T-Mobile came out with its Jump upgrade plan back in April, declaring, “Two years is too long to wait for new phone.” The plan allows you to upgrade your phone every 6 months (after the first 6 months of enrollment), without having to sign a long-term service contract. Since the launch, the major ding against T-Mobile has been the requirement of a large down payment on a new phone or when you upgrade. But that requirement has been removed with the exception of some models like the 16GB iPhone 4s and iPhone 5 which would require $70 or $146 down, respectively. The 32GB and 64GB iPhone 5 models, of course, call for larger down payments.
We don’t know how long T-Mobile’s Jump plan will remain “down payment free,” as T-Mobile has not specified a time period. But, we’re sure the amounts are somehow recalculated into the 24 months of payments.
AT&T launched the Next upgrade program just weeks ago, and the plan is similar in many ways to T-Mobile’s Jump; no service contracts, no finance charges, no activation fees. The main difference at this point is AT&T makes you wait 12 months before an upgrade — an additional 6 months longer than T-Mobile.
We recently compared AT&T’s Next phone upgrade plan with Verizon’s upcoming Edge plan, and the outcome ended in a dead heat tie. Now, let’s see what happens when we compare AT&T Next with T-Mobile’s Jump upgrade plan.
Here’s a breakdown of major distinctions:
|Upgrades||Twice per 12 months||Every 12 months|
|Activation Fee||No (Waived)||No|
|Plan Fee||$10 per mo.||No|
|SIM card purchase||$10 new cust. only||No|
|Phones & Tablets?||Not really||Yes|
|Insurance plan||(included in plan fee)||$7 per mo.|
|Unlimited Data Plans||OK||OK|
|Number of Payments||24 Months||20 Months|
T-Mobile Jump lets you upgrade your phone twice every 12 months, after the first 6 months of enrollment in the program. AT&T Next will allow you to upgrade your phone or tablet every 12 months.
Although T-Mobile has removed down payments for most phones for an unspecified amount of time, the Jump program may call for a down payment on certain models. For example, a $650 iPhone 5 16GB model would require a $145.99 down payment. An iPhone 4s would require $69.99. However, an older iPhone 4 would not require a down payment. You will, however, have to pay the taxes due for the entire 24 term. AT&T, in contrast does not require any down payment, with the exception of the first month’s installment and any applied taxes.
Upgrade Fees & Finance Charges
Neither T-Mobile nor AT&T require upgrade fees or finance charges for qualified customers. However, some consider T-Mobile’s $10 monthly plan fee a replacement for finance charges.
T-Mobile does not have a finance minimum. Neither does AT&T, with the exception of prepaid GoPhones.
Upgrade Phones & Tablets?
T-Mobile customer service reps said they would finance tablets as well as phones in the Jump program, but the three stores that we called had no tablets at all in-store. Online, the only tablet available to choose was the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1. And, Jump wasn’t an option when choosing the service. Although, T-Mobile reps told us tablets are eligible for the upgrade plan.
On the flip side, AT&T has a wide selection of tablets including the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0, Apple iPad, and Apple iPad mini among other models. All of those devices are available to finance in the Next upgrade plan.
With T-Mobile, the upgrade cost for a $650 iPhone 5 would be $145 because of the down payment requirements on some phones. (Although, as mentioned, those qualified may not have to provide a down payment on certain phones.)
AT&T doesn’t charge for an upgrade because the payments are spread out over the term of the agreement. When it’s time to upgrade, at 12 months, half of the phone will have been paid off.
Neither T-Mobile nor AT&T require long-term service contracts. However, you still have a contract to pay off the phone. So, with either provider if you cancel your wireless service you need to pay off the balance of the phone.
T-Mobile charges $10 per month program fee, but that includes phone insurance and $175 deductible.
As mentioned above, T-Mobile provides insurance for your phone included within the $10 per month plan fee. With AT&T, an iPhone 5 would be $7 per month for $200 deductible. Phone insurance is a must. So, if you think about it, T-Mobile is only charging you $3 more than AT&T.
Unlimited Data Plans
Both T-Mobile and AT&T will allow you to have Unlimited Data plans with their respective upgrade plans.
T-Mobile charges new customers only $10 for a SIM card, but no activation fee. AT&T does not charge any activation fees.
Monthly Payment Amount
A monthly payment for an iPhone 5 with T-Mobile would be $21 per month for 12 months. The same phone with AT&T would be $32.50 per month for 20 months. If you are simply looking at a lower monthly cost, T-Mobile would win this category because they are requiring a down payment for the iPhone 5.
T-Mobile Jump vs. AT&T Next Score Chart
|Upgrade Wait Time||T-Mobile||Because with T-Mobile you can upgrade twice a year after the first 6 months of enrollment. With AT&T you must wait 12 months.|
|Down payments||AT&T||T-Mobile requires down payments on certain phones, like the iPhone 4s and 5, although for a limited time most phones do not require a down payment.|
|Upgrade Fees||Tie||Neither carrier charges upgrade fees.|
|Finance Charges||Tie||Neither carrier applies finance charges.|
|Finance Minimum||Tie||Neither wireless carrier has a minimum finance amount, although AT&T will not finance prepaid GoPhones.|
|Activation Fee||Tie||Neither T-Mobile nor AT&T charge activation fees, although T-Mobile charges new customers $10 for a SIM card.|
|Plan Fee||AT&T||T-Mobile charges $10 per month for the Jump plan|
|Service Contract||Tie||Neither carrier requires long-term service contracts. However, device agreements are attached to wireless service and must be paid off in full if service is cancelled.|
|Unlimited Data Plans||Tie||Both plans are eligible with unlimited data.|
|SIM Card purchase||AT&T||T-Mobile charges new customers $!0 for a SIM card.|
|Phones & Tablets?||AT&T||AT&T Next includes tablets and has a wide selection to choose from. T-Mobile only has one tablet to choose online and the Jump option was not available.|
|Insurance Plan||T-Mobile||AT&T charges $7 per month for insurance. T-Mobile includes insurance in the $10 per month plan fee. Not really a win for T-Mobile — but we’ll give it to them for not having an additional insurance charge.|
|Upgrade Cost||NA||With T-Mobile, phones that require a down payment would be a cost at upgrade. We already covered this above in Down Payments, so this is a no-score item.|
|Unlimited Data Plans||Tie||Both plans are eligible with unlimited data.|
|Monthly Payments||T-Mobile||Based on a $650 iPhone 5. T-Mobile wins if you are looking for lower monthly payments because the installments are spread out over 24 rather than AT&T’s 20 month agreement. However, T-Mobile may require a down payment. And, whatever services you choose would change your total monthly payment.|
|Overall Winner||AT&T||AT&T Wins 11-10|
Sources: T-Mobile, AT&T
Jeff Chabot has a background in web development and design, as well as working in broadcast television as a studio engineer, lighting director and editor. He frequently writes about technology, broadcasting, digital entertainment, and the internet.