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AT&T introduces yearly upgrade program for new smartphones, dubbed 'AT&T Next'

Just last week, T-Mobile dropped another bomb on the mobile phone industry by announcing their JUMP! program, allowing consumers to upgrade twice a year (after an initial six month wait), with no upgrade fees or contracts.

Now it’s AT&T’s turn, who just announced 'AT&T Next', their yearly device upgrade program for smartphones or tablets. Unlike today, when you opt for the yearly upgrade using Next there will be “no down payment, no activation fee, no upgrade fee and no financing fees”.

So how does it work? It’s similar to the T-Mobile model in that you agree to pay a monthly installment on the phone, which can range from $15 up to $50, depending on the device (the Galaxy S4 is cited as an example at $32 a month). After 12 payments, users can upgrade to a new device with no down payment or they can continue to pay off their device for another 8 months (for 20 in total).

Will this be a hit? Does it give consumers more freedom? We’re not too sure yet, but we like to see change in the mobile industry and believe we’re ripe for an overhaul of current practices.

Anyone now reconsidering a Lumia 1020 purchase instead of waiting? Sound off in comments.

Read the full press release below.

Source: AT&T Press Release



No Down Payment, No Upgrade or Activation Fees, and All On The Nation’s Fastest 4G LTE Network

AT&T 4G LTE Now Covers More than 225 Million People

DALLAS, JULY 16, 2013 — Today, AT&T* introduces what’s next in wireless. Beginning nationwide on July 26, consumers can get a new AT&T smartphone or tablet every year with no down payment, no activation fee, no upgrade fee and no financing fees.**

With AT&T Next, customers purchase a smartphone or tablet with no down payment and agree to pay monthly installments for the device. After 12 payments, they can trade it in and upgrade to a brand new device — again with no down payment — or they can keep using their device and have no more payments after 20 months. AT&T Next is available for new AT&T customers or existing customers who are upgrade eligible.  

“With AT&T Next, customers can get the newest smartphone or tablet every year with no down payment. That’s hard to beat, and it’s an incredible value for customers who want the latest and greatest every year,” said Ralph de la Vega, president and chief executive officer of AT&T Mobility.

AT&T’s 4G LTE network now covers more than 225 million people nationwide and 328 markets. AT&T’s 4G LTE deployment is expected to cover 300 million people by year-end 2014, with nearly 90 percent of the build completed by the end of this year.

The great performance of AT&T’s network continues to be validated by independent third-party testing. AT&T 4G LTE service was recognized as having faster average download and upload speeds than any of our competitors in PCWorld/TechHive’s most recent 20-market speed tests — the second consecutive year that AT&T has ranked first overall. PCWorld/TechHive also ranked AT&T’s as the fastest combination of 3G and 4G services in the 20 cities it tested.*** And AT&T was named America’s fastest 4G LTE network in PC Magazine’s 2013 Fastest Mobile Networks 30-market study — and also swept the top rankings in all six U.S. regions from coast to coast: Northeast, Southeast, North-Central, South-Central, Northwest and Southwest.****

AT&T Next is available for any current smartphone or tablet in AT&T’s industry-leading selection of devices. The interest-free monthly device installments range from $15 to $50, depending on the device selected. For example, a customer purchasing a Samsung Galaxy® S 4 would have no down payment and pay $32 per month, in addition to the monthly wireless service plan they choose, with the option to trade in their device and upgrade after 12 payments or to keep using the device and pay off the installment plan in full after 20 months. There’s no penalty for paying off the installment plan early.

AT&T offers a broad choice of device purchasing options. In addition to AT&T Next, customers continue to have their choice of all current options, including getting a discounted device with a two-year service commitment; paying full retail price for a device with no-commitment; getting a partial discount for an early upgrade after six months with a two-year service commitment; or bringing their own compatible device.

More information is available at or at any AT&T retail store


Reader comments

AT&T introduces yearly upgrade program for new smartphones, dubbed 'AT&T Next'



Don't fall for it!  This is snake oil unless I am missing something.
You need to keep in mind that they are not reducing your plan price and then breaking out the cost of the phone, so all they are doing in charging you more.  It's basically just rent-to-own, so you might as well just take out a low interest loan to buy your phone outright.

He is right. It looks like they are charging the full price of the phone over 20 months and worst yet, they are not lowering your monthly bill. It's just like the shared family plans and the unlimited voice and text plans. They ask you out for a date and then rape you for two years.

That's exactly right.  It's amazing how much ATT wants to screw you.  If you buy an s4 wih a traditional plan you pay 199 and your monthly bill of say 120.00.  If you choose this option, you still pay 120 per month and then PAY FOR THE PHONE SEPARATELY also. ATT is effectively charging you twice for the same phone.  Shameful

That's what you do when you buy a phone a subsidy any ways. You are essentially buying the phone on a loan, but that installment fee is incorporated in your bill. So basically by the time your contract is up, you have paid off your phone and then some. The only thing this is doing is allowing you to speed up the process by paying it off sooner and getting a new phone sooner.

The only thing this is doing is allowing you to speed up the process by paying it off sooner and getting a new phone sooner.

But that's not what this is doing. This is double-charging.

When you buy a subsidized phone, you pay for a portion of the phone up front and the rest of the phone price is "hidden" in your monthly bill. Let's call that $450/20 months = $22.50 of your monthly bill that goes towards paying off your phone. Of course that doesn't go away if you pay full retail price for your phone or if you bring your own device, but that just means you're getting screwed on both of those options. With NEXT pricing, you still pay that $22.50/month of subsidy, but you also get to pay $Price_of_phone/20m as well. So a $650 phone will cost you not $32.5/mo, but $55/mo. After 12 months, you will have paid not $390, but $660. That's more than the original cost of the phone, AND you don't get to keep that phone when you upgrade (the wording is "trade in" your phone). If you decide to fully pay off the phone over 20 months, you'll have paid $1100 for a $650 device.

The only way this NEXT pricing works is if AT&T reduces their non-contract plan pricing commensurately.

Well the press release leaves a lot open to interpretation.  No one can say for certain that the plan pricing for someone using NEXT will be the same as it is for someone not using NEXT.  It doesn't say one way or the other in the press release.

Given that you don't get a plan discount when you pay full retail or BYOD or you complete your contract, it's pretty safe to assume that NEXT will also not have a plan discount.

