Today, AT&T introduced "Next," a new payment and upgrade plan that lets you pay for your phone in installments and upgrade once a year. The new plan comes less than a week after T-Mobile announced "Jump," its own frequent upgrade plan. But what's a trigger-happy gadget nerd to choose? We did the math for you.
T-Mobile's Jump is an add-on to the company's no-contract installment plan, which requires a $99-$159 downpayment. The cost depends on which phone and whether or not you need a $10 SIM starter kit, which we'll assume you do for the purpose of calculation. From there, you pay of the rest of the phone's cost in $20 monthly installments over two years. Adding Jump for $10 per month gives you the right to trade in your phone for a snazzy new one every six months. The cost of jump also includes insurance for your phone.
AT&T's device installment plan has no down payment, and costs between $15 and $50 per month depending on the phone you choose. After you've made 12 payments—so a year— you've got the option to trade in your phone for a new one. Alternatively, you can keep paying device installments and own the phone outright in 20 months.
So far we only know the monthly cost for a Samsung Galaxy S4 on AT&T Next, so we'll use that as the basis for our comparison Here's a little chart figuring out what the yearly hardware cost works out to over two years, with an upgrade after the first year.
On hardware costs alone, AT&T is a lot cheaper than T-Mobile, assuming you're only going to upgrade once a year (which is reasonable).
Add Data Costs...
Of course, hardware alone isn't the only consideration here. T-Mobile is an attractive option because it has cheaper data plans (Whereas the upside of AT&T is its wider 4G LTE coverage area). T-Mobile costs $60 per month for 2.5 GB of data plus unlimited talk and text versus whereas AT&T costs $90 for 3 GB plus 450 minutes and unlimited text messages. Over two years that works out to $2160 on AT&T and $1440 on T-Mobile.
Add hardware costs to service costs and we're looking at the following chart:
So T-Mobile is $460 cheaper over two years, plus you get the added benefit of that extra upgrade and insurance on your phone. Not bad! Especially once that 4G network kicks in more broadly. Which, uh, guys? A little help? [AT&T and T-Mobile]