Sprint's upgrade plan is official: One Up lets you upgrade annually

Sprint's upgrade plan is official: One Up lets you upgrade annually

As predicted, US wireless service Sprint rolled out a new upgrade plan for customers just in time for the release of the iPhone 5c and 5s. Called One Up, Sprint's plan gives the company an alternative to similar programs offered by competitors Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile. Is it worth the money? Let's take a look.

Under the One Up plan, you buy an eligible smartphone (or tablet, including the iPad) and agree to pay for it in 24 monthly installments - subject to credit approval (which affects the finance rate at which you can get the device). After 12 months, you're eligible to upgrade to a new device once you trade in your old one. One Up is also available to some Sprint customers if they meet eligibility requirements (including those who have had their current phone for 12 months).

Sprint is making an aggressive play to woo customers away from Verizon and AT&T by offering inexpensive unlimited service plans and a guarantee of unlimited talk, text and data for the lifetime of the service. There are a couple of provisos to Sprint's claim of unlimited data, however: Sprint limits streaming video speeds to 1 Mbps, and reserves the right to offer "prioritized bandwidth" to other plans.

Sprint's "Unlimited, My Way" plan is normally priced at $80, but enrolling in One Up makes you eligible for an "introductory" rate of $65, so the company's offering some savings to customers who take advantage of the upgrade program.

For subscribers, Sprint is squarely in third place behind Verizon Wireless and AT&T. With about 55 million customers, Sprint has about half the customer base of AT&T, though it's squarely ahead of T-Mobile.

In the end, Sprint's upgrade plan can make it easier for you to get a new phone every year, and an annual program is probably the best sort of plan to be on if you're an iPhone user, since Apple pretty much sticks to a new phone model every year.

I'm a big believer in paying for phones off-contract, but getting a good value from doing so requires you to avoid paying a carrier subsidy. AT&T and Verizon do that even if you participate in one of their upgrade programs, which makes those programs a complete waste of money. So Sprint and T-Mobile both offer attractive alternatives - both offer fairly inexpensive plans, especially when you get into a shared plan between multiple family members.

Years ago Sprint bet on the wrong pony in the race for next-generation high-speed cell data networking: Wimax. Now it's playing catch up as it builds out a 4G LTE network, but it's woefully behind Verizon and AT&T. Anecdotally, Sprint customers who complain on social networks and forums like ours usually point to Sprint's inadequate coverage as the major issue. Sprint's network upgrade is in overdrive, and they've made significant progress: they anticipate having 4G LTE coverage for 200 million people in the U.S. by the end of the year. That improved coverage, combined with an easy way to afford expensive new smartphones, may drive customers their way.

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Peter Cohen

Managing Editor of iMore, Mac and gaming specialist and all-around technologist. Follow him on Twitter @flargh

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Sprint's upgrade plan is official: One Up lets you upgrade annually

15 Comments

The problem I have with all but T-Mobile's plans is they all still include a subsidy. If you read the fine print Sprint specifically says the $15 discount ends at the end of the 24 month cycle. So, as long as you're upgrading(which will end up costing you more per month than if you were to get a traditional 2 year contract) you're getting the discount. As far as I know Sprint will not give you the discount if you buy your own device. Really, their plans are no different than the traditional plans: you still pay for the subsidy and continue to pay it at the end of your financing terms, only thing you get is yearly upgrades(and you can't keep the phone).

I recognize some people will probably benefit from these plans, but most of them aren't worth what you pay.

I have been a long time Sprint customer for going on 13 yrs now. I have had pretty much every top of the line phone they have offered. I was under the Premier Customer program where my primary line was able to upgrade my phone every year and was excited to see this program. The program sounds good but Sprint has made it extremely hard for most customers to be ELIGIBLE for the program. When I went last Friday to sign up for this, I got the run around for 3 days straight and basically was told I CANNOT enroll in it.

Some things they dont tell you: 1) if you have a spending limit, you cannot enroll; 2) you have to switch your plan over to the new My Way plans (not that big of a deal to me); 3) If you have an any late payments at all within the past 6 mths to a year, you wont qualify.

After getting all misinformation for 3 days they went ahead and moved up my upgrade date so I can get the 5S but I wanted to be in the program. I will continue working the system with the buybuck program to get the best phones but Sprint really did my an injustice this time around...

'Most customers' might a bit of a stretch. I went in Saturday and picked up a new 5S 64GB. No credit check, no flags, easy as pie. Rate was reduced by $15.00/month, although the overall cost went up to cover the financing of the phone. Still better than coughing up $399.00 up front, though. The only thing I ran into was some confusion on the part of my rep, in that she did not realize that I still got my trade-in credit on my iPhone 4 since it was past the upgrade eligibility date ($67.00 was applied to my account). If I had not been past that date, I would still have had to trade in my current phone but wouldn't have gotten any money for it. It's absolutely none of my business as to why, after all these years, you'd still be on a spending limit, so I won't pry, but that could be a flag for their eligibility.

Oh Im not on a spending limit... I didnt qualify because I have been late twice within the past 6 months... A think that is minor since of my history with Sprint as being a long time customer but whatever

No... I had the iPhone 5... Again, my issue was the run around with Sprint. I have a total of 10 ppl tell me that I was good to go and qualified and then was told something different each time.

Sprint might actually be the only carrier where the annual upgrade plan makes sense because of one major problem... Resale Value. For example, both an ATT and Sprint iPhone 5 cost $650 new, but a year later the ATT is valued at $400 while the Sprint is $275 (based on Ebay, Sprint, Amazon Market, Best Buy). So by trading in for a new phone then you're getting a better value for your Sprint phone.

I'm in the middle of calculating all this but it does seem that One Up works in the favor of people who are 1) not planning on leaving Sprint and 2) iPhone addicts. And thats me.

I am eligible to get in this program but I have been less than impressed with Sprint since switching to them from Verizon. Their coverage is awful, their billing is inconsistent, and by comparison they have more hidden fees and fine print than Verizon or AT

"Sprint's "Unlimited, My Way" plan is normally priced at $80, but enrolling in One Up makes you eligible for an "introductory" rate of $65, so the company's offering some savings to customers who take advantage of the upgrade program."..... I just called sprint and they said they do not offer the "introductory rate" on that plan.

You sure? My new contract certainly reduced my rate plan by $15.00/month. The only thing currently 'limited time only' is the no-down-payment bit through October 10.

This is basically a lease. If you keep trading in just to get the new hotness each year, it keeps you locked in, paying credit-based interest, and never actually owning the device. This is a windfall for cell co's.

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There is no interest charged. You do end up owning the phone, provided you finish the full two years of payments. If you take the option of trading in your existing phone after twelve months, you have to turn the old unit in and start all over.

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