We’re really getting into the phone upgrade program comparisons now, digging deep to see which wireless service providers offer the best deals. But it doesn’t always come down to dollars, at least for those of us who like to have the newest gadgets. It’s also about getting the devices we want and the services that support those devices without long-term contracts or surprising overages on our monthly bills. While most of the upgrade plans we covered cost more per month, the up-front payments are smaller and upgrade eligibility more frequent.

In this comparison we pit Verizon’s Edge upgrade option against T-Mobile’s Jump plan. T-Mobile first launched Jump back in April. So, in a way, Verizon is hopping on the ‘Jump’ bandwagon by offering its own phone upgrade program. T-Mobile’s plan lets you upgrade your phone every 6 months, after the first months of enrollment, with no upgrade fees or penalties. However, Jump may require you to put down a large down payment when you enter into the agreement. And, you may also have to make an upfront payment when you upgrade.

The reason we use the word “may” is that T-Mobile is currently offering a wide selection of phones with no money down for qualified customers. Don’t get too excited though. A 32GB Apple iPhone 5 will set you back $246 upon sign-up (the iPhone 5 is not one of the phones in the promotion). And, we don’t know how long the “zero-down” offer will last.

On the flip side, Verizon Edge will not require a large down payment. But the cost of that iPhone 5 will be spread out over a 24-month contract. For example, a new iPhone 5 16GB model will cost you $27.15 per month, with the first month’s installment due upon signup. Of course, whatever services you select will be added on the total monthly payments.

While quicker phone upgrades are the crux of both of these plans, the other advantage is neither plan requires a long-term service contract. Rather, the wireless service is billed on a month-to-month basis. That means you’re free! But, only in a sense. When you enter into the Edge or Jump program you are essentially entering into a different kind of contract; a contract to pay off the phone. If you decide to cancel wireless service, you need to pay off the phone in full.

We already compared T-Mobile’s Jump to AT&T’s Next upgrade plan in a previous article. Now, let’s see what happens when we compare Jump with Verizon’s Edge plan.

Here’s a breakdown of major distinctions:


T-Mobile Jump Verizon Edge
Upgrades Twice per 12 months 12 months or 50% paid
Down Payments Yes No
Upgrade Fees No No
Finance Minimum No No
Finance Charges No No
Activation Fee No (Waived) Yes – $35
Plan Fee $10 per mo. No
SIM card purchase $10 new cust. only No
Phones & Tablets? Not really No
Insurance plan (included in plan fee) $9.99 per mo. full coverage
Service Contract No No
Upgrade Cost Yes No
Unlimited Data Plans OK No
Number of Payments 24 Months 24 Months

Upgrade Timing

T-Mobile Jump lets you upgrade your phone twice every 12 months, after the first 6 months of enrollment in the program. Verizon lets you upgrade every 12 months, or, after 50% of the device is paid off.

Winner: T-Mobile

Down Payments

Even though T-Mobile has removed down payments for most phones for an unspecified amount of time, the Jump program may call for an up front payment on certain models. For example, a $650 16GB iPhone 5 would require a $146 down payment. A 32GB model goes up to $246. Other phones, like an older iPhone 4, would not require a down payment from qualified customers. You will, however, have to pay the taxes due for the entire 24-term. Verizon’s Edge does not require any down payments on phones with the exception of the first month’s installment and applicable taxes.

Winner: Verizon

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.

Winner: Tie

Finance Minimum

T-Mobile does not have a finance minimum. Neither does Verizon.

Winner: Tie

Upgrade Phones & Tablets?

This one is a bit sticky. T-Mobile customer service reps said they would finance tablets as well as phones for qualified customers who agree to the Jump plan. But we could not find a store that carried any tablets. The only tablet we could find was on the T-Mobile website where the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 was available. However, Jump was not a plan option after selecting the device.

At first we thought Verizon would offer tablets in their Edge plan. Early promotional text seemed to indicate all devices would be eligible (to compete with AT&T’s Next upgrade plan which does include tablets.) But upon launch we found that was not true. This one is a tie, because getting a tablet into T-Mobile’s Jump plan online was not possible.

Winner: Tie

Upgrade Costs

With T-Mobile, the upgrade cost for a $650 32GB iPhone 5 would be $145 because of the down payment requirements on some phones. (Although, as mentioned, right now many phones do not require a down payment for qualified customers.)

Verizon Edge does not require any costs when upgrading, only that the phone must be 50% paid off.

