AT&T Customers Can Dump Contracts for Next Early Upgrade Plan, with Caveats

AT&T has announced plans to expand its Next trade-up plan. The company will allow any customer under a two-year contract to ditch the contract and trade-up to a new phone via the unsubsidized Next program, if they've been on-contract for at least six months.

AT&T has announced plans to expand its Next trade-up plan. The company will allow any customer under a two-year contract to ditch the contract and trade-up to a new phone via the unsubsidized Next program, if they've been on-contract for at least six months.

The six-month threshold to join Next will be open to customers who have signed-up for a two-year contract as of January 18. Anyone who signed-up for a contract after the 18th will still have to wait the full 20 months to be eligible for a new device and the option to take advantage of the Next plan.

The Next plan allows customers to trade-in for a new phone for no down payment, which they can trade-in for a new device after 12 months (based on a 20-month payment schedule) or after 18 months (based on a 26-month payment schedule). Once a new phone is chosen, the rest of payments on the original phone are waived and a new payment schedule can begin.

It's a smart move by AT&T to expand Next. Aside from the service plans, the company makes money (or at least won't lose money) by selling the phones at unsubsidized layaway plans. Financial losses would presumably be comparable to selling a subsidized phone, and the whole plan will be cushioned by a refurbished/secondary market.

But Next isn't a bad deal for consumers. For those who want to always be on the cutting edge of mobile tech (and if you're reading this blog, we can only assume that you do), they will be able to do so at a comparable price to existing plans.

More competition is a good thing

The real hero in this is T-Mobile CEO John Legere. If you remember, Next was hastily put together by AT&T in response to T-Mobile's Jump trade-in initiative (in six days, to be precise). Furthermore, back in June, AT&T hiked their contract upgrade threshold from 20 to 24 months.

Next is arguably a more practical choice than Jump. For starters, there is no additional fee for Next, while Jump costs the consumer an additional $10/month. For its part, Jump gives the option to trade-up a phone twice a year. But is two times a year really a thing most consumers need?

Jump could also be considered an insurance program that protect against theft, loss, and damage (a deductible may be necessary for damaged or lost devices). Next, meanwhile, requires that phones must be in "good physical condition" and "fully functional" (otherwise customers will be responsible for the remainder of the phone's cost).

The official release from AT&T invites customers who take advantage of the Next expansion to sign up for the company's contract-free Mobile Share Value Plan,A which was itself a reaction to T-Mobile's contract free Simple Choice plans.A

Still, the fact that the major carriers are offering options that didn't exist a year ago is testament to the power of increased competition via some original thinking over at T-Mo.

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