I hope you're wrong.  I really do. I would love to take advantage of this program because smartphones have gone to a 6-12 mo refresh cycle and I hate having to sell my old phone. But it's just not economically viable if they still charge high contract plan prices designed to cover subsidized phone prices when they're no longer actually subsidizing the phone.

he press release is also missing details about the phone trade-in process. Are they going to treat it like a car lease turn-in, where any damage or repairs are your responsibility or you get charged? If so, screen protectors and cases are going to be mandatory, and I hate clunking up my phone with that stuff. I prefer to run nude, but if I'm going to get charged for normal wear and tear scuffs then it's again not worth it.

Yeah, we definitely need more details to make a good decision, but it definitely needs lower priced plans even for the people that upgrade every 12 months.

Using the new 1020 as an example, on the current plan a person pays $300 up front plus a $35 upgrade fee.  So let's assume you sell the phone after 12 months for $300.  You buy a similar phone off-contract for $700, and you repeat the same thing in 2 years.  Your 2 year cost of ownership is $435

On the new Next plan, you pay $35 per month for the first 12 months.  You trade it in after 12 months and purchase a similar phone that costs $35 per month for the next 12 months.  Let's assume there are no penalties from the trade-in as a result of scratches etc and the device is in good condition.  The 2 year cost of ownership is now $840.  That's a pretty hefty premium for the convenience of not having to sell your phone.

The 2 year cost of ownership is now $840. That's a pretty hefty premium for the convenience of not having to sell your phone.

But now factor in the subsidies.

Scenario 1, subsidized phone with a full price mid-year replacement. The full subsidy of the first phone must be paid off: $300 + $22.5*24 + $700 - $300 = $1240

Scenario 1a, subsidized phone with a $250 early upgrade fee mid-year and sale of old phone: $300 + $22.5*24 + 250 + 300 - 300 = $1090

Scenario 2, NEXT phone lease, with extra subsidy: $35*24 + $22.5*24 = $1380

Scenario 2a, NEXT phone lease without extra subsidy (what AT&T *should* do): $35*24 = $840

Scenario 3, full retail purchase while still paying for subsidy and sale of old phone: $700*2 + $22.5*24 - $300 = $1640

Scenario 3a, full retail purchase without extra subsidy: $700*2 - $300 = $1100

Scenario 3b, where full retail purchase becomes the norm and market forces cause sellers to compete on price, thus causing actual prices to fall below MSRP such that a $700 MSRP phone would actually be more like $550: $550*2 - $300 = $800

3b is the best monetarily, followed by 2a. Both assume AT&T will do the right thing with respect to dropping subsidies when they're not actually subsidizing phones. Failing that, your next best option is to talk a rep into letting you do an early upgrade for a fee.

Correct.  You're basically giving away your subsidy using this NEXT plan unless I'm missing something here.

Damn, T-Mobile... increase your coverage map already... I want to switch, but I also need to make phone calls from my place.

Right on. I am more interested in coverage for where I am rather than purchase/lease/rent a new phone when mine is working fine. I am not rich by any means nor do I call psychic  hotlines at the measley price of $120/hr. Coverage is all important. What good is a phone that will scratch where you itch if you can't use it for its intended purpose...making phone calls?

if I understand this correctly, T-Mobile still offer's the better deal (cost wise at least).
Though, if AT&T let' s you keep the first phone, that would be a different story (AFAIK, for the T-Mobile one you have to trade your phone back in to get a new one every 6 months)... 
But then again, T-Mobile likely won't get there Lumia 1020 equivilent tell next year. 

Yeah, you can only keep it after the 20th payment then it is yours. They're hoping to lure you in that 12th payment to continually make payments to a phone that you won't be keeping.

I guess it just boils down to which service and infrastructure is much more reliable. I think AT&T is ahead of T-mobile in this arena. I am still getting drop calls from T-mobile even driving in a major highway.

Basically what AT&T has down here is turned this into a car purchase format where you can buy the phone over a length of a term or just lease the phone and return it back after a year.  If someone wants to constantly upgrade for the newest phone, they can just lease (rent) them and return them every year.  Others may choose to keep the phone so they have to pay in full before upgrading.

That's my understanding of how this works. AT&T already includes your subsidised pricing in your monthly payments, so by adding this you'd actually be paying for your phone twice. Unless they lower their monthly plans, but they conveniently haven't said anything about that.

Whatever AT&T does it does so with the hopes of making more money from its subscribers.  That's what companies do.  This ain't socialism.

"That's my understanding of how this works. AT&T already includes your subsidised pricing in your monthly payments, so by adding this you'd actually be paying for your phone twice. "

Well, yes and no. I buy a lot of my AT&T phones full price + no contract. Guess what? AT&T doesn't' reduce my monthly bill either, so I mean, where's the outrage over that?

Exactly the point. You SHOULD be outraged by that... but then again it is all part of your job. The average Joe out there will simply get an unlocked device and a cheaper service if they are going to pay full price for their hardware up front in the first place. That was our plan originally, and then we did the math on the total price paid on ATT vs TMo for our 920s only to shockingly find we would only pay ~$100 extra over a 2 year period with ATT ($25/person/year). For that $100 we got higher end phones, and (at least in our area) better cell service than what was available with TMo. When our contract is up the plan will be to move to TMo at that point unless ATT has a similar offering to what they had with the 920.

I couldn't agree more with you. I keep saying to everyone I have half a mind to reward TMo with my business because I respect their newly adopted business model so much. The problem is, everywhere in my life TMo has abysmal cell service so I can't actually put my money where my mouth is. But I can't emphasize enough how much I'd prefer to buy my phone flat out and have a greatly reduced monthly bill. Problem is most ppl see "free phone" (w/ 2 yr serv) and jump on w/o questions. I get mad at my friends who even jump on that because effectively you're locking in without any perks at all. If your phone company uses a subsidized program, you might as well go for the phone you want because they're locking you in one way or the other. 

I don't plan on changing carriers. If I buy mu phone out right, I don't get a cheaper plan. So why should I pay more upfront for the phone I want instead of saving money now?

