T-Mobile's New Upgrade-Whenever-You-Want Program Is Only A Good Deal For A Very Specific Group Of People

john legere t-mobile ceo announces iphone 5T-Mobile CEO John Legere.

T-Mobile introduced its “Jump” program today, which will let you upgrade your phone twice a year for any reason at the cost of $10 per month.

Should you spring for it? Let’s look at the maths. T-Mobile has different pricing for each of it’s smartphones, but we’ll use an iPhone a an example.

The short answer: Jump is only a good deal for people who actually do plan to upgrade their smartphones often. If you plan to keep your phone for a year or two, and are careful not to damage it, then Jump isn’t a good option.

Let’s break it down:

Brand-new iPhone users on T-Mobile pay $145.99 down and a $21 monthly payment for two years for the phone. This brings you to $649.99. Now to pay for the service – at $50 a month, two years of service brings us to $1,849.99. Adding on two years of Jump service at $10 per month brings this whole total to $1,969.99, with four opportunities to upgrade or otherwise replace your phone. Keep in mind that you’ll also pay the promotional price for the phone (varies from phone to phone) with each upgrade, so be sure to factor that in as well.

You’ll also have to trade in your current phone to get a new one. So, unlike other carriers’ upgrade plans, you don’t get to keep your old phone to resell it or use it as a backup. T-Mobile will take your old phone, refurbish it, and resell it to other customers at a discount.

Now let’s compare that to Verizon’s upgrade cycle, which is pretty standard.

Brand-new iPhone users on Verizon pay $199.99 for the device and at least $80 monthly service plan over a two-year contract. Right there we’re already looking at $2,119.99. If you want to add Verizon’s meatiest protection plan – the only one that covers lost or stolen phones as Jump would – that’s another $9.99 a month, for a grand total of $2,502 over two years. But! You can only upgrade your phone once every two years.

Apple’s own protection plan, AppleCare+, costs $99 for two years of service. It’ll cover scratched screens twice, each time making you vulnerable to a $49 service charge. But again, you can’t upgrade to a better phone with this plan.

Over at The Verge, Nathan Ingraham has this interesting hypothetical laid out:

“Imagine you picked up a Samsung Galaxy S4 on T-Mobile today. The phone, which has a $579.99 list price, would cost you $99.99 down, plus $20 every month for 24 months, as well as an additional $10 per month for Jump. You’re first eligible for a Jump upgrade after six months, and let’s imagine you wanted to take advantage of it immediately. At that point, you’d have paid a total of $279.99 ($99.99 plus $30 per month for Jump and your standard equipment instalment plan). Assuming you were buying another new, high-end phone like the Galaxy S4 without Jump, you’ll likely be paying somewhere in the neighbourhood of $600 for a new phone.”

So, you can see how for very specific cases, Jump is a good deal. But most people are just fine with upgrading their phones every two years, so Jump wouldn’t be a good use of $10 for them.

We spoke to Rich Karpinski, an analyst at Yankee Group, about whether or not Jump was a good deal. He told us that the short answer is that the customer has to do the maths for himself or herself to see if Jump makes sense for their purposes. As we detailed above, it seems tailored to people who want to have the latest and greatest phone all the time and know they’d want to upgrade twice in one year.

That’s hardly a mainstream use case, but Jump also fills another need as a means to replace broken or stolen phones. In this sense, it can make replacing your busted phone way easier – no crawling the Internet for a cheap phone, no shelling out the big bucks (all at once) to buy a new one. So it’s good protection in case you’re prone to breaking your phone and want to upgrade when/if you do.

If you want to always have the latest cool phone or know that you could easily replace a lost, stolen, or scratched phone then consider the potential $1o per month price tag attached to Jump and make your decision based on that.

If you’re less interested in what’s cool and expect to suffer your upgrades as they become necessary, then Jump is clearly not for you.

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