Sprint's 'iPhone for Life' plan to offer annual upgrade

The carrier ups the ante again with its iPhone-leasing program that starts at $30 a month and allows customers to swap in a new device each year. The offer takes effect on November 14.

Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
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Roger Cheng
2 min read

Sprint is not standing still, continuing to tinker with its plans as it seeks to win over new customers.

Sprint is trying to attract more iPhone customers. CNET

The latest: an adjustment to its widely touted "iPhone for Life" plan, now offering customers the ability to sign up for a version of the plan that lets them swap in a new iPhone every year. The original plan called for customers to pay as little as $20 a month to lease a new iPhone 6, which could be turned in for a new model after two years.

The new plan now allows for annual upgrades and starts at $30 a month. It will also make the iPhone 5S available for lease. Both options take effect on November 14. In addition to the cost of the iPhone itself, customers need to sign up for a $50 plan for unlimited talk, text and data.

It's just the latest offer from the suddenly active Sprint, which under new CEO Marcelo Claure has been relentless in rolling out new plans and promotions. The original iPhone for Life plan was intended to let Sprint stand out in a period where it typically suffered higher subscriber losses as customers looking for an iPhone switched to a rival carrier. With the annual upgrade option, Sprint is upping the ante.

Sprint has been particularly aggressive because it continues to bleed subscribers. Its network is widely perceived to lag far behind its competitors in both speed and coverage, due largely to the slow process of upgrading its infrastructure. Sprint touts its Sprint Spark, which combines multiple bands of spectrum for a faster connection, as its answer to the competition, but it is only available in limited markets.

The new option comes just two days after Sprint introduced a low-end family data plan that offers 1 gigabyte of data for $20. Last week, it vowed to double the data on high-end family plans offered by AT&T -- a response to AT&T doubling the amount of data it was willing to offer.

While a customer choosing a base 16GB iPhone 6 model will pay $30 a month under the new program, the fee rises to $40 a month for a 128GB iPhone 6. A top-of-the-line 128 GB iPhone 6 Plus costs $45 a month.

Sprint claims its plan saves customers $444.96 over a comparable T-Mobile plan, $570 over AT&T and $667.44 over Verizon. Unlike the rival plans, Sprint customers under iPhone for Life don't own their iPhones. At the end of the lease period, customers can continue to pay the lease on a month-to-month basis, purchase the smartphone or turn it back in.

In addition, the iPhone 5S 32GB will be available for $21 per month and the iPhone 5S 64GB for $24 per month.