My point exactly. And the new AT&T upgrade plan seems like the exact opposite I want. I want to LOWER my monthly pmt.... and I know thats the last thing they want so we're at an inpass

God t-mo's business model sucks! It's like everyone drank the punch at that press conference. T-mo now charges full price for a phone, which you can pay over 20 months. You can upgrade early, big deal, you still have to pay off the old phone. If you cancel, you have to pay off the balance, which can be substantially hi depending on when you canceled. And what about their billing? For a comparable plan that I have with AT&T would be 80$ plus the 20 or so for that smart phone. Which is pretty darn close to what I pay at&t. Where is all those savings that everyone is crowing about?

And when you consider how crappy t-mo's service can be, I'm content to stay right where I am at. I don't need a new phone every 6 months. T-mo hopes that you don't look too closely to their plan, the only benefit fit to it is you can walk away at any time, but it still isn't penalty free.

Generally speaking the way it becomes cheaper is you can buy a cheaper phone, or use a phone longer, maybe 3 years instead of 2 year upgrade cycle, therby getting a full year or so of a lower bill. Or buy a Nexus 4 for $300, or one of the less expensive lumia models and you'll have a solid phone, out of contract and pretty inexpensive overall.
The goal is to get customers shopping phones on their actual price and not the subsidized price. Because right now you basically have huge tiers in $50 increments up to $300 which really ensures iPhone dominance actually. The logic people use is iPhone for $200, why risk on anything else for the same price?

Um, no?

With JU⬆MP you return the phone when you upgrade (unless its paid off), and the service doubles as Insurance as well. And if you cancel, you pay off the old phone because they are not just going to give the phone away for free. Not to mention, Jump is a flat rate of $10 while Next's cost varies by device and can be as high as $50. So you have multiple benefits. Not just one.

Also, im assuming you have 2 lines with around 500MB data (or something approx.) with ATT, which is where that cost comes from. The savings, btw, are in the long run, something fewer Americans consider. Lets say, random number, ATT is $10 more per month. Multiply that by 12 months, and thats $120. That number is even bigger if one is on ATT longer than 2 Years.

T-Mobile has a better business model because they are upfront about what things cost. They say the phone cost $$$, but you can finance it for $$/mo. They dont have hidden fees (i went halfway through signing up to ATT to see the cost and there was a high monthly service charge added on top of the monthly cost of the plan, and they recently added a small hidden administration charge a few months back according to the verge.) and then say that iPhone 4 is free. Not to mention ATT's plan cost the same, no matter if you have a 1020 or Nokia "brick", while cheaper phones yield a cheaper cost on T-Mobile.

Also, T-Mobile may have bad service, but its not as bad as everyone makes it out to be. Its the Internet Explorer effect. It used to be god awful, but now, even though its not great, its much better than it was, but its still treated as if it was still god awful. I mean, 3 - 4 years ago you could barely get signal only if you stood on one side of my house (im in the country) and most everywhere was poor signal, but now? i get 3 - 5 bars of 2G out here and in the small town 5 minutes away. And if i go to the city 20 minutes out, i get 4G with my Lumia 521.

Furthermore, signal also has to do with device. Some devices, including ones sold by T-Mobile, have less frequency support than the full spectrum T-Mobile uses. So where you're at, for example, 3G/4G could be broadcasted at 1700MHz, but your phone may only support 3G/4G on the 2100MHz band. So even though they have better service there, your phone in this hypothetical scenario would only get 2G, and possibly poor signal at that. This is doubly true for unlocked ATT phones on T-Mobile.

That isn't even a benefit, because you can walk away anytime with AT&T as well. Every AT&T contract has a buy out cost. The further you are into the contract, the lower the buy out is. My buy out is $80 right now with ~6 months remaining on my 2 year contract.

Tmo has excellent service on the east coast of the US if you are near any sort of population center. I'll lose 4G if I'm on the highway traveling between major cities in the country but I'll still get calling/SMS service. Near any city, suburb or signifigantly sized town I get much better 4G service than any other carrier.
That's an acceptable cost when WiFi is more prevalent now than ever and I'm paying LITERALLY 4X less per month than AT&T could do for me on a similar plan.
That's Tmo's caveat - their service is perfectly fine in population centers but you'll have trouble once you hit the road. Works fine for me, I can't ask for any more when I pay only $30/mo for unlimited data+texting+100min

That's true. No one does complain about that and that's why there's no incentive for AT&T to offer a lower monthly rate for bringing your own phone. Personally that's why when I was with AT&T I never bought my phones outright.

Lot's of people complain but to what end? Carriers are going to loose massive revenues because people complain? There are only two major carriers who both have the same model and a handful of minor ones with spotty coverage and phones that are marginally less. Where else are you going to take your business? It's basically a monopoly and they have no real incentive to change. Only the FCC can make them and guess what? Yep. The head of the FCC is in bed with them.

If you paid full price for a phone, and you pay same price as me on a 2 year contract, you are doing it wrong.

Try paying less with ATT on a full priced phone. I'm not.talking one of their MVNO's but regular ATT. They don't differentiate between the two.

FINALLY! Thanks for bringing that up, Daniel. I've never fully understood the whole "subsidized" outrage because no matter whether I buy my phone via an upgrade discount or outside of AT&T, my line remains at the advertised price. If the argument rests on getting a subsidized phone through AT&T and paying more for everything versus a prepaid or bring-your-own "lower cost" plans at T-Mobile, then it's a completely different issue (i.e. it becomes a preference about the carrier).
Can someone please explain how I would pay less with AT&T if I don't upgrade via a contract extension discount?

You don't pay less if you don't take a discount on a phone but I think the point people are trying to make is that you should pay less for your plan if you're not getting any discount on your phone.

In all honesty, I don't think most Americans would like it to be set up differently. We are use to the prices we pay and we don't have to pay full price for the phones.

Daniel, does AT&T unlock exclusives (Lumia 1020) that are bought off-contract? With this change would see a change in their current unlock policy?

No. Not until at least 6 months. AT&T has followed suit with the last two exclusives--the Lumia 900 and 920. The 1020 will be no different if you buy off contract since nothing has changed.
Bummer, right?

That seems like a silly decision. You may avoid a contract, but it's an expensive route. I started buying my own phones when T-Mobile started offering lower cost plans, and now I have an AT&T phone but use an MVNO and pay less then $40/mo on average for unlimited everything.

C'mon. Just because you choose to pay for your phones twice doesn't mean you should have to do so. This new plan is what your current plan should be. And all their monthly plans should have a BYOD discount.

