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Phones

AT&T simplifies its phone financing plans

The carrier is cutting the number of installment plans it offers from four to two.

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AT&T is trying to take the confusion out of its smartphone installment plans.

AT&T

AT&T subscribers who pay off their phone on a monthly basis will soon have just two plans to decide between.

Dubbed AT&T Next Every Year and AT&T Next, the plans are an attempt to simplify the carrier's lineup of Next installment plans, which currently include four options and may have confused some consumers.

With AT&T Next Every Year, you have 24 months to pay off the phone. You're eligible to upgrade to a new phone after you've made 12 monthly payments or paid off half of the retail cost of the phone. As part of the plan, you also have to trade in an eligible device.

With AT&T Next, you have 30 months to pay off the cost of a phone. You can upgrade to a new phone after you've made 24 monthly payments or paid off 80 percent of the phone. With AT&T Next, you also have to trade in an eligible device.

Well-qualified customers, meaning those with good credit, can make a down payment at the time of purchase to slash the financed amount, thus reducing their monthly payments.

All four major US carriers have dumped subsidized plans in favor of monthly installment plans that require you to pay the full retail price of the phone. The key benefit is that you can upgrade to a new phone on a more frequent basis. But with so many options available, AT&T's aim is to combat the competition by offering fewer and more streamlined plans.

The difference between the current Next plans and the new plans is that you have the ability to pony up an optional down payment upfront to lower your monthly installment payments. You can also choose how much you want to put down. And you'll have the option to upgrade after a certain percentage of the device is paid off rather than having to wait a specific number of months.

AT&T offered a couple of examples to explain how the new plans work.

Let's say you buy a phone that costs $750. With AT&T Next, you could put zero down and pay $25 a month or $225 down and pay $17.50 a month. With AT&T Next Every Year, you could put zero down and pay $31.25 a month or $225 down and $21.88 a month.

The two new plans will go into effect June 9, replacing the current lineup of Next installment plans. Existing Next customers can remain on their current plans.