Sprint’s No-Contract Plan iPhone Forever: Is It a Good Deal?

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Just days after Verizon abruptly ended its practice of offering contracts and subsidies for cell phones, Sprint has done the same. While introducing a new plan that promises a new iPhone every year for life, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure told the Wall Street Journal that the carrier will do away with contracts by the end of the year.

The so-called “iPhone Forever” plan is the first step towards that goal, and allows a customer to upgrade to the newest iPhone once a year by leasing the device for a monthly fee. Here’s the basics of Sprint’s switch and the new iPhone plan, and how you can take advantage of this new offer.

Does my phone plan change?

At least for now, no. Plans stay the same, and at least for single lines you still have unlimited data. What is changing is how Sprint sells the phone to you, and especially the iPhone.

Sprint currently offers a lease program for wireless devices and has done so for about a year, according to Mashable. It also offered a similar iPhone program called “iPhone for Life,” but in that case you were stuck with your device for two years. Sprint is trying to entice iPhone users in this new offer by changing that to match Apple’s upgrade cycle.

According to Sprint, iPhone Forever customers can upgrade any time they have an outdated iPhone. This can be done at any Sprint branded retail store, on Sprint.com, through 1-800-Sprint-1, or inside Best Buy and Target.

How much does this cost?

Your wireless plan itself stays the same, offering unlimited text and data for single line plan for $60 per month (note that family plans handle data differently). From there, participation in the iPhone Forever program starts at $22 per month for a 16GB iPhone 6. There is a way to get the monthly lease fee lower though for a limited time, though.

Customers who trade in a working device in good condition get their lease fee reduced by $7 to $15 monthly. If you upgrade before December 31 to the iPhone 6S, you will keep the $15 per month promotional rate until you upgrade next year.

Those who don’t upgrade by the end of the year, and those that upgrade next year will see the lease fee go back up to $22 per month for the duration of their participation in the program.

How does Sprint’s offer compare?

Sprint’s iPhone Forever is nearly identical to T-Mobile’s iPhone upgrade offer. That carrier allows you to also upgrade to an iPhone 6 for $15 per month as long as you’re trading in a working device. T-Mobile also offers the base iPhone 6 Plus for $19 per month. Like Sprint, you must upgrade before December 31 to keep these promotional rates.

Sprint however will come in $20 cheaper overall on single line plans though, as T-Mobile’s unlimited data plan runs $80 per month. As for the other two major carriers — AT&T and Verizon — it’s tough to compare directly because neither offer unlimited data. On lease fees though both Sprint and T-Mobile are far better: AT&T offers the 16GB iPhone 6 for just under $22 per month, and Verizon $27.08.

What if I don’t want the iPhone?

At least right now, Sprint’s upgrade-anytime-a-new-model-is-out plan is just for the iPhone itself. No similar announcements were made for any other brands, say for example Samsung’s Galaxy series smartphones. That’s not to say it won’t happen. With Sprint planning to move away from contracts altogether by the end of the year, there may be space for such an offering.

T-Mobile already has something like this through its Jump! program. There, a customer can upgrade up to three times a year without penalty on approved credit. Payments on T-Mobile’s leased phones are extended out over 18 months.

In other words, be patient.

I’d switch to Sprint, but that network.

Not so fast. Yes, Sprint has gotten knocked on in the past for its network. But that may no longer be the case: a study by analysis firm RootMetrics placed Sprint third overall in terms of network quality for the first half of 2015. While it’s network speed brought its overall rating down (it ranked last), Sprint was in a near tie for second with AT&T for call performance, and all but tied for tops in texting performance with both AT&T and Verizon.

In other words, it might be worth giving Sprint a second look if you’re looking to switch.

Follow Ed on Twitter @edoswald

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