So, why buy off contract? Get the $300-$350 subsidy. Buying off contract only makes sense if you can get a cheaper plan that will offset the large initial payment.

Exactly my thinking, with my current mobile share plan, i pay like $56/monthly (tax included), and I bought the 920 for $99.99, why the hell would I pay the full price, if I need to pay the same amount every month? It only makes sense if you got a $25/mon plan, and you can save $30*24=$720 comparing to the original plan. Then, i'll buy a high-end phone off contract.

From what I'm getting at, you don't spend anything in-store, and just add an extra $32 a month for 12 months, then after that, either trade it in, or keep paying the $32 until the phone is paid off.

But why pay extra without lowering the rates of current plans does not make any sense. Its exactly paying twice for the device. For example; either I am on NEXT or not, I will pay the same charges for my wireless plan, no matter what. If I don't choose NEXT, I pay downpayment for the device and sign a 2 year contract that's it and device is mine after 24 months. Now if I choose NEXT I will still be paying the same amt for wireless plan, additional per month fee for NEXT...agree no downpayment but for Lumia if you can wait for a month or so you basically don't even have to pay downpayment. I got L920 for free.
Yeah, I think this is for those who wants to lease device instead of owning one and really enthusiastic getting new device every year:)

Right, but already included in your monthly bill is part of the subsidizing for your current phone which you only paid about $100 for in store (if you have something similar to a 920)

Unfortunately that's not how it works in the US you pay the same price for your service regardless of whether or not you bring a device with you. The gophone plans end up being as much or more then a normal plan

Ah yeah, on closer inspection it is too good to be true, seems all the messaging plans only have unlimited data for very limited things, thus not unlimited

If you're on a contract with AT&T you are ALREADY paying this same amount of money for that subsidized phone you get every 2 years. So get a new phone every 2 years, and if you 'must' get a new phone every year just buy it full freight wherever you can get the best price. If you do that here's what happens: You start your contract- you get a 'free' phone. A year later you buy a new one for, say $600, sell the previous one for ~$200. Then after another year you get a new phone form AT&T for 'free'. Three new phones in a span of 2 years for a net cost of your Plan+$400. If you use the new deal from AT&T, that new phone in the middle will cost you 24 x $30 (not sure exactly what that number will be for a new Lumia Hero phone) = $720. Remember, you wont have the first phone to sell if you have to turn it in when you get the new phone at 12 months. So it will net as costing almost double the price if you just replace the phone yourself at 12 months. Might be a bit less - I've had to make some assumptions here, - but you'd have to make up some pretty crazy scenarios to have AT&T's new 'deal' make it to be a break even scenario.

I believe the difference between buying a phone outright vs subsidized is that buying outright doesn't bind you to a monthly data plan whereas the subsidized model mandates that you have a data plan. Of course, who would buy a smartphone without a data plan anyway? Well, some people actually do and choose to only use WiFi.

Sounds like a lot of money when it adds up. With att the average cost on having a smartphone is about $90 plus the tax which is about $20 now an additional $35 which is going to raise the tax. By the end of it all at the end of the month I might end up paying close to $150 or even $160. That's a lot of money a month to pay for mobile service.

Exactly! My monthly bill right now on ATT is $106 and some change. The 1020 will probaly be around 40 or even max out at $50 installments so after taxes and all that, Ill be paying around $170 or $175!! Naahh, I'm good.... 

I have unlimited everything with T-Mobile (yeah, coverage isnt the greatest) and my bill is running around $99 per month with taxes, fees, handling, postage, stocking, restocking and any other charges. That's it. $99/month. No upgrade plans in my near future, this one works just fine (Lumia 810), which was including when I started with T-Mob, plus no charge activation and a $50 gift card a month after I signed up. Fortunately work pays for $93 of that bill so I spend $6 for my plan. Almost free as I can find that much money in the street each month.

Well, who said having the latest and greatest phone should be free? Its just like cars... You can pay more to lease the newest model and always have a car payment, or buy a car and have no car payments after you have paid it off.

Well the difference is that once you've paid the bank the cost of your car they don't go on billing you Tue same amongst nt every month. The Bank of AT&T does!

If you buy a phone off contract you pay full price of the phone plus fees plus full price for a monthly plan. With next you still pay full price for the phone and monthly service but no fees and you don't have to pay up front cost for the phone. Sounds ok to me

im surpirsied that they enen had a PLAN ready, like they all were ready to make this deal....doesnt it takes months to think something like this out, then BAM!! hey we got a plan just live TM...???? smh

I guess you didnt see the Verizon document that leaked earlier today? They are starting this also, it was mid or late aug.

I don't think this is a deal at all.
You have the same cellular/data plan and you basically pay full price for the phone.
For instance, using their example, a S4 is $32 a month. That's $384 plus taxes after 12 months when you are eligible to get a new phone or if you elect to pay it off over 20 months, it's $640.
It doesn't sound like a deal to me.

So? You pay $200+activation+taxes+etc to get the phone anyways on a contract.

Lets assume it adds up to $250 to get the phone on contract. Add $384 + taxes to 250 and you get around $634

AKA with this plan, you literally are buying the phone outright in the end, but not really because you are still locked into a contract and you are still paying your $80/mo subsidized plan that is meant to pay off the phone in the first place.

It's a collosal waste of money.

If you want to get a new phone every year, buy it off-contract for $600 or so and simply do that. It's cheaper in the long run, you aren't on contract, and you can swap out to a new phone and sell off your old one for a decent value. Though this works better with other carriers like Tmo, where off-contract price for unlimited everything and 100 minutes is $30/mo, not with AT&T who has the same off-contract plan prices as they do on-contract (which is part of the reason why AT&T are a huge, MASSIVE waste of your money).

hopefully come November there will be a quad core (or at least faster duel core) processor and 1080p screen device with GDR3 and the 41MP camera. I obviously have not seen a 1020 in person, but the videos online seem to show sluggish response with the camera due to the constraints of the CPU, and a slightly larger display with higher resolution would be better for viewing those beautiful photos.

And being patient for a couple months will probably save us November upgraders a good deal on the $299 - or give us an even newer version, maybe by that time without the bump? The 1020 is very nice, but losing the bump would be a welcome improvement, IMO.

Can those of us in a contract take advantage of this program? I used a contract upgrade for my Lumia 920, and was considering purchasing the 1020 but this might seal the deal if I can sign up for this "Next" stuff (depends on the monthly rate)...

