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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'


It helps people who go through phones every 12 months, have to add a line for $10 a month they're not going to use, $240 after a year, plus activation fee, $36, plus cost of the subsidy phone $299. Which is what I was going to do because I can't upgrade until November. (early upgrade would make that the same price, except all upfront)

I'm paying $40 extra a month total for lines I'm not using. I added them to get a phone at the lowest cost to me upfront. I added an extra line to get me a new phone, wife a new phone and uncle. He's not on my account now, but his line is. So have 6 lines total. All under contract. $200 a month, for two lines on a 6GB MS plan, the ghost lines were turned into "tablets", so $200 roughly before tax.
Myself I have 5+lines, only use two, where as the other lines sit there. $480 extra a year. $960 extra for two years. Now. Say we ride it out, drop all the other lines, down to just us. $160 a month before discount. We both opt for NEXT, $220 a month to be able to upgrade every 12 months. Or add a line for $10 x2, $180x24 months, $4320, plus $72 (2x $36 activation fees), $220x20 $4400. There's literally an $8 difference if I did it once. The main difference is, I pay the subsidy up front, added line added every 12 months, ends up costing more. 4 lines total, rotating upgrades every 12 months, $72 upgrade fees would make it cost more. Even not adding a line and doing an early upgrade is $250+susbsidy+upgrade fee PER device, subsidy+250 due up front.

This doesn't help anyone. It costs a LOT more than buying a phone on subsidy 1 year and then full retail the next year. A LOT, LOT more. 

I would imagine you could pay off the remaining cost of the phone instead of trading it in.  I think that's how the T-Mobile plan works, anyway.  You really should be able to do that even before the 12 months is up since it's not much different then from bringing your own off-contract phone, but I suppose if AT&T finances it for a few months they'll have some restrictions.

The Press Release states this: "There’s no penalty for paying off the installment plan early." So theoretically you can do the installment plan and if you have extra money each month just double the payment and have the phone paid off early to keep instead of trading in.

John Legere is going to have a field day with this one. Blinded by their own greed, AT&T comes up with a crappy knock off of JUMP.

Is there anyone here who understands and has used the AT&T ETF to upgrade their phone? Can I just pay $205 ($325 minus $10 a month) after a year and upgrade my phone as though my contract was complete? I'd appreciate any information. 

This i cool, after reading some of these comments, it's like no one has ever heard of metro pcs or any other pay as you go type companies. Yeah your paying your phone into your bill(which i couldnt afford) but I clearly see it as you would lease a car. Cool for those like my cousin who's gotta have "New" phones when they drop. Eh maybe one day for me, I've been ok just payin for 2 year contract, even if i was to upgrade im glad i still have my L920.

Tmo had this years ago. I used for a bold 9700 and an HTC hd2 back in 2010 because I switched devices so often. Great idea though.

I find this to be interesting timing. Up until now we have been seeing doubling or even trippling in processing power in each successive generation of high end smartphones (especially in the GPU department). 2012 was the first year where such massive improvements have begun to level off. I am not saying that we are at the end of progress for smarphones, but I think that we are done with the 'low hanging fruit' of easy improvements, and now device manufacturers have to fight a lot harder to get more performance to push high res screens but without loosing out on battery life. Sure, there are devices like the 1020 which bring a truly new feature to the mix... but these types of improvements do not happen every day. Most improvements are software, and most of the time that they are not given to last gen models has more to do with selling new phones rather than the capabilities of the old phones (so grateful Nokia is not following this path with ProCam).
Anywho, point is that we are fast approaching the point in mobile hardware that we saw in desktop hardware with the release of the Core2Duo: Yes, the newer toys are faster and sexier, but now 5 years later a Core2Duo can still keep up with most modern systems for most tasks (not gaming of course). Where you use to need to purchase a new computer every 2-3 years just to browse the web, now you only need to upgrade every 5-7 years (again, not talking about gaming here). Phones are now taking a similar turn; Modern smartphones are finally 'good enough' for most things, and in a few years phone companies are going to have to really turn up the heat in order to get people to upgrade because people's 3 year old smartphones are still going to be 'good enough'.
In a saturated market with less upgrades there will be a ton of hardware manufacturers (on both the component and product level) which will simply drop out in search of the next big thing, or be aquired by their more successful competitors. But smartphone users will simply be looking for service providers that offer the best deal for their older (but still very capable) phones. The TMobiles and Straight Talk companies with prepaid plans will grow unless ATT and VZW adapt to that future market.

