AT&T 'Next' Plan Offers to Upgrade Your Smartphone or Tablet Every Year, No Contract

It's getting tougher by the day to keep up with the rapid pace of technology, especially in mobile. That shiny new smartphone you just purchased? Sure, it's the top of the line handset available today, but it won't be long before something newer, faster, and overall better comes out, and to rub salt in the wound, you're stuck toiling away in a 2-year service agreement - d'oh! There's got to be a better way, doesn't there?

Well, with AT&T's new 'Next' plan, there very well might be. The way it works is you select a smartphone or tablet and pay the cost of the device over 20 monthly installments. There's no down payment or activation fee, but the real treat is that you're eligible to upgrade after just 12 payments.


After you've made a minimum of 12 payments, you can select a new device and start the process anew. You're no longer on the hook for the remaining 8 payments on the original device, and just like before, there's no activation fee or down payment. Put simply, you can get new phone or tablet every year without ever fully paying it off.

"With AT&T Next, customers can get the newest smartphone or tablet every year with no down payment. That’s hard to beat, and it’s an incredible value for customers who want the latest and greatest every year," said Ralph de la Vega, president and chief executive officer of AT&T Mobility.

Is it a good deal? Let's do some math and figure it out. The interest-free monthly device payments range from $15 to $50, depending on the device. Should you select Samsung's popular Galaxy S 4 device, you're looking a monthly payment of $32 (plus the cost of the wireless service plan, of course).

You could go the distance and make 20 payments, which equates to $640, or make 12 payments and upgrade to something new. If you choose the latter, you'll have forked over $384, or nearly double the standard $200 subsidy attached to most high-end phones using a traditional payment model with a 2-year service contract. Furthermore, if you trade up after 12 payments, that $384 boils down to a rental fee since you would no longer own the Galaxy S4.

That's not a compelling deal if you don't get the itch to upgrade all that often. Instead, the plan takes aim at people who want to constantly be in possession of the latest and greatest mobile devices out there. For those folks, it's not a terrible proposition, and if you get tired of upgrading, you can always go the distance and own your device outright after 20 payments.

T-Mobile recently unveiled a similar program called JUMP. With JUMP, you pay $10 per month per phone for the freedom to upgrade to a new device up to two times per year.

So, as we used to say on the basketball court, who's got next?