Also, does the monthly rate decline over the life of the device? For example, if you pay the monthly rate for 20 months, and assume the Lumia 1020 is $50/month then that's $1000 if the rate is constant. It might still make sense to buy it off contract for me.

I did read the article... I'm wondering if the interpretation was correct... Maybe it's just me being hopeful but I don't see why AT&T would be losing much by allowing people to start paying more, especially since it seems you are actually paying more than the current value of the device over the 20 months.

Considering your already basically paying for a $450 subsidy on most phones within your plan, AT&T letting you buy another phone off-contract makes it seem so wonderful, yet your really paying even MORE money than necessary. 
Until AT&T and Verizon decouple the subsidy you get with a new phone from the monthly service cost, any plan they makeup is designed to screw with your wallet. Avoid like the plague. 

Daniel, when you do the math, it's a terrible deal. The key point here is that regardless of whether you get a phone with a subsidy or buy your phone outright, with AT&T, you are always PAYING for that subsidy. There is no discount to your service for buying a phone outright or on an installment plan. 
As such, this plan is truly greedy in that you end up paying for 2 phones but only getting one. Avoid. 

Yeah, that's the part I don't like about this compared to the T-Mobile plan too.  They should deduct a phone subsidy from your monthly payment or something, although I'm sure they won't because I bet they won't even admit that there is such a subsidy in the first place.  This is why I switched to prepaid and started buying my phones off-contract.

I disagree. I think it's a solid option if you just bought a Lumia 920 ($99 on contract) and want to get the Lumia 1020.  You can now presumably trade in your 920 for a 1020 with no downpayment and pay $33 a month for either 12 months (then upgrade) or pay it off in 20 and it's yours.

How is that bad? There's no downpayment on the new device, no finance charges and you don't have to extend your contract, I assume.

They said that you have to reset the timer to 0 if you upgrade, meaning the 920 and 1020 would take 3 years to pay off combined. That would be $1,188 between the two. Right now, if you got the 920 on-contract, then the 1020 off-contract, it would be $100 for the 920 and $700 for the 1020, or $800 for both. That, or you could get the 920 off-contract for $450 and the 1020 on-contract upon its release for $300, and you'd get to keep BOTH phones for $750.

Avoiding a down payment isn't worth and extra $400+ and sacrificing one phone (which you could probably sell the 920 for $200 after a year, bringing the total cost into the $550-600 range), in my opinion.

Right, which is why this is but one option for people. I have a ton of phones and I never sell 'em...I don't' do Craigslist and can't be bothered with eBay. The idea of walking into AT&T, slapping the phone on the counter and getting a new device that day with no down payment can be appealing for some.

Is it a "deal"? No, of course not. It's capitalism--you pay AT&T money for a service and that's what they're doing here. It's like financing a car vs buying one. One is a better deal but it doesn't mean it's what everyone wants.

Yeah, I get that. I guess what I should put on the (virtual) page is that I get the IDEA here. I think it's a good one, too--pay a bit more for faster upgrades. However, who wants to finance a car at 92% interest? The intent is good, but the deal itself is outrageous. If we were talking about a smaller cost (maybe $20, making the 20-month cost $400, not $640), then it would be a program in which the customer gets a nice service for a reasonable price, but that's not the case here. A 92% price hike (which is what this amounts to in ONE year) is just too steep to make it sensible.
In essence, this is for those with large amounts of spare cash who are uninterested in making money back through third-party resale sites, as you mentioned you are.

I'm sure there would be a ton of people who would love to get your hami-down phones after you tested them. You could do mini contests after reviews. Get rid of those old phones, make new WPcentral fans, and make some people very happy. 

The article says that we have to be "upgrade eligible" meaning that no one with a 920 will qualify until the 2 year contract is over, right?  They eliminated the 20th month upgrade.

The bottom of the article states that customer still have to the option to "upgrade early" by paying a partial discount after six months.  But when I spoke to AT&T last night, no one seems to believe this is still an option.

Exactly what I was thinking. Paying a monthly fee for the phone on top of the $300 initial cost of the 1020? I guess carriers in the US can get away with it since, apparently, most of the population have trouble with basic math (also judging from some comments here). All most people appear to see is one phone each year and they are sold regardless of the long term costs.

It says "no down payment", I take that to mean no $300 initial payment if you buy a 1020 on this plan.  Just 20 installments of $X and it's yours, or you can trade it in for a different phone after 12 payments.

Thanks for saying this. I think most are thinking you pay the subsidy and then the monthly payments. I'm not reading it that way. Either way, there's still a break-even point between buying subsidized phone and paying off the termination fee versus this program so it'll still be something people should weigh.

You are paying double the subsidy effectively and therefore, will be able to upgrade earlier. Essentially, you are paying for the convenience to get a new phone every year. It'll be costlier if you persist with the device for 2 years as compared to a standard subsidy but we all know, that's not going to happen. This is aimed at milking money from people by giving them what they want. If you want a new phone every year and don't want to pay $300, this is your best bet. Yes, obviously it is pricier but so is financing a car as opposed to buying it outright. Everyone wins. Good to have the option.

This is a horrible plan no matter which way you slice it. The monthly fee for AT&T includes money which will be used to subsidize your phone. That's why you get phones for $400 off.
With this new plan you have to give up the subsidy and pay the same monthly fee for the plan. Then you tack on ANOTHER monthly fee for the phone. So now you're not taking any subsidy and instead paying full retail for your phones. 
Sure you can trade the phone in at 12 months and stop paying for it, but you could also just sell any phone you own after 12 months and be way better off. 
The smartest way of upgrading every year is to take the subsidy one year and pay full retail the other year. 

Well, you're paying double the subsidy IN ONE YEAR. It's $384 for the first year, but that last device you get will cost $640 (with a 20-month contract life). So you're paying 92% more on each device, and 220% more on your final device.

I don't know.  I like upgrading more than every two years, but I also like keeping my most recent devices as a backup.
But also, it doesn't make too much sense to me.  It sounds an awful lot like you're paying the off-contract price, but just doling it out over 12-20 months instead of all at once... except you don't get the benefits of not being under contract.

If the $32 is true for the 1020 then you'd pay $384 instead of $300 but no activation fee. That extra $50 allows you to get a new phone in a year instead of two years. If they charge $50/month it's not worth it, but an extra $50 a year? Sure thing!