Winner: Verizon

Service Contracts

Neither T-Mobile nor Verizon require long-term service contracts with their device upgrade programs. However, customers still have a contract to pay off the phone. If wireless service is cancelled customers need to pay off the phone in full.

Winner: Tie

Plan Fee

T-Mobile charges $10 per month program fee, but that includes phone insurance and $175 deductible.

Winner: Verizon

Insurance

As mentioned above, T-Mobile provides insurance for your phone included within the $10 per month plan fee. So, technically there is no insurance charge. Verizon currently charges $9.99 per month for total coverage. We give this one to T-Mobile because we already dinged them for the plan fee.

Winner: T-Mobile

Unlimited Data Plans

T-Mobile will allow you to have an unlimited data plan with devices in the Jump plan. The cost is $70 per month with 500MB tethering (using your cell connection as a WiFi spot). Verizon will not allow unlimited data plans with Edge devices, although they have data plan options ranging from 500MB ($40 per mo.) to 50GB ($375 per mo.).

Winner: T-Mobile

Activation Fee

T-Mobile charges new customers $10 for a SIM card, but not an activation fee. Verizon typically charges a $35 activation fee.

Winner: T-Mobile

Number of Payments

Both Verizon Edge and T-Mobile Jump base monthly device payments on a 24-month (2 year) payment period.

Winner: Tie

Monthly Payment Amount

The monthly payment amount of your phone and service(s) will vary depending on what you choose. But we can determine which carrier will charge more per month for a specific device. For a new iPhone 5 with 16GB memory, T-Mobile will require $145.99 up front, and $21 per month for 24-months.

Verizon does not require a large down payment upon sign up. Instead, you have to pay the first month’s installment for the phone. For the same iPhone 5 with 16GB, Verizon Edge’s monthly charge will be $27.15.

Winner: T-Mobile

Conclusion

Both carriers are pretty darn close when you look closely at their upgrade plans. And, some of the comparisons made weren’t exactly cut and dry. For example, while Verizon’s Edge upgrade time is 12 months (six months later than T-Mobile), you can actually upgrade quicker with Verizon by just paying off 50% of the phone. On paper T-Mobile wins. But in reality, you can pay your way out of almost anything. The trickiest part was determining which carrier has the lower monthly charge for a particular phone. For this comparison, we used the 16GB iPhone 5. Yes, T-Mobile’s monthly amount was less than Verizon’s, but that’s because we had to put down $145.99 up front. And let’s be honest, we’re only talking about a $6 difference per month. The real game changers come when you start adding wireless services. T-Mobile’s unlimited data plan for $70 per month is a tremendous value (unless they are throttling). In contrast, Verizon’s 50GB data plan costs an extra $375 per month. That’s a bit excessive, as NPD reported the average 15 to 34-year old used an average of 3GB per month last year. But still, 3GB could be exhausted in just a few hours watching movies. The most important issue to take into consideration when choosing a carrier is coverage. What good is any plan if you can’t make a call from inside your house? Be sure to do some research before deciding on who to go with. And, make sure you pick the right data plan so you’re not facing huge overages on your monthly bill.


Category Winner Why
Upgrade Wait Time T-Mobile With T-Mobile you can upgrade twice a year. Verizon will let you upgrade after 12 months or 50% is paid off.
Down payments Verizon T-Mobile requires down payments on certain phones, like the iPhone 4s and 5, although right now most phones do not require a down payment. Verizon does not require a large 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.
Activation Fee T-Mobile Verizon charages a $35 activation fee.
Plan Fee Verizon 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 T-Mobile Verizon will not allow unlimited service plans.
SIM Card purchase Verizon T-Mobile charges new customers $!0 for a SIM card.
Phones & Tablets? Tie Although T-Mobile reps say tablets are eligible, they only have only one tablet on their website, and are hard to find in-store. Verizon’s Edge plan does include tablets. Gotta call this one a tie.
Insurance Plan T-Mobile T-Mobile includes insurance in the $10 per month plan fee. Verizon currently charges $9.99 per month for total coverage. We give this one to T-Mobile because we already dinged them for the plan fee.
Number of Months Tie Both carriers base monthly payments on a 24 month cycle.
Monthly Payments T-Mobile This one is tough to choose a winner, because T-Mobile’s up front down payment makes the difference in a comparison. However, if choosing a winner for cost per month alone, it would be T-Mobile. An iPhone 5 16GB is $21 per month with T-Mobile, vs. $27.15 per month vs. Verizon.
Overall Winner T-Mobile T-Mobile wins 11-9

 



Jeff Chabot

 
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.