But I think that they see this coming. I think they see this as the last big money grab before smartphones become viewed as a utility instead of a luxury item. People are programmed to be jealous of each year's new phone offerings while being stuck on a 2 year contract, so the time is ripe to give them that opportunity while the public is still thinking that way, but just as the hardware is no longer going to support the model. At the end of the day the company ends up pocketing a nice chunk of change while consumers upgrade less often until they notice that they signed up for a useless program.

Then again, I guess I could be wrong.

I was thinking the same thing...sure you get to upgrade every year, but what if nothing better comes out from your provider? You're stuck with that phone and paying more for it.

Last paragraph of the pres release nails it:

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.

So, my options are:

  1. Current plans - discounted device with service commitment
  2. Full price with zero commitment by me for ongoing service
  3. Full price in twenty installments, and I can stop paying that after twelve and get a new device
  4. Partial discounted device with upgrade after six months, provided I give a two year commitment

It's not a *better* deal, it's a *different* deal. This isn't making my AT&T phone cheaper, it's giving me more options to have the kind of upgrade cycle and plan commitment I want.
Think T-Mo's a better option? Switch over to them. I've been happy with my AT&T service, it's rock solid where I need it to be, and they've been good to us over the years.
I did go digging a bit in the Next website about wireless contract. From the fine print, it looks like there's no ongoing commitment, but cancelling service brings the installments due: (

If you cancel wireless service, remaining balance on device becomes due.


Ok, I got a 920 from ATT at launch, on 2 year contract. What are my options for upgrading to a 1020?

Cheapest way: Pay full retail for the 1020 and sell your 920 on eBay

It's always the cheapest way. Think about it: why would carriers set up a new plan where it's cheaper for the USER to upgade? THEY would be losing money then.

I will show up at a local Microsoft store 10 am tomorrow morning to place the pre-order for my 1020.  I have found a way to land a 1020 at a reasonable price.  I have a L920 now and my wife has a L900.  Her contract will be ended on next 6/13.  We have a family phone plan with AT&T.  If we do a early upgrade by using her phone, we need to pay $250 upgrade fee in addition to the $299.  That is a no no.  So we decide to buy a new L1020 instead and add it to our family plan and pay $9.99 per month for the basic phone services only until next June when her contract is up.  We don't need to purchase another data plan since we can just swap sim card -move my sim card on L920 to L1020 and move sim card on her L900 to L920.  I will be ended up using L1020 and she would use my L920.  We both got phone upgrade.  The 10 month basic phone service fee would add up to $100 total to my $299 purchase price.  I can save $150 this way by not paying $250 early upgrade fee.  At the same time, we will trade her L900 and my old L900 back to Nokia for $84 each thru the Nokia Trade-up Program.  With the free Camera Grip MS store offered, the total cost out of our pocket to get a L1020 will be $299 + $100 - $59 - $84x2 = $172. for two year contract.  We are both happy for these phone changes and not have to wait unitl next June for upgrade.

Not a 1 year contract btw, 2 years. You're paying the same as if you did an early upgrade, just not all at once. $10 x 24 months.

You will not be able to get just the 9.99 plan, you will have to add on the $30 data package as well. They will not let you buy a smart phone without it. So you will be paying $39.99 a month which is basically the same as just using the new NEXT program.

