Verizon adds phone upgrade plan to compete with AT&T, T-Mobile

Samsung Galaxy Note
Verizon Wireless unveiled its Edge phone upgrade plan Thursday.

Verizon Wireless has officially jumped on the smartphone upgrade bandwagon, looking to battle AT&T Next and T-Mobile Jump with its own Edge plan. Available starting Aug. 25, Verizon Edge spreads the full retail cost of the phone over 24 months in exchange for being able to upgrade your device as soon as six months. Just keep in mind that you’ll have to pay off 50 percent of the device to step up to a new one. Those who want to upgrade after a year won’t have any balance to pay.

"This is a flexible new equipment payment plan for customers who really want to purchase a new phone annually," said Ken Dixon, Verizon Wireless’ vice president and chief marketing officer. "This an affordable way for customers to quickly upgrade to the latest technology without a long-term contract."

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One way Verizon Edge stands out versus AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s upgrade plans is that it includes both standard phones as well as smartphones. (However, although T-Mobile doesn't promote it, basic phones are also eligible with Jump.) Verizon also touts that it just covered its 500th market with LTE, putting it well ahead of AT&T (328), T-Mobile (116) and Sprint (110). But is Verizon Edge the best deal?

Like T-Mobile Jump, Verizon lets you upgrade up to twice per year, while AT&T Next is once per year. However, you will have to cough up some extra dough to get the latest and greatest phone. For example, in the case of the Galaxy S4, you would have to pay an additional $164 at the 6-month mark to reach 50 percent of the $649 full retail price. If you upgrade once per year, you’ll just start paying the monthly cost for the new phone.

Unlike T-Mobile, Verizon doesn’t charge a separate $10 monthly fee for its upgrade plan (although that cost also includes insurance coverage). And neither Verizon or AT&T make you fork over a down payment on the upgrade device as you will with T-Mobile. But you will wind up paying more overall on Verizon and AT&T because their service plans are more expensive.

Say you wanted to purchase a Galaxy S4 as part of the Verizon Edge plan and were willing to wait 12 months before you upgraded. You would wind up paying about $325 for the device ($27 times 12 months), plus whatever Share Everything plan you choose. If you opted for a 2GB plan that included unlimited talk and text, that’s $100 per month or a total of $1,524 after a year. A similar plan for an AT&T Next customer (3GB of data, 900 minutes, unlimited text) costs $110 per month, plus $32 for 12 months for the S4. That comes out to $1,704 before upgrading.

On T-Mobile Jump, you pay $10 per month for the Jump fee and insurance, and a 2.5GB data plan that includes unlimited voice and texts costs just $60 per month. The Galaxy S4 costs $159 up front (when you include the SIM Starter Kit) and then $20 per month for the device. That comes out to $1,239 after 12 months, or a savings of $285 versus Verizon and $465 versus AT&T. And this is without adding optional insurance.

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It’s important to note that Verizon’s Edge equipment payment plan is only available to those signed up for the carrier’s Share Everything our usage data plans. That means if you’ve been grandfathered in on Verizon’s older (and cheaper) $30 unlimited data plan, you won’t be eligible unless you switch.

Overall, Verizon Edge customers will pay more per month for the privilege of being able to upgrade to a device sooner. Instead of spending $199 up front for a flagship device, you’ll pay the full $649 price for the handset (a difference of $450) spread out over 24 months. You don’t save anything on the service plans. As Dixon says, Edge is really just about “more flexibility for the customer."

And although T-Mobile’s Jump plan costs less, Verizon is counting on the breadth of its network to get customers to stick with the carrier as they upgrade. "We think we deliver the better value in the marketplace," Dixon argued. "If you have this great device with all of these great capabilities, you want to be able to use it no matter where you live, work, recreate or educate."

Editor-in-chief Mark Spoonauer directs LAPTOP’s online and print editorial content and has been covering mobile and wireless technology for over a decade. Each week Mark’s SpoonFed column provides his insights and analysis of the biggest mobile trends and news. You can also follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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