T-Mobile hoping you JUMP! ship from your current carrier
T-Mobile made splashes in the mobile industry earlier this year as it branded itself America's "Un-carrier." Although their pricing changes and new plans weren't as different from the norm as expected, it still signaled some changes to America's cellular carrier industry. Earlier today, T-Mobile announced a new initiative, JUMP!, as a part of their "Un-carrier" plan. JUMP! gives you the option to, in theory, upgrade your phone whenever you want. Here's what it means for consumers.
As it stands now, with almost every carrier in the U.S., you must wait for 2 years to upgrade your phone at the subsidized price. Outside of that two year wait, if you lose your phone or it breaks, you will likely have to pay the "out-of-contract" price for a new phone, which can be as much as $800 for a high-end smartphone. At today's T-Mobile event in New York, CEO John Legere had this to say about the upgrade system at other wireless carriers: "At some point, big wireless companies made a decision for you that you should have to wait two years to get a new phone for a fair price. That's 730 days of waiting. 730 days of watching new phones come out that you can't have. Or having to live with a cracked screen or an outdated camera... We say two years is just too long to wait. Today, we're changing all that with the launch of JUMP! Now, customers never have to worry about being stuck with the wrong phone. And, yes - it's really as good as it sounds."
Here's how it works. For an additional $10 per month, you can add JUMP! onto your exisiting wireless plan. It covers malfunction, damage, loss, and theft, while also enabling you to upgrade your phone twice per year, instead of once every two years.
There are a couple of catches, however. You must wait for six months after adding JUMP! to your plan to reap the benefits, and you must trade in your old phone when you buy a new one. Today, if you upgrade your phone using the traditional method, you keep your old one, enabling you to sell it or give it to a family member. Whether these restrictions are worth it, it's hard to tell. If you're one of those people who like upgrading to the latest tech as soon as possible, this new initiative is probably a boon for you. But, if you tend to skip a generation every time you upgrade because you don't need your gadgets to be state of the art, the benefits are less clear.
T-Mobile paints a pretty bleak picture of the upgrade landscape at other carriers, with some justification. Until recently, both AT&T and Verizon had early upgrade programs that didn't require the full two-year wait. Earlier this year though, both carriers shuttered those programs, and are now requiring the full 24-month wait. In light of these changes, T-Mobile's new plan is arguably even more enticing.
In the end, it's hard to tell whether or not T-Mobile's new "Un-carrier" initiative is actually helping them secure new customers. Legere said "it's really as good as it sounds", but that remains to be seen. From a consumer standpoint, all we can hope is that the changes T-Mobile is making spur the other big wireless carriers to make similar changes to the way they do business -- similar to how Google Fiber has put pressure on other Internet Service Providers, causing them to offer better speeds for lower prices.