Verizon Offers Early Upgrades, Preps for New Phones

Verizon is offering an early upgrade to many of its customers, giving subscribers a chance to take advantage of top-of-the-line devices this fall.

The Basking Ridge, N.J.-based carrier began sending e-mails to customers to alert them to the change. Verizon has given some customers, who would have been eligible for a new phone in September, an early upgrade, along with rewarding others who would have had to wait until May 2012.

The move differs greatly from carrier’s usual upgrade system. Under Verizon’s two-year contracts, subscribers become eligible for an upgrade every 20 months. It’s unclear how Verizon selected which customers would receive the reward, but some believe the carrier was motivated to spark sales for upcoming devices.

The iPhone 5 is expected to launch in early October, and Verizon likely wants to retain as many iPhone 4 customers as it can. The carrier will also face heated competition over the iPhone from rival AT&T and Sprint is also rumoured to begin selling the device.

In addition to the iPhone 5, the Motorola Droid Bionic launch is expected to be just days away, according to several reports. The LG Revolution 2, HTC Vigor and Samsung Galaxy S2 lookalike Droid Prime are also expected to hit stores this fall. With such a robust lineup of smartphones coming, Verizon will want to have as many eligible customers possible to help spur successful launches.

But this isn’t the first time a major carrier has gotten upgrade-happy. When the iPhone 4 launched last year, AT&T allowed all iPhone owners who would have been eligible for an upgrade anytime in 2010 to get the device at the subsidized price, since the carrier was trying to attract customers to its brand new device. AT&T was likely aware customers due for upgrades later in the year would have the option to get the iPhone 4 with Verizon in early 2011.

AT&T will probably have to make a similar decision in the coming weeks if it wants to level the playing field with Verizon.

Carriers have been known to stick firmly to their upgrade schedules, but as the competition for customers is fuelled by high-end smartphones, companies may now be shifting their strategies.

This post originally appeared at Mobiledia.