AT&T to launch new mobile upgrade plan

Mobile • Plan will allow for more frequent upgrades, but is costly.
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Following T-Mobile's lead, AT&T has introduced a new but costly phone upgrade plan that eliminates the need to wait every two years to get a new mobile device.

The "AT&T Next" plan allows subscribers of the carrier's service to upgrade their phone or tablet every year with no down payment, no activation fee, no upfront upgrade fee and no financing fees.

But customers must pay at least 12 monthly payments of $15 to $50, depending on the device, in addition to their monthly voice and data fees, and they must trade that device in if they decide to upgrade.

The plan, which was announced Monday night, launches nationwide July 26 but will begin in Utah on July 18, according to an AT&T spokeswoman.

"With AT&T Next, customers can get the newest smartphone or tablet every year with no down payment. That's hard to beat, and it's an incredible value for customers who want the latest and greatest every year," Ralph de la Vega, president and chief executive officer of AT&T Mobility, said in a statement.

The carrier's plan follows a week after the launch of T-Mobile's "JUMP!" upgrade program, which allows its customers to upgrade up to twice a year by paying an additional $10 per month. It also requires that the customer hand in the old phone when upgrading.

Verizon also may be gearing up for a new upgrade program that allows its customers to more frequently trade in their phones.

According to a leaked document to website Droid Life, Verizon may introduce a new program called VZ Edge on Aug. 25 in which handset owners can upgrade their phones after 50 percent of their device is paid for.

Google+: +Vincent Horiuchi