T-Mobile's imagined upgrade club a boon for gadget freaks

If realized, the proposed "anytime upgrade" plan would let members pay a small fee to upgrade as often as twice a year. Gadget fanatics could readily trade up to the latest, greatest smartphone.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere at today's press conference. Lori Grunin/CNET

Always itching for that next great smartphone? T-Mobile might have the answer for you.

One of the ideas being bandied about is the concept of a club that would allow for "anytime upgrades," which the company defines as a maximum of two upgrades per year.

Members would pay a "very small" membership fee, though it's unclear if this would be an annual or monthly one. In exchange, they'd get insurance for their phone and the option to upgrade their device twice a year.

The idea is just one that's being thought out loud, and T-Mobile CEO John Legere said the company hasn't quite sorted out the details, or even if it would come to fruition. But it's an example of some of the changes he's willing to inject into the carrier.

"We're going to innovate in this space," Legere told CNET. "This model will allow us to do that."

That model is a reference to the company's move to abolish the traditional cell-phone subsidy and contract, instead putting customers on a clearer installment pay plan for the phone and a streamlined array of cellular plans. The iPhone 5, for instance, will cost $99 and $20 a month for the following 24 months.

An anytime upgrade plan would be a boon to gadget enthusiasts who can't stand not having the latest and greatest phone. Given the cycle of new product launches, two upgrades a year would satisfy even the most intense fans.

By removing some of the traditional tenets of the smartphone business model, there is more flexibility in what a carrier can do, says T-Mobile Chief Marketing Officer Mike Sievert.

"Today is laying a foundation that's going to allow us to innovate in ways that our competitors, with their older style business models, just aren't able to do," he told CNET.

 

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