I doubt the 1020 is $32 like the S4. On contract price for the S4 is $200 compared to the 1020 at $300.
I'd imagine the 1020 is more.

@Josh, the $32 is not based off a subsidy, it's base off of the non-contract price.

GS4 = $32 a month (x20 months) = $640, which is what AT&T charges for the non-contract phone

Lumia 1020 = $32.95 a month (x20 months) = $659, which is what AT&T charges for non-contract phone

So as long as you upgrade every 12 months, you are basically paying 12/20 = 60% of the cost of each phone, so you pay for 1.2 phones every 2 years (until your last month when you pay full price). For the same thing (new phone every year), it's a good deal as long as your phones' full cost is generally over 5 times the subsidized price. It's a good deal for $199 or higher subsidized phones, but a bad deal for $99 subsidized phones, so I wouldn't want to do this with something like the Lumia 920. If the day of super cheap subsidized Lumia phones is at an end, then maybe I would do this. Of course, the math is also thrown off if the new phone you want comes out a couple months later than your upgrade, since you'll pay just as much for that one and more for the current one. It's true of current prices, but the double subsidy makes it worse when you don't upgrade on time. So it's easy for this to get more expensive than just buying a phone full price in the off year. But it most likely will be comparable, and the only real effect of this new plan is psychological.

Oh wait, you don't get to keep the phone if you upgrade early? Then that's less of a good deal, depending on the value of the year-old phone (usually $300 at that point unless it's artificial hamstrung like the Lumia 900). So this is paying a bit more than just getting for a new phone at full price every other year, for the psychological benefit of never paying a big > $500 number at once.

Scenario 1:
Year 1: Buy $600 phone 1 for $200
END of Year 1: NET $200 paid, you own phone 1
Year 2: Buy $600 phone 2 for $600, sell phone1 for $300 on eBay
END of Year 2: NET $500 paid, you own phone 2, and are upgrade eligible

Scenario 2
Year 1: Get phone 1, pay $32x12 = $384
END of Year 1: NET $384 paid, you still owe $256 on phone 1 but are eligible to trade it in
Year 2: Trade in phone 1 and get phone 2, $32*12 = $384
END of Year 2: NET $768 paid, you still owe $256 on phone 2 but are eligible to trade it in

Need I go one? Well I will for another 2 years

Scenario 1
Year 3: Buy $600 phone 3 for $200, sell phone 2 for $300 on eBay
END of Year 3: NET $400 paid, you own phone 3
Year 4: Buy $600 phone 4 for $600, sell phone 3 for $300 on eBay
END of Year 5: NET $700 paid, you own phone 4, and are upgrade eligible

Scenario 2
Year 3: Trade in phone 2 and get phone 3, $32*12 = $384
END of Year 3: NET $1152 paid, you still owe $256 on phone 3 but are eligible to trade it in
Year 4: Trade in phone 3 and get phone 4, $32*12 = $384
END of Year 4: NET $1536 paid, you still owe $256 on phone 4 but are eligible to trade it in

Simple math. You're basically an idiot if you do this deal.

This assumes Ebay trade value. I had an extremely hard time trying to sell my Titan and Lumia 900 that I ended up keeping them. It also assumes the $600/$200 relationship. If you are confident that you can always get $300 for your phone than obviously your way is better. If you're not then this isn't a bad option to consider.

Wait, so the plans are the same price and instead of owning your device after paying subsidized price up front you pay an additional monthly payment until phone is paid off or traded in? Wow, seems a rip unless they get cheaper plans! I thought the steep price of their plans helped pay for subsidized phone!?

You don't pay anything upfront except for sales tax. Engadget has the promo video which makesbit much more clear.

Exactly. I am also not getting this and how this is beneficial other than getting upgrades every year. So if you are on a plan and lets say paying $90 per month. In this I can get L920 on two year contract if I agree to stay on any postpaid plan with data and device will be mine. But on NEXT, I will pay more monthly fee depending on the device and on next upgrade (12 months), I exchange my device with new one and continue paying extra.
Good for those who want to rent new device every year.

I feel with at&t trying to make Nokia windows phones there premiere hero phones, and saying there going to push the 1020 aggressively, this plan will help that cause now I can get a 1020 since I got my 920 last November.

$32 per month + monthly wireless charges for the Samsung Galaxy S4. That comes to $384 for the whole year (just for the phone). So instead of paying the subsidized price of $199 for the phone you're paying $384, just to be able to upgrade 12 months down the
line. Is this understanding correct? Should have been a bit cheaper IMO.

I don't get it, why should it be cheaper? You're leasing a highend smartphone for 12 months and are paying $384 a year for it as opposed to full price ($640). Instead you get to upgrade at the end of the year with no added costs.

I'm not saying it's a bargain, but it doesn't seem terrible either.

Well, hypothetically, if somebody ends up keeping the phone for 20 months (doesn't like what ATT is offering 12 months down the line), that person ends up paying the whole price of the phone on top of the monthly wireless charges instead of the current subsidized price of the phone.

I guess the question becomes: How likely are you to want to break the contract in 2 years? If the answer is "unlikely," then this offers you nothing. If you'd rather have some low-minutes, WiFi-only smartphone (which I could admittedly live off of, given the fact that I am rarely away from WiFi for more than 20 minutes at a time) on a prepaid plan, then this might work.

Because if your goal is to do this as cheap as possible, you should just sell your phone and buy a new one yourself. Don't buy it new from AT&T, buy it off of craigslist. I got a Lumia 920 for $350 a month after it was released brand new. Same thing a month earlier with tax would have been $487.

You're getting the same phone, but for an extra $184. Basically, we're talking about a 92% price increase to be able to upgrade sooner. Also, remember that once you reach that last device on AT&T, that's no longer $384, it's twice that. So, you get to pay 92% more for each device. You then purchase the device annually, not bi-annualy. So, in 2 years, you are goign from spending $200 to spending $768, and you're not even getting to keep both phones.
If you don't upgrade annually, then it's simply $784 for the same device that was $200 otherwise. But again, is an annual upgrade worth an additional $184/year ($568 per 2-year contract cycle)? Now, I don't really know how leasing a car goes, but is leasing a car actually twice the price of buying it, let alone the nearly-four times the price these devices will cost, if kept for the full two years?

