of a device over 12 months. You'll have to include a $24 finance fee, too, which is also spread out over 12 months.
And now, thanks to information leaked yesterday, it looks like Verizon is gearing up to make some big changes to that plan. It's called "VZ Edge," and it will allow a subscriber to spread out the cost of their phone over an undetermined (as of the time of this writing) length of time, and be able to upgrade to a new device as soon as half of the full cost is paid off. You'll then be able to get another device, reportedly, and start the whole thing over. All the while keeping your contract the same.
Late last night, AT&T decided they wanted to jump on board the bandwagon, too, and announced their own new monthly installment plans for hardware. AT&T is calling it "AT&T Next," and it, too, spreads the cost of a new device out over a period of time -- in this case, 20 months. However, there are no additional fees tied to the plan. No finance fees. Nothing like that. You'll just pay whatever the full retail price is divided by 20, along with your monthly contractual fees. AT&T will allow you to get a new device every year with AT&T Next, where you'll be able to pay in monthly installments again, over the same length of time, without affecting your contract.
Look, I think it's great that these carriers are finally instigating some changes to the way that subscribers get to upgrade to new hardware, because it's truthfully well beyond when it should have happened. I just can't help but think this is quite comical, considering these companies are following in the steps of T-Mobile, and not, say, at the behest of their customers. T-Mobile, the fourth largest wireless carrier in the United States, is making the two biggest carriers change the way they do business at a pretty big level.
And that's awesome.
Because we know that these plans aren't perfect, but it's a start. If anything, it's a step in the right direction. There are changes that need to be made, especially when it comes to being up-front with customers, about cost, about the monthly fees they'll be paying. And hopefully these changes come sooner rather than later. For now, though, it looks like carriers are starting to look at change as maybe not the worst thing ever, so maybe we'll keep seeing changes coming down the line. We can hope, anyway.
The truth is, the details in why this is happening shouldn't matter to the general consumer. It should just matter that it's happening, and we're now being given more options to get our hands on new devices these carriers launch whenever they get the chance. While some plans may be better than others, it will all depend on which carrier you align yourself with, or plan to switch to at some later date. In the end, it's good they're offering options -- or will be (probably) offering options at some point in the future. It's good. Took too long; but it's good.
Now we're just waiting for Sprint, the Now Network, to toss its hat into the ring and see what it can do to compete with its three rivals. It will be interesting to see how Sprint changes up the idea, and to see what they offer, and for how much. Actually, it will be interesting to see if they do anything at all.
So my question to you is whether or not you're actually planning, or have even considered, upgrading in such a way that these new initiatives make sense for you. Do you want to upgrade your phone twice a year? Or once a year? Or how about whenever you get the chance, if you can pay off your current device's price mark? Or are you perfectly happy keeping your phone for two years? Let me know!