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Early Phone Upgrade: How It Works & Should You Do it?

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With cell phone manufacturers releasing newer, faster, and better models yearly, it doesn't take long for that new phone feeling to wear off these days. If you’re the kind of smartphone user who likes to keep up with the latest tech, a wireless service plan with an early phone upgrade option may be just the thing for you.

Most wireless carriers offer upgrade plans so you can get great deals on the newest phones without delay. To help you find the right plan to meet your upgrade needs, try our free, unbiased Plan Finder below which searches thousands of options from top carriers, including AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Spectrum Mobile, and Xfinity Mobile, all covered in this article. 

Now let’s take a look at some of the most popular early phone upgrade programs and how they work.

AT&T Early Upgrade

Like many carriers, AT&T offers an early upgrade program. Dubbed AT&T Next Up, this program allows you to get up to $500 off a new device when you turn in your current cell phone, so long as you pay off 50 percent of the original device's retail cost. AT&T will then waive any remaining installment payments.

However, before you get too excited, you have to understand that there are some strings attached, one being that the offer is only available for certain devices. Plus, you must meet a minimum $1,100 retail price on your installment plan and have an eligible AT&T unlimited plan.

To take advantage of AT&T Next Up, you need an existing AT&T installment plan, and you need to have an eligible device ready to go. Still, this can be a great choice if you want to be an early adopter of the next best cell phone on the market. And, for only $6 more a month, AT&T gives you the chance!

Pros

AT&T installment plans allow you to pay off a pricey smartphone in 36 months with low monthly payments, no down payment or interest.

Taking advantage of the AT&T Next Up program is also quite easy, as all you have to do is sign into your AT&T account and choose the device under your name that you want to trade in for an upgrade. 

Cons

AT&T only allows you to switch to an installment plan with Next Up within 14 days of buying a new smartphone, unless you are a business customer, in which case you have 30 days instead. 

Furthermore, the savings aren’t immediate. As is common practice among many carriers, the AT&T Next Up plan gives you your “refund” in bill credits which are applied to each monthly bill over the course of your installment agreement.

T-Mobile Early Upgrade

T-Mobile offers T-Mobile JUMP! as its distinct early upgrade plan. You can upgrade with T-Mobile JUMP! as soon as you find a device with a better camera or better features that you really want.

With T-Mobile Jump!, you trade in an eligible device and T-Mobile will cover the remaining payments for up to half of the device cost with no waiting. To take advantage of this program, keep the following requirements in mind:

  • You can only take advantage of this offer at participating locations.
  • Credit approval is required.
  • You need to make a deposit for a certain percentage of the phone’s retail price.
  • You may have to pay a $35 assisted or upgrade support charge to finalize the upgrade process.

Pros

Even though there are some administrative elements included with T-Mobile JUMP! upgrade plan, there’s a lot to like about this opportunity.

For instance, JUMP! is automatically part of the Protection 360 program featuring AppleCare services for eligible devices. This can provide you with peace of mind once you get a new phone.

Furthermore, with the T-Mobile offering, you see your savings from day one — you don’t have to wait for months or even years to see your money returned to you. 

Cons

As mentioned, T-Mobile’s early upgrade plan does come with extra fees, and you need credit approval to qualify. Since you have to make a deposit for your new phone, you’ll also need to keep in mind the retail price for the handset you want to purchase. 

Verizon Early Upgrade Program

Verizon offers an early upgrade program that enables current customers to upgrade to a new eligible smartphone after they’ve paid off at least 50 percent of their current device.

Here’s how it works:

  • You have to purchase and activate an eligible smartphone with a Verizon device payment agreement.
  • Eligible smartphones include the iPhone 15, iPhone 14, iPhone 13, and iPhone 12 series.
  • You need to use the smartphone with Verizon mobile service for at least 30 days.
  • Then, you need to pay 50 percent of the smartphone’s retail price.
  • Within 30 days of your upgrade, you can return the smartphone in good working condition and with no significant damage.

Once you do all this, you’ll qualify for an early upgrade under Verizon.

