Report: Apple to support AT&T's Next, Verizon's Edge and T-Mobile's Jump programs

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) will soon support in its stores the handset upgrade programs from three of the four Tier 1 U.S. carriers, according to a report from 9to5Mac. The report, which cited unnamed sources, said starting in late August "many" U.S. Apple retail stores will launch a pilot program to let customers buy new iPhones via AT&T Mobility's (NYSE: T) Next program, Verizon Wireless' (NYSE: VZ) Edge and T-Mobile US' (NYSE:TMUS) Jump. It's unclear if or when Apple will support Sprint's (NYSE: S) Easy Pay program.

Currently, when customers purchase iPhones at Apple retail stores they either need to buy the phone with a two-year contract or pay for an unlocked phone at the full, unsubsidized retail price. The pilot program will likely be rolled out to all Apple stores later in 2014, the report said. An Apple spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The rumor comes as the carriers' handset upgrade plans, which generally let customers pay off their devices in monthly installments and upgrade to a new device after a year, grow dramatically in popularity. AT&T said Next sales represented around 50 percent of all smartphone sales in the second quarter, up from 40 percent in the first quarter (or 35 percent when taking out accelerated upgrades). Verizon said the percentage of customers using Edge increased to 18 percent in the second quarter, from 13 percent in the first quarter. The rumor also comes ahead of the expected launch of the iPhone 6 this fall. Article