A customer examines a new iPhone 5s. (Nati Harnik / AP )
This is Apple's seventh time releasing an iPhone, but it's the first time since U.S. carriers launched early-upgrade plans.
Led by T-Mobile, U.S. carriers this summer rolled out new plans that make it possible for customers to upgrade their smartphones more frequently than once every two years. Sprint became the latest to offer such an option Friday when it introduced its One Up plan.
Prior to this year, users really only had two options when it came to buying a new iPhone from a major U.S. carrier. They could either buy it at a subsidized price with a two-year contract or they could pay full price (at least $649) and get it without signing a contract. The early upgrade plans now offer a third option.
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Here's how each plan works:
AT&T's Next plan is a lot like leasing a car. Users have to commit to paying a monthly fee for one-year, and after 12 months of payments they can exchange their device for a new one.
Customers who want a 16 GB iPhone 5c pays $22 each month. After a year, or after having paid a total of $264, they can exchange it for another device. The customer can continue to pay without upgrading and own the device outright after 20 payments totaling $440.
For a 16 GB iPhone 5s, it's $27 a month, or $324, to upgrade. It'd be a total of $540 to own it outright in 20 months.
When upgrading to a new phone, the customer has the option to buy it a subsidized price with a two-year service contract, purchase it outright, or sign up for the upgrade plan.
With Verizon Edge, customers also have the option to upgrade to a new phone after a year of paying a monthly fee.
But under the Verizon plan, customers have the option of upgrading in six months. However, they have to pay whatever amount remains on the one-year payment plan.
For instance, a customer with a 16 GB iPhone 5c has to pay $23.06 a month for 12 months to be able to get a new phone. If they were to upgrade in six months, they would have to pay an additional $136.64, or six months of monthly payments remaining on the plan.
For a 16 GB iPhone 5s on the Edge plan, customers have to pay $27.15 a month for a year. If the customer wants to upgrade six months earlier, they would have to pay $162.10.
The payments are required even if the customer drops their Verizon wireless service. Customers can also choose to simply pay off their device by making payments for two years.
Sprint One Up
With Sprint One Up, customers have to sign up for a $65 a month wireless service plan, which includes unlimited talk, text and data and pay a monthly fee to be able to upgrade their phone in a year.
Sprint also charges users a monthly fee for whichever device they get. The company did not say how much the iPhone 5c or iPhone 5s cost on the Sprint One Up plan.
T-Mobile's Jump plan makes it possible for customers to upgrade their devices twice in the span of 12 months, although they must wait at least six months before making their first smartphone upgrade.
In addition to a monthly fee, the customer has to pay $10 a month to enroll in the plan, which includes insurance.
The 16-gigabyte iPhone 5c from T-Mobile doesn't require a down payment, but customers who get it will have to pay $22 each month plus another $10 for the Jump plan. After six months they can upgrade to another device or they can keep the device after making 24 monthly payments, which would total out at $768 with Jump payments included.
T-Mobile customers who want a 16 GB iPhone 5s will be required to make a $99 down payment. They'll also have to pay $22.91 each month plus $10 for the Jump plan. Users can also upgrade after six months or keep the device after 24 months, which totals out to $888.84 with Jump payments included.
Users can leave T-Mobile and the Jump plan at any point, but if they do, the remaining balance on their device becomes due (this would not include additional Jump payments).
[Updated 12:52 p.m. Sept. 21: An earlier version of this article did not say users could pay off and keep their device through the Verizon Edge plan by making two years of payments.]
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