You can upgrade your current phone as long as your account isn’t past due and you bring the device you want to replace to the Verizon retail location.

Pros

There are several significant benefits to this early upgrade plan. One benefit of this upgrade option is that you're still eligible even if you preordered a smartphone on a Verizon mobile device payment agreement. So long as you activate the phone, you could still qualify.

Plus, if you satisfy all the requirements for an early upgrade, you don't need to make any remaining payments for the smartphone under your original agreement.

Verizon also offers several mobile upgrade opportunities, including:

  • Paying off your device payment agreement
  • Opting for an early upgrade
  • The contract has ended on a device at a discount and signed a two-year contract

Cons

On the downside, if you don't return your original smartphone when you upgrade, you have to pay the remaining balance under the original device payment agreement. Plus, in some instances, opting for an early upgrade with Verizon may require you to extend your contract. This means you're committing to Verizon’s service for a longer contract period.

Spectrum Early Upgrade

The big three carriers aren’t the only ones providing early upgrade options. Other networks, like Spectrum Mobile, also offer an early upgrade plan option. Note that to enjoy Spectrum Mobile, you’ll need to be a Spectrum Internet subscriber. Here's how Spectrum Mobile’s early upgrade program works:

  • To qualify for an early upgrade program, you must have paid off at least half of your current device’s payment plan, you must return your old device in good working condition, and your account must be in good standing.
  • You need to pass a credit check.
  • If you fulfill those requirements, all the remaining payments on your current plan will be waived, and you can immediately upgrade to a new device.

Note that any devices purchased in-store using the early upgrade program aren't eligible for return, though you can exchange them for a different device later.

Pros

If you are already enrolled in the Spectrum Mobile Protection Plan, you don't have to pay an extra fee to upgrade your smartphone or tablet. Otherwise, you do have to pay a $45 fee.

Spectrum also offers a variety of devices you can upgrade to, and you can combine this with other Spectrum products like TV, internet, or home phone service. Spectrum also includes a 5G SIM card preinstalled on your phone if you are upgrading to a 5G device.

Cons

In most cases, you’ll need to pay a $45 setup fee. What’s more, you’ll need to submit to a credit check.

Keep in mind, as well, that Spectrum’s early upgrade opportunities are limited to each store’s available inventory. You may need to shop around at different retail locations before you find one that has the one you want.

Xfinity Mobile Early Upgrade Plan

If you’ve kept your phone in great condition, you’ve paid at least half of its cost and you’re a Comcast Internet subscriber, you may qualify for Xfinity’s Early Upgrade program.

Just take your phone to an Xfinity Retail Store and choose a new phone from the available options. Once you buy the new phone, Xfinity Mobile waives the remaining balance for your old phone. You must return your old phone to complete the Early Upgrade and leave the store with a new one.

Pros

This Early Upgrade plan is ideal for those who aren’t too picky about getting the latest model and just want a better and newer phone as soon as possible.

Plus, checking if you're eligible for the Early Upgrade program is pretty straightforward. You simply need to log in to your account, click on the device you wish to upgrade, and then click on “Replace your device” or “Device Upgrade” to see when your phone will be eligible for an upgrade.

Cons

One downside of this plan is that you can only choose from phones that are in stock at an Xfinity store. If you want a phone that is backordered or available for pre-order, you won't be able to get it through the Early Upgrade program. Or, you may have to visit a few stores to get the phone you want.

What’s more, if you don't have the Xfinity Mobile Protection Plan, you'll have to pay an additional fee for the new phone, ranging from $30 to $70, depending on the device you’re turning in. In this case, you also have to pay the additional amount needed to reach the 50 percent payoff threshold. This plan may not work if you’re short on funds or want the latest model that hasn’t been released.

The Bottom Line

Many of the top wireless service providers offer an early upgrade program. Now that you understand your upgrade options, it’s time to compare phone plans with Navi's Plan Finder! We search thousands of plan features from top wireless carriers to find the best solutions based on your criteria.

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