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Sprint extends leasing program to new iPads

Do you want a 16GB iPad Air 2 with a cellular connection? It'll cost you $20 a month for 24 months.

Sprint is putting a few more eggs in the leasing basket.

The iPad Air 2 will be part of Sprint's leasing program. Sarah Tew/CNET

The company said Thursday that it would expand its "iPhone for Life" leasing program to its iPads, giving its customers an affordable way to purchase one of Apple's newest tablets. A 16-gigabyte iPad Air 2, for instance, would cost $20 a month for 24 months.

As with its other leasing program, customers are essentially renting the device for the span of two years. After the 24 months, customers can turn the device back in and lease another iPad, purchase the iPad itself, continue leasing it on a month-to-month basis or turn it back in and cancel the service. The company can then, in turn, resell that used iPad.

The leasing model is Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure's weapon to stand out in the wireless industry -- something the carrier desperately needs to do as it faces customer defections and a reputation for poor network service and coverage. Claure has put Sprint on a torrid pace of promotions and offers for more data, but the company's leasing program sets it apart from rivals.

"Lease is new, and something we invented," he said at an investor conference yesterday.

The program kicked off with its "iPhone for Life" program, which was introduced the same day Apple unveiled the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Since then, Sprint has extended the leasing program to offer an annual trade-in in exchange for a higher rate, and bring the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Galaxy S5 Sport into the fold.

Customers who sign up for the leasing program can join a Sprint Family Share Pack plan, and pay a $10 access fee to connect the tablet to the plan. Through December 2015, Sprint said it would waive the access fee for anyone who adds an iPad to a plan that has 20GB or more data. If they aren't on a shared plan, Sprint offers tablet-specific plans, ranging from 100MB for $10 to 30GB for $110 a month.

While the iPad Air 2 with 16GB costs $20, the 64GB model costs $24 and the 128GB model costs $28. The iPad Mini 3 16GB costs $17 a month, while the 64GB model costs $21 and the 128GB model costs $25.