We’ve reached the point where we’re seeing big new phones coming out on a regular basis, and for many people, waiting two years to upgrade can feel like an eternity. AT&T(s t), T-Mobile(s tmus) and Verizon Wireless(s vz) know this, and each carrier has introduced an early upgrade plan within the last couple of months. Sprint(s s) is a little late to the party, but CNET is reporting that Sprint is ready to launch its own early upgrade program later this week, dubbed One Up.
According to the report, Sprint’s One Up program lets you buy a phone for no money down and pay it off in 24 equal monthly payments. A $649.99 iPhone 5s(s aapl), for example, would cost $27 per month (with the final month costing $29 to even things out). If you want to terminate your service before the 24 months is up, you have to pay for the remainder of the device. This means there’s no device subsidization going on here — Sprint isn’t going to eat over half the cost of the phone like it would with a normal plan.
The benefit is that after one year (as opposed to two) you can upgrade to a new smartphone by trading in the device you currently have. It’s kind of like leasing a car. One Up requires you to sign up for Sprint’s unlimited talk, text and data, but it gets you a $15 discount, which means it can cost as low as $65 per month. Compare that to contract-free T-Mobile where a similar plan will cost you $70.
One Up is very similar to T-Mobile’s Jump program, which started the early upgrade trend back in July. Both plans require you to pay monthly installment fees, but offer a discount on monthly plan pricing. AT&T and Verizon, on the other hand, do not. You can get a much more detailed look at the pricing differences between AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon here.
Although Sprint has not yet confirmed its One Up plan, there is no doubt in my mind that it exists. For Sprint to remain competitive among the other three major U.S. carriers, it needs to offer customers a way to upgrade their phones sooner than the traditional two-year contract cycle allows.