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T-Mobile's new Score program promises phone discounts

The wireless carrier adds to its many promotions with a $5-a-month program called "Score," designed to unlock lower smartphone prices.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere has refashioned his company as a cheaper option to the bigger carriers. CNET

T-Mobile is trying to make it easier to buy a high-end smartphone, even without a subsidy.

The wireless carrier on Sunday came out with a new program called "Score" that could let its customers unlock deals on every smartphone the company sells.

Here's how it works: T-Mobile customers can join the new program by paying $5 a month. After six months, users can upgrade to an entry-level smartphone for free. Or wait 12 months, and the carrier will provide discounts for all its smartphones.

The program is a way for T-Mobile to trim the cost of some of the most popular smartphones, like the iPhone 6 or Samsung Galaxy Note 4, following its move to do away with the two-year contract and the subsidies that come with it. A basic iPhone 6 off-contract costs about $650.

"It's yet another breakthrough improvement over the old-school carriers' restrictive service contracts, hidden subsidy costs and slooooow upgrades," T-Mobile's often-outspoken CEO John Legere said in a statement.

T-Mobile has been introducing promotions, discounts and programs at a regular pace, as it's tried to lure back customers after years of falling behind the top two carriers, Verizon and AT&T. So far, the company has succeeded in bringing back users, though at a cost to profits. Still, it's not alone in its efforts. The wireless carrier world has been getting more competitive lately -- benefiting customers along the way -- with Sprint also working to offer cheaper service, and Verizon and AT&T working to provide more attractive plans.

In one of the most recent rounds of these promotion battles, T-Mobile introduced a data rollover program in December, and then AT&T followed suit this month.

Right now, at the six-month mark, a Score user could upgrade to an Alcatel OneTouch Evolve 2 for free. T-Mobile said it usually sells that smartphone for $79. So the savings from using the Score program in this case would be about $49.

In another example provided by T-Mobile, a Score user could upgrade to a Samsung Galaxy S5 at $510 after 12 months, instead of the $610 full price. That equals a savings of $40, when factoring in the monthly cost of Score.