We’ve been doing quite a few phone upgrade comparisons here at Gadget Review, trying to sort out which wireless provider offers the best value and the quickest phone upgrade options. This week we look at the number 3 and 4 largest wireless companies in the United States in terms of subscribers: Sprint and T-Mobile. T-Mobile’s Jump upgrade plan launched back in April, and, like a domino effect AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint followed shortly thereafter with their own plans. We’ve already compared the T-Mobile upgrade plan to AT&T Next, and T-Mobile to Verizon Edge. Now let’s compare T-Mobile Jump to One Up, Sprint’s upgrade plan that just launched a couple weeks ago.
|T-Mobile Jump||Sprint One Up|
|Upgrades||Twice per 12 months||Every 12 months|
|Upgrade Fees||No||Yes (tablets no)|
|Activation Fee||Yes. $35||Yes. $36|
|Plan Fee||$10 per mo.||No|
|SIM card purchase||$10 new cust. only||No|
|Phones & Tablets?||No||Yes|
|Insurance plan||(included in plan fee)||$11 per mo.|
|Service Contract||Service Contract||No|
|Unlimited Data Plans||OK||OK|
|Number of Payments||24 Months||24 Months|
Sprint One Up lets you upgrade your phone once every 12 months. If you want to upgrade before the 12 months have passed, you’ll have to pay off what is remaining of the full 24-month agreement. The device would be yours at that point.
T-Mobile Jump lets you upgrade your phone twice every 12 months, after the first 6 months of enrollment in the program. The upgrade timing essentially allows you to get a new phone every 6 months – that’s time enough to keep up with new phone releases.
For a limited time Sprint is offering One Up plans with no money down (expiring Oct. 10, 2013). The promotion includes both phones and tablets. You will, however, have to pay any sales tax associated with the final price of the phone. After that, you’ll need to pay for the phone service (currently $65 promotion for unlimited phone, text, and data), and the device payment (amount depends on the device you choose.) The promotion may not be available in all Sprint stores. After the promotion expires, your down payment will depend on the device you choose to finance.
T-Mobile requires down payments on some phones, but not all. For example, an iPhone 4s with a plan doesn’t require any money down. However, you’ll have to pay $99 up front for a 32GB iPhone 5, or $199 for a 64GB iPhone 5. In all cases, however, you have to pay for all taxes due for the entire 24-month term (or, the full cost of the phone).
Neither Sprint nor T-Mobile apply finance charges for qualified customers. You only have to pay the monthly charges spread out over 12 months for the device. At time of upgrade, you may have to pay off a remaining balance on your device if you have not reached the number of monthly payments required.
Neither Sprint nor T-Mobile enforce a finance minimum. Meaning, your device does not have to be a certain price in order to finance for a 24-month term.
Upgrade Phones & Tablets?
Sprint offers the One Up plan to customers who want to finance a tablet, but unfortunately tablets are not eligible for the $15 per month service discounts (or any service discounts for that matter). Availability of tablets will depend on the store you visit, but the website currently lists the Apple iPad Mini, iPad with retina display, and Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 as available models. Sprint says basic phones, mobile hotspots, other mobile broadband devices (excluding Tablets), Sprint Phone Connect and Sprint 4G WiMAX devices are not eligible for One Up at this time.
T-Mobile is finally being more clear about whether or not you can finance a tablet with Jump. For a while, it seemed as if stores were not clear, but the T-Mobile website (which only lists one tablet) will not allow you to add Jump to a tablet plan. And, two CSRs confirmed tablets are not eligible.
Sprint apparently charges an upgrade fee for smartphones purchased with One Up, although two sales people spoken to claimed there is no upgrade fee. On Sprint’s website, however, they make it clear there is no upgrade fee for tablets purchased in the One Up plan.
T-Mobile charges an $18 upgrade fee. You may also consider any down payments required by either wireless provider an upgrade fee, especially if the phone is pricier than what you had before.
Neither Sprint’s nor T-Mobile’s upgrade plans require long-term service contracts. But, you still have to sign a 2-year contract to pay off the phone. If you cancel your wireless service you need to pay off the balance of the phone.
Sprint does not charge a One Up plan fee. T-Mobile charges $10 per month program fee, but that includes phone insurance and $175 deductible.
Sprint charges $11 per month for insurance per device in your plan.
As mentioned above, T-Mobile provides insurance for your phone included within the $10 per month plan fee. You also get Mobile Security with Lookout. (Without Jump, “Premium Handset Protection” costs $8 per month.)
Winner: T-Mobile (Because it costs less and is included with the Jump plan fee.)
Sprint includes offers 1GB of tethering for an extra $10 per month, or 2GB tethering for an extra $20 per month.
T-Mobile’s Jump plan includes up to 2.5GB of Smartphone Mobile HotSpot (SMH) service.
Winner: T-Mobile (Just because it’s free with the Jump plan.)
Unlimited Data Plans
Sprint One Up is currently offering their Unlimited, My Way plan with unlimited talk, texting and data for $65 per month (a $15 discount through final installment payment). The promotion may not be available in all Sprint stores.
T-Mobile also lets you have Unlimited Data plans with Jump. Data plans are priced at $50 per month for 500MB, $60 for 2.5GB per month, and $70 for Unlimited data. The Unlimited plans includes Mobile HotSpot service as mentioned above.
Sprint charges an activation fee of $36 per line. However, there is no activation fee for tablets purchased in the One Up plan.
T-Mobile charges new customers only $10 for a SIM card, and an activation fee of $35 (although that fee is frequently waived depending on plan and promotional periods).
Monthly Payment Amount
A monthly payment for an iPhone 5s with Sprint would be $27 per month. The same phone with T-Mobile would be $22.91 per month. Note that the Sprint amount may be a bit higher because they are currently offering a no-money-down offer. Both of these monthly payments are based on a 24-month agreement.
Sprint One Up vs. T-Mobile Jump 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 Sprint you must wait 12 months (or pay the entire amount owed on the device).|
|Down payments||Tie||Sprint currently requires no-money down, but when the promotion runs out they will require money down on certain devices. T-Mobile requires down payments on certain phones, like the iPhone 5s.|
|Upgrade Fees||Sprint||Sprint does not charge an upgrade fee. T-Mobile charges an $18 upgrade fee.|
|Finance Charges||Tie||Neither carrier applies finance charges.|
|Finance Minimum||Tie||Neither wireless carrier has a minimum finance amount.|
|Activation Fee||Tie||Sprint charges $36 activation fee per line. T-Mobile charges $35 activation fee (But also new customers $10 for a SIM card see below).|
|Plan Fee||Sprint||Sprint wins because 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||Sprint||T-Mobile charges new customers $10 for a SIM card.|
|Phones & Tablets?||Sprint||T-Mobile does not offer tablets on its Jump plan.|
|Insurance Plan||T-Mobile||Sprint charges $11 per month for insurance per device. T-Mobile includes insurance in their $10 per month plan fee.|
|Unlimited Data Plans||Tie||Both upgrade plans are eligible with unlimited data.|
|Monthly Payments||Tie||While a monthly payment with Sprint is slightly higher than T-Mobile, it may be because of their no-money-down currently offered. Expect these plans to be very similar in amount per month for the same device — not including any service plan costs.|
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.