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 on? Well I will for another 4 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 4: NET $700 paid, you own phone 4, and are upgrade eligible

Year 5: Buy $600 phone 4 for $200, sell phone 4 for $300 on eBay

END of Year 5: NET $600 paid, you own phone 5

Year 6: Buy $600 phone 4 for $600, sell phone 5 for $300 on eBay

END of Year 6: NET $900 paid, you own phone 6, 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 

Year 5: Trade in phone 4 and get phone 5, $32*12 = $384

END of Year 3: NET $1920 paid, you still owe $256 on phone 5 but are eligible to trade it in 

Year 6: Trade in phone 5 and get phone 6, $32*12 = $384

END of Year 4: NET $2304 paid, you still owe $256 on phone 6 but are eligible to trade it in 


Simple math. You're basically an idiot if you do this deal. The more years you go on the more ridiculous it gets. 

You make too many assumptions:  1. The price of the phones won't change, may increase or decrease 2. That buying phones on contract to get discounts will continue 3. Leaving out addtional costs to repair heavily damaged phones in the case of the trade in program 4. That you'll be able to get that much on eBay 5. People who want the latest and greatest are concerned with price

So the thing to do is upgrade every year and that will save you money in the long run. I love my 822, but if Verizon does this, I can see me getting the 928 or their 1020 model. I like having the option to choose.

No. No not at all. This will cost you a lot more money. Do the math. 
Man AT&T is going to make BANK with this shitty plan. People don't ever do the math. 

Everyone is in different situations financially ... leasing a car or a phone makes sense in some situations. The option to upgrade is more important than the contracted commitment to many, it may be more costly over time but it may fit the individuals need right now. Taking advantage of the option is valuable to some and worth paying for. But once you're in this plan, you probably have to upgrade annually to make it worth the cost.
Most people don't think their phone is worth the full price manufacturers charge anyway...providers practically give them away, and the workforce used to make them is practically slave labor in many cases, so expecting people to come up with big money to buy one every couple of years simply doesn't work. Sure its another way to hook the consumer, that's business, some will buy, some won't.

Now all this carriers have the reason not to lower the price of the phone with 2 year contracts,at the same time this a great news for people that want to change every year... Yes

I agree with you, but people like myself buy phones every 6-8 months anyway and that's super costly - because your still paying the same rates as a subsidized phone.
This nice little incentive of no money down, no fees (which always add up $80) and always having a new phone, every year, and never pay a fee, deposit or subsidy and just trade in your old phone?
I can see this model being beneficial for Windows Phone where the platform hardware hasn't yet matured, but I see no compelling reason for anyone to NEED to upgrade from their GS3 or iPhone 5 for quite a while - they have a lot of power under the hood (except maybe some Android apps which are sluggish to begin with)
If MS keeps current phones running WP 8, 8.1 and 8.2 then I don't see why a next gen quad core WP will need to be updated as frequently.
But I will likely upgrade anyway.

Of course this sounds bad for the customer people. AT&T is a "for profit" corporation. They are in business to make money. This isn't suppose to save you money or be a better deal. This is suppose to be an option for people who want to have the latest and greatest device. This plan allows you to get a new phone every year if you want to. In order to have that convenience you have to pay a little extra. How many times have people complained about buying a phone and then a few months later a better phone comes out and people bitch about having to wait until their 2 year contract is up. "Oh man I just bought the L900 and now the L920 is announced. I have to wait 2 years now before I can get it. This sucks!" How many times did I read that on these forums? A lot. Now with this option people can get a phone and in 12 months when a new flagship phone is available get that phone. This plan doesn't make sense for everybody but for some of us who are cell phone junkies and need the latest and greatest phones this plan might work for them.

Hmmmm... This business model will not allow me to give my 6 month "old" phones to family and friends. :/
I must think about this..... Before 9am when I go to the ATT Store and pre-order 2 with my sales rep! :D

No thanks. I doubt I'll want to trade in my 41MP camera phone after only 1 yr. I like passing down my phones to family members.