You'd need to factor in the early termination fee as well if wanting to upgrade after a year on the subsidized phone. Breaking the contract on a subsidized phone after a year is $205 ($325 - 12*$10) so the subsidized phone cost is $404 to be able to upgrade after a year. Although...that doesn't seem right because it would seem likely that AT&T Next would cost you a little bit more to upgrade once a year. Both options are cheaper than the 1-year contract subsidized price of $449.

Either my math is wrong or this AT&T Next isn't such a bad deal after all....

Yes, which is why this only appeals to someone who wants to upgrade every year and doesn't want to sell their old phone and buy a new one off contract.

It actually sounds like a better deal to buy a phone on a 2-year contract for $200, sell it for $200 after a year, then buy a $600 phone off-contract. That would make the cost of the first phone basically a wash (and selling a year-old phone for $200 probably isn't TOO difficult, seeing as a Galaxy S III is $450 off-contract with AT&T). you then get he second device for as long as you want for $500. If you do this AT&T thing, you pay $384 per year for a phone. That means that if you did the trade once, it would be $384 for the first phone. If you then kept the second phone, the 2-year cost for it would be $768, making the 3-year cost of the two phones $1,152.

"then buy a $600 phone off-contract"

See, that part assumes a lot about what people can afford...which is what this tries to get around.

True enough, I can see the business sense in it but if a consumer can't afford to spend $600 on a smartphone, perhaps they shouldn't be buying $600 phones every year.

But this isn't saving them money, it's simply spreading it out. Basically, it's making its money off of the fact that people are too stupid to use those savings accounts that they open.

Filet mignon and Lobster or hamburger helper...not always what you want, but what you can afford. This feeds to the "gotta have it now, me first" mindset.
Happy with Lumia 810, disappointed with T-Mob coverage, monthly charges work with my budget.

If I lived in America where these "contract's" and subsidies are normal I would be very glad to see this. And it's a logical step to me. If you're binding people to 2 year contracts, you're asking for them to leave as soon as new phones come out. This way they satisfy the consumers wishes to upgrade quickly while retaining their faithfulness.
But again...I'm not American. I'm in Europe and here I buy phones at full price and change them whenever I feel like it without having to report anything to Vodafone. And I like it that way. 'cause face it...there's no such thing as free phones.

Well you have to pay a steep early-termination fee if you leave your contract before it is complete.

OK, I'm mind dumping here and maybe someone can chime in on a topic or two that I bring up.

Maybe I'm not clear, but will this help people get the 1020?  Wouldn't you have to have ALREADY been paying the "Next" fee to qualify?? 

So, I assume that they will be using the full retail price of $700, so the monthly "Next" fee will be $35.  To set this up, they eliminated the 20th month "early upgrade" option which makes this now seem more "normal".  They also get to keep you locked in without a "contract".  Your "investment" in the Next Program would be lost if you move carriers. 

If I go the whole 20 months, can I still trade it in and get the next phone for no fee or does that just let me get to keep the old device?

We ARE already paying a subsidy fee, right?  That's why it's always been smarter to buy on a contract anyway, but now we will be paying the subsidy-included plan fee PLUS we're actually paying the full retail price of the phone OR what is actually a hefty lease....right???  :/

I need to find some details before I decide how devious this whole thing is.


Presumably the Lumia 1020 will be offered on the Next program, meaning you can start with it and start paying it off on a monthly rate ($35?).

I hope you guys do an article on the math involved and who this would benefit. In my estimation it will benefit those who do not have the cash to pay for a phone up front, but want to have the latest and greatest every 12th month. In economics there is a value of utility that some people derive from various factors and having the new/shiny gives some people that utility.
I'd LOVE to have the 1020, but I think I can wait until next year and hopefully that multi-sensor/lens thing makes it to a device and then I'll likely pay $199 subsidized price with a new contract. This deal sounds great, but only if you are intending to use it vs. buying at full retail because most of us have never paid full retail at the current monthly plan level which is bloated to cover the costs of subsidy. Right?? I'm very confused and maybe over thinking it. :)

AT&T is simply offering variety to appeal to as many customers as possible.  Some are like you and will upgrade their device every 2 years while signing a new contract.  Others will upgrade every year and pay an unsubsudized rate to maintain complete ownership over their property.  Others fall somewhere inbetween-wanting to upgrade every year but not having the upfront money to do so or wanting to deal with Craigslist or Ebay.

So... $640 for the S4 under that plan, or $384 if you change phones after 12 months. Plus taxes of course.
No thank you.

Question: did you really think AT&T was going to just give you highend hardware at a cost to them? They already do that, it's called a contract. 

It's not like everyone can afford a $640 in one payment or upfront. So you lease for 12 months (or pay it off in 20)--what's the big deal? It's a good option for some.

Yeah... but you're not off contract. Did you see the link? Right now you can get an S4 with a 1 year contract on AT&T for $200. That's half the price.

I understand that this is good for people who want new phones every year, but its not a deal. Seems you are actually paying a premium to get the opportunity to upgrade annually.

How "pristine" will the traded-in phone have to be?  I can see the saying "oh, there's a scuff on the corner, so NO TRADE FOR YOU!"

I doubt that, doubt that very much. T-Mobile was clear: it has to boot up, no screen cracks and no water damage. All perfectly reasonable and I bet AT&T opts for the same.

Except that the insurance is another $10/month, plus a $100 deductible. In a year, you've added $120 to the cost, $220 if you have to replace the thing. At that point, you're just throwing money into a campfire, it seems.

You are paying for the off-contract price of the phone in 20 monthly installments. 659/20 = $33 a month. That's on top of an already overpriced plan. I think Tmobile's jump is better, but only because it allows for an upgrade in 6 months, and also because their plans are cheaper to begin with (even with the phone payments included). I'm going for it with the Lumia 925. My thinking is that I can get the 925 now, and then upgrade in 6 months if the 1020 or some other new WP comes out.

"That's on top of an already overpriced plan."

In defense of AT&T, they tend to get the best phones first and have some of the best LTE coverage around. You get what you pay for. I say that as someone who really likes T-Mobile and will be in the store 9am Wed to get a 925.

AT&T probably has the better network, but I personally can't afford their plans. I would LOVE to have a 1020, but I can't justify the cost right now. WIth T-Mobile, I get a lot more "bang for the buck," haha. But I do appreciate the fact that they are shifting their business model. I think no contract or "psuedo" contract is the way of the future

That sounds expensive to me. I mean I am going to pay $32 a month, remember that you are still paying for your current even if you pay off your phone.

