Compare All Cell Phone Plans - So your contract comes up and finally (basically) Android phones are available on all the carriers you're considering. So now you need to decide which carrier is right for you, and I'm guessing a fair part of that decision comes down to price.
Luckily the folks at Billshrink have made it easy with their Ultimate Comparison Chart. Warning: check the date you are reading this... you can easily Google this and it will be 2017 or something. But by then the interwebz will probably have been replaced by a series of 3D time portals that we travel through to get data so don't worry.
Compare All Cell Phone Plans
I love Android and technology, but most of all I consider myself a creative thinker and an entrepreneurial spirit with a passion for ideas of all sizes. I am a sports fan rooting for the Orange (college), Ravens (NFL), (Orioles) and Yankees (long story). I live in Baltimore and wear it on my sleeve, with the Under Armor logo. I like to travel too... Where do you want to go?
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Editor's note: Since we first compared each of the early upgrade plans, carriers have significantly changed how they work. Verizon recently replaced its Edge program with its new program
, and Sprint has replaced its One Upgrade plan with an option in its "Family" plans. T-Mobile has it too
. We have updated this post on February 14, 2014 so that the prices of the four carriers' plans are current.
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Over just a few months in 2013, all four of the largest carriers in the United States introduced completely new plans to complement traditional contract agreements and prepaid services. With the annual upgrades of T-Mobile Jump, AT&T Next, Verizon Edge, and Sprint Easy Pay, all carriers are after the same thing: subscribers who want to get a new smartphone as soon as possible. However, that is not the only thing that brings these new plans together. All of them are extremely complex. And make no mistake, carriers prefer it—it's easier to overcharge customers if they don't know it's happening. So let's break down the secrets behind these plans to see which (if any) are the best deals.
All of these early upgrade plans generally work the same way. Basically, carriers offer an interest-free financing plan to share the full price of the phone ($650 in the case of the iPhone 5S and most other top-tier smartphones). In addition to the monthly service charge for data, a separate monthly fee charged by each carrier over a period of 20 to 24 months accounts for the full price of the phone. Sprint and T-Mobile also charge down payments based on current promotions, to help lower the cost of new phones. In addition, T-Mobile charges a fee of $10 per month to join Jump and includes device insurance with the plan, which covers phones that are accidentally damaged, lost and stolen. (If you're not a Jump customer, this insurance usually costs $8 a month on its own.) No matter which carrier, when you want to upgrade, you're trading in your phone—it's the device you have left. any balance in the process then the cycle starts again.
Each design has its own unique characteristics, but the best way to analyze it is to take a real-world example. For the charts below, we look at what you can expect to pay for an iPhone 5S 16GB on each of these carriers using one of their new plans. In this article, we look at how much you'll spend if you upgrade your phone once a year and how much it will cost you if you upgrade every six months.
To compare costs on each carrier, we draw up similar individual plans. At T-Mobile we calculated using the Simple Choice plan with unlimited talk and text and 2.5GB of data for $60 per month. For Verizon, we used the new More Everything 2GB plan with unlimited talk and text for $80 per month. At AT&T, we used the company's 2GB Mobile Share Value plan with unlimited talk and messaging for $80 a month. Finally, the only Sprint plan eligible for an early upgrade is its unlimited "Family" plan. It offers unlimited data, talk and text for $75 a month. Sprint's unlimited service is certainly an advantage here given the low price, but it's important to remember that the carrier's LTE network doesn't have nearly the breadth of Verizon or AT&T, and its 3G network is notoriously slow.
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With all these plans, the longer you wait to upgrade, the worse the deal will be, as you'll be responsible for a larger portion of the phone's cost. This means you can save a lot of money on Verizon and T-Mobile if you upgrade your phone every six months. Compared to signing up for a traditional two-year contract and then paying full price for a new phone every six months, you can save about $1,300 on Verizon and about $1,200 on T-Mobile if you plan to buy four smartphones. More than 24 months. (AT&T and Sprint's early upgrade plans don't offer new devices in six months—you have to wait at least a year to upgrade).
However, we think most people using these plans will upgrade about once a year - new phones don't come out that often. When you wait 12 months to upgrade, you'll save about $400 on T-Mobile by using Jump, compared to buying all new phones at full price on a traditional plan. With AT&T, you'll save almost $470. You'll save about $430 on Verizon. At Sprint, you'll save less than $300.
Those savings sound good, but the problem is that it's essentially canceled out when you consider that you'll have to trade in your phone when you upgrade to one of these new plans. With a traditional contract you keep every phone you buy—and a year-old smartphone must cost at least $300 on eBay or Craigslist. And you're still in line for about $300 more in device payments over two years with these early upgrade plans. So you can't take the above savings at face value. Sure, you'll pay AT&T $470 less over two years if you use Next to upgrade once a year, but you won't have two valuable smartphones to sell because the carrier takes the devices according to. Given the resale value of $300 per phone, the Next will cost you $130 more in the long run.
It does not say at all that these plans have been torn apart. AT&T and Verizon have significantly overhauled their early upgrade programs in recent months, and the changes address our top complaints. Both carriers were effectively charging their customers twice for their phones, as they charged Next and Edge customers the same monthly service rates as customers who bought their phones on contract. (For a more detailed explanation of how the two largest US carriers ripped off their customers, see this article.) But AT&T and Verizon are now offering discounts on their service plans to people who use Next or Edge, by make them fairer.
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It is also worth noting that you can pay a little less than the prices mentioned in this article. With recent plan changes, AT&T and Verizon are promoting larger data plans. If you get a 10GB bucket ($100 per month on both carriers) for yourself or your family, adding a smartphone costs just $15 on AT&T and $20 on Verizon if you use one from their early upgrade.
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