I will buy one on contract for my partner and I will likely get use the new plan for no money down.
I get quite an earful whenever I get a new phone out of contract. :O

On the other side I may stick to prepaid and Craigslist upgrades lol...this kind of doesn't seem like a deal. Like I'm paying a 32 a month lease on a phone....

I'll just wait for my upgrade time. I don't want to add more onto my bill. Besides my 920 still has lots of life in it.

I just added a line to my family plan with a preOrder for the 1020. $35 extra each month to add to shared plan until I cancel my first line. The cancellation fee and a month or two of paying the extra $35 I estimate ill pay close to $500 to $600 when its all said and done. I just dont have $659 + tax upfront.

I get a kick out of all the complainers, it's not like it's being forced upon you (yet) and I'm sure several of you will be taking advantage of this new program despite your carps.  Sooner or later the contract pricing is going away anyway and this will likely be the low cost option.  IMO this is a great option!

This is going to make it more important than ever for Microsoft to add Skydrive backup for Windows Phone's apps and game progress.

I had to just spoke to AT&T last night about trying to upgrade to a 1020.  Since the terms had changed from 18-24mos, they told me I wouldn't be eligible until April '14.  I was so pissed but now I'm even more disturbed that the representative didn't even mention this new program.  I mean like I said, I spoke to them yesterday!!

Daniel, for articles like this you guys should just follow up the news portion with a summary section to explain what it means, address the questions you just know people will ask and basically head off all the comments that attend a story like this.

Who will this plan benefit? People who want to upgrade early and regularly.
Will I save money? No, you're paying a small premium for upgrade flexibility.
Isn't this a total rip-off? No, like all of these options the prices are fine-tuned to ensure you pay a little more but not so much more that no one will do it.
Etc., etc., etc...

Does this function like t-mobile or is it 70$ contract + 40$ per smartphone PLUS a galaxy s4 for 32$? That would indeed be pricey.

Edit: whereas Tmobile's is like 70+20+10, which I guess is the same but much less expensive?

S4 example: You can pay $384, trade it in, and pay another $384 for your S5. Or you can pay $200, own the phone, sell it after a year for $300, and buy an S5 for $650 and be able to sell that for $300. $770 vs $250.

I'm on at&t gophone, found discounted service cards for $47/mo. and get lte and 2gb data/mo. I will buy new 1020 from at&t for one reason only, they honor the one year warranty on the device, even on prepaid, instead of going thru Nokia. L920 peeps know having a warranty is a good thing;)!

Nice! What's your plan have? I'm in college and I need to cut corners. I'm on my parents but paying for my portion of the bill. This is the only bill we share lol.

The best part of these plans isn't that it allows you to upgrade a phone within a 1 year period, it's that it allows you to replace your phone if it breaks. IMO that's the good news to all this. 
However I know that the latest device is important to a lot of people and the 1020 is a great looking phone. 
I'll stick with my Lumia 920 for a bit longer and then hope that the next generation of Windows Phone 8.1 devices have just a bit more to them. Can't wait for a PureView 41 MP camera though. 

On this new option, you have to trade your phone back in at the end of the 12 months to stop paying for it.  If it is broken, they will either charge additional costs or not take it back.
Excerpt from FAQs:
What if my phone is damaged (e.g. cracked screen)? Can I still trade it in after 12 months?
Yes. However, we reserve the right to charge a fee to repair the device and return it to fully functional and good physical condition.

I was hoping that would be the case until 1020 showed up. With a camera that advanced, that would be the device that will last for a couple years

You can still get your early upgrade every 12 (+$250) and full upgrade every 24 you can do a new phone every 12 months at 0% interest, not bad.