Right, or the alternative: you bought a Lumia 920 on contract some months ago for $99 and are now locked in for two years. You want the $659 Lumia 1020 next week--what now?

Enter this plan. You're not really paying more, but you don't get to keep the phone if you trade it in. They're not adding finance charges on to it, so it's better than using a CC and you can keep the phone in 20 months or upgrade after 12.

I couldn't afford the additional payment on top of my $100 phone bill. If by example, the S4 would be $384 more the first year. Naaa, can't do that! I'm sure the 1020 would be about $600.
The $300 up front on the 1020 sounds like a better option for me! But I can't do that either.

Yeah, no thanks. This is no deal. And its crap compared to what TMobile is offering. Leave it to ATT and Verizon to come up with an idea that may sound good, except it's not and just makes them more money. No thanks. I'd rather see a drop in my monthly rate or an actual deal that saves me money

I wouldn't say it's crap, it's just spreading the cost of the device out over a few months. It's not for me but I could see some people going for this... As to saving you money, that's called signing a 2 year contract. But no one wants that anymore, so I'm not sure how we $600+ phones into people's hands for a "deal".

I get people don't want contracts, but it seems like they want to keep the subsidies. It's just not realistic. AT&T won't drop their price, they have no reason to.

Well if enough people are smart enough and stick to their guns and dont buy this crap plan AT&T will have to drop their prices. It's a consumer driven market, NOT driven by vendors. We as consumers should absolutely refuse to abear with practices like this. It should be straight up subsidy or payment plans. AT&T should be much more transparent with the cost of their services and subsidies. But because they are not, they will get away with charging people twice for a phone. The $X on the Next program is not a upgrade fee. the money goes to the cost of the phone. But they are already charging you for the cost of the phone in your monthly plan. That is NOT the same thing as leasing a car as you are not paying twice for the one car.

When you trade in a device to At&t don't you get money back towards a new device? I wonder if that still works with this new plan. It would make it more of a deal. Granted since you're paying installments then it probably won't.
Also, clicking the att link for some reason searching on WPC for the link and doesn't go to the link.

This sounds like AT&T version of Aaron's Rent to own.
i think i'm going to wait to see what carrier in Canada gets the 1020, if it's Roger's then i'll buy it unlocked on Negri and use it on Tmo.. but i haven't seen a canadian release date...sigh

That's the advantage Tmobile has--no contracts/lower monthly cost to compensate for self financing. AT&T should be ashamed of themselves for even trying to make people think this is a good deal. IT'S HORRIBLE!

Hrm, I prefer the current model. I like keeping my "old" phones as spares or, more commonly, as upgrades for the lesser members of my family HAH. Heck, I could even sell it if I wanted. "Next" requires I pay down a new phone and then trade it in... Only ATT wins. Not much different from a vehicle lease if you have money to throw away.

That's my problem with these programs I haven't given a phone back to a carrier ever and I doubt I'd want to start

It's a fact that they are shaking us down for every penny we have but I can easily pay an extra $35 a month vs the $250 for a early upgrade fee plus $299 for the 1020 knowing your going to pay more over time won't stop people from signing up for it if they don't have $659 laying around

Year 1: Buy $600 phone for $200
Year 2: Sell phone for $300, buy $600 phone for full retail 
Cheaper than this bullshit

It's cheaper, but there are a lot of assumptions in there. Like that you will be able to get $300 for your old phone after a year, or that you have the hundreds of dollars to buy the phone. It is easier, generally, for people to pay a monthly bill, then to save for something in the future. I think at&t will have people jumping on this, I won't be one of them though.

JPDVM2014 I think you get what im saying this program will have people jumping on it because they are able to pay that monthly charge vs the fee or full price and the temptation of getting a new flag ship phone every year will also make people sign up no matter how the math adds up

Did you guys delete the comment by that anti-American bigot and my response to him?
If not, you should. There is no place for that. Now those damn Canadians on the other hand... LOL kidding, I like all 3 of the Canadians I've met.

This is the main problem with most tech sites today. They are just paid shills for their corporate sponsors.This AT&T Next program is an obvious rip-off. Anyone with basic arithmetic skills can see this. These "upgrade more often" plans are big telco's way of dealing with smartphone market saturation. Hype up the new phones and then see how many fools they can get to sign up for an "upgrade plan" as well as a phone plan that has rates that already include a phone subsidy. It's basically stealing money from dumbed down Americans who don't have the mental fortitude to resist the endless hype that surrounds smartphones.

This is a ridiculous comment. Daniel doesn't seem to be a "paid shill". He is just trying to point out that this plan is no different than buying an off-contract phone and keeping at&t's service. I.e. Galaxy s4 off contract is $640 + $100/mo plan. With the next program, after 20 months, you paid $640 for the s4, and you have a $100 monthly plan. Its exactly the same. Granted, its more expensive if you upgrade yearly, but that is the price of upgrading early. Now, I'm not saying this is a good deal, its still best to sign a contract if you can hold out for 2 yrs and dont plan on leaving AT&T, I'm just trying to see where Dan is coming from.

I don't think Dan is pushing it it's just that he has At&t so he knows that we already pay alot while we are stuck in jail for 2 years so paying $35 more bucks may be worth it to have the ability to upgrade earlier vs waiting for a year and a half yes thier math is off but as someone who has been told I have to pay up front. $250 plus the price of the phone in full this is helpful though im not 100% on board with it

My god, why is everybody having such a hard time processing this plan? You pay installments for the off contract price of the phone, as a trade off to stay off contract.. Seems simple to me. There is no cost difference than if you bought the phone out right, off contract. If you don't want the increase to your monthly payment, but want to upgrade more frequently, your other option is to pay for the phone in one lump sum. Options..

Two problems with that:
1. As mentioned its not of contract, you still pay the high plan prices that subsidise $199 phones
2. You have to give the phone back
If they said you could pay $35 a month and use it on a cheap prepaid plan then sell the phone like you could if you bought it outright it would be different.

Its technically off-contract. Its just at&t doesn't differentiate. Afaik, neither does Verizon. So, since the two biggest carriers in the US dont do it, I dont think as many people care as you think should. I think this plan will do well.