Sprint fires back at T-Mobile with perpetual iPhone upgrade program

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As new iPhones loom, Sprint is joining T-Mobile in trying to rope in new subscribers with a perpetual upgrade offer.

Under the “iPhone Forever” program, new and upgrade-eligible Sprint customers can trade in their current phone and get a new iPhone 6 for $15 per month, plus the cost of wireless service. Sprint will then let those customers upgrade to the next iPhone by December 31 at no extra charge.

There are a couple of caveats here:

  • The deal requires either an individual unlimited plan ($60 per month, plus the aforementioned $15 per month for the phone) or a Family Share Pack plan (starting at $100 per month with four lines and 10 GB of shared data for new subscribers, plus the $15 per month fee for each phone.)
  • The $15 per month phone price is a limited-time deal, and it jumps to $22 per month with any iPhone upgrade after December 31. In other words, you’ll still pay $15 per month after upgrading to the next iPhone (let’s call it the iPhone 6S), but once you get the iPhone after that (the iPhone 7, perhaps), the monthly phone fee rises to $22 per month.

The deal is similar to one that T-Mobile is currently offering to its subscribers: For $15 per month, anyone who trades in for an iPhone 6 by September 7 can upgrade to the next iPhone at no extra charge.

Unlike Sprint, however, T-Mobile isn’t requiring an unlimited data plan for individuals, though Sprint points out that it charges $20 per month less than T-Mobile does for unlimited plans. T-Mobile also hasn’t said when it will end its $15 per month promotional pricing.

Why this matters: As we said when T-Mobile announced its iPhone program, these promotions are in some sense a return to contract-based wireless service. Instead of owning the phone, you’re leasing it, and are on the hook for the remaining full price if you ever try to take ownership or switch carriers. Still, these are good deals if you’re planning to stick with T-Mobile or Sprint for the long haul, and are committed to upgrading your hardware every year.

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