T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) confirmed to FierceWireless it will change its "Jump" handset upgrade program to remove a limit on how many times customers can upgrade their phone. The plan will also now include tablets. The tweaks are the latest salvo in an ongoing battle among the Tier 1 carriers to keep customers and get them to switch by lowering prices or offering credits.
Beginning Feb. 23, T-Mobile said in a statement that "whenever you're ready to upgrade, trade in your device and T-Mobile will pay your remaining device payments up to 50% of the device cost. There is no more waiting period or limit to the number of times you can upgrade per year."
The key catch is, obviously, that customers need to have paid off at least 50 percent of the device's cost before being able to upgrade, which is how Verizon Wireless' (NYSE:VZ) "Edge" handset upgrade program works. The Jump program will also include tablets as part of the regular program.
The news was first reported as rumor by the blog TMoNews.
Previously under Jump, customers could enroll by upgrading to a new phone, financing it through the T-Mobile EIP (equipment installment plan) and then paying $10 per month per phone. The $10 fee let customers upgrade their phone twice every year after the initial six-month enrollment period expired. T-Mobile has said the $10 fee not only pays for enrollment in the Jump program but also is an insurance plan that covers damaged or lost phones. T-Mobile has emphasized that the insurance program alone is $8 per month, so enrolling in Jump is just an additional $2 per month.
Under the new plan, the $10 per month fee still applies.
For current customers enrolled in Jump since its original launch last July, the original terms will apply, but they can also move to the updated version of the program upon their next upgrade. After Feb. 23, any qualifying customer who finances a device and opts for Jump will be enrolled in the new program, according to T-Mobile.
After Feb. 23, Jump customers can upgrade whenever they want as much as they want, T-Mobile said. If customers have paid for half of the original total cost of a device, then they owe nothing when the upgrade. If customers have not paid half the cost of the device, they must pay the remainder, up to half the cost, when they upgrade.
Other carriers have made recent changes to their handset financing and upgrade programs. Verizon on Thursday updated its shared data plans, changing the name of the plans from "Share Everything" to "More Everything" and increasing the data allotments for some plans. The carrier is also giving a discount to customers who use its Edge program.
T-Mobile sparked the current price war last year with its move to eliminate device subsidies and thus lower the prices of its service plans. This year T-Mobile announced it will pay off customers' early termination fees if they switch to T-Mobile and trade in their devices.
In response, AT&T in December launched its Mobile Share Value plans, which lowered prices for customers who join the carrier's Next handset upgrade program as well as those who bring their own phone, who buy a phone at full price, or who are no longer under contract. AT&T also cut prices on its higher-end Mobile Share shared data plans.
For its part, Sprint (NYSE:S) last month introduced cheaper "Framily" plans and recently lowered pricing on its Boost Mobile prepaid service as part of a promotion. Under Framily, Sprint customers pay $55 per month per line for unlimited talk, text and 1 GB of data. For each new Sprint customer joining a Framily group, the cost per person will drop $5 a month up to a maximum monthly discount of $30 per line. A group of at least seven people will get unlimited talk, text and 1GB of data for $25 per month per line, excluding taxes and surcharges. In addition, Framily members can each pay $20 per month per line to buy unlimited data plus get a new phone every year, or they can add 1 GB or 3 GB per month to their plan.
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