Guys, think about this. If you buy a phone off contract with AT&T, you don't ge discounted plans for that. You are still paying for a subsidized plan. If you buy a subsidized phone in a new contract, at the end of the contract, does your plan price go down? Of course not! You are no longer in a contract, but you are still paying for the same plan which includes the cost of a subsidized phone. So if you choose to stay with at&t, you are still paying the same price. Sure, you can upgrade if you like, but have to come out of pocket and start over again. Owning a phone out right only benefits you if you plan on taking that phone to another network or selling it. I actually think this is a good deal for those who love to stay current on device technology and get a new phone every year. Keep in mind, we all still pay for the subsidized plans regardless of which option you choose.

So if you wanted to, for a 2year contract you could get 3phones (2 with att next,and one with your att 2 year contract)

So, wait, i pay $200 to upgrade my phone, and then in order to be able to upgrade again in a year, I pay an additional $384 (32*12) ?  I don't get a discounted plan, so i've now paid $584 for the phone, and in a year, i can start all over.  
Seems to me, that AT&T is just financing the phone for you, and probably at a high interest rate at that.  
Does anybody know, when you upgrade, do you have to surrender the old phone ?
All around, this seems like a horrible idea.  I HATE how the phone companies hold all the power, and how they collude to keep prices high.

This just seems rather pointless to me.  I could just sign a two year contract and after 12 months just cancel for cheaper than this plan.  From ATT "$325 minus $10 for each full month of completed Service Commitment" would make it $205 or $17.08/month.  Then just get another 2 year, the new phone I wanted, and save money.  Considering the S4 would be $34/month or $408 for the first 12 months, this is just stupid.

I haven't bought a phone under contract for maybe 10 years. What's the point? For me its easier to just pay full price upfront. If I want another phone in a year, sell the old one on eBay for a pretty good price and buy a new one off contract. Couldn't be easier.

You have to pay sales tax though. That has been left out the article. None the less this is great (sort of ) for att customer's.

So, in summation, from my understanding this is a plan to let the impatient people pull down their pants and bend over?
Paying 2x for an early upgrade isn't exactly a "deal" IMO.

Before you fall into AT&T's trap, please read this except from an article on the Verge today about AT&T's new NEXT plan. Nobody with any brains would sign up for this plan.

AT&T's Next phone upgrade plans are a huge ripoff
Let's do the math: AT&T says that the Samsung Galaxy S4 will have a monthly installment fee of $32, on top of your existing AT&T service fees, which already include a device subsidy. The exact amount of that subsidy is unknown — AT&T declined to comment when I asked — but most industry estimates have put it at something like $20 per month. That's how you can get a GS4 for $199 with a new two-year contract, even though it costs $620 at retail: after two years, AT&T will have collected $680 in total device payments from you, and you get to keep the phone.
But the balance tips entirely towards AT&T with Next. Assuming that same $20 subsidy, after 12 months of Next you will have paid AT&T $384 in Next monthly installments and $240 in device subsidies, for a grand total of $620. Again, that's exactly the full retail cost of an unlocked Galaxy S4 — but you don't get to keep that phone, even though you just paid full price for it. You have to trade it in to get a new phone — effectively giving AT&T a free GS4 to refurbish and resell to its next unwitting customer.
Now, you do get to keep your Next phone if you pay 20 monthly installments, which will cost you a whopping $1,040 if you assume a $20 subsidy: $640 in Next payments, plus $400 in subsidies built into your AT&T plan. That's $420 in pure profit for AT&T, which just made you pay full price for a phone while charging you inflated service prices that include a subsidy specifically designed to lower the upfront cost of that phone.

The point with anything you buy is this, if you can afford it then buy it outright and upfront or cash on the spot.  If you have to finance it as this plan does, then do so but understand it will cost more.
This is not rocket science, ATT is just smartly trying to get more customers into new phones.  If you cannot afford whatever you want to buy outright, then just like any other product, you really need to have a sit down with your finances to see if you should be getting a new phone.