With Direct 2 You upgrades, Sprint will make house calls

The carrier says that it'll dispatch an employee to bring a customer a new phone and set it up for them without ever requiring the customer to go to a store ... or pay a dime for the service.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

Sprint's new logo for Direct 2 You. Sprint

US wireless carrier Sprint has announced a new free program that's designed to keep you at home and comfortable while you upgrade to a new device.

Starting on Monday, Sprint customers will be able to upgrade to a new device, like a handset or tablet, from home, their office, or another place of their choosing through a new program called Direct 2 You. The program is available starting on Monday in the Kansas City metropolitan area, Sprint's hometown, and will expand to Chicago and Miami next week. Sprint will add more metropolitan areas throughout the year. Approximately 5,000 cars will be on the road in major metropolitan areas by the end of the year, according to Sprint.

When Sprint customers are eligible to receive an upgrade to a new device, they'll receive a Direct 2 You offer via text or e-mail that includes a phone number. Upon calling that number and choosing the device they'd like to upgrade to, Sprint customers can decide where they would like a Direct 2 You expert to meet them. That expert will then meet with the customer at their chosen place, set up and activate the new device, transfer all contacts, and personalize it for the customer. Old phones can then be given to the Direct 2 You expert for recycling.

Sprint's new service represents another shot in the fierce battle among the largest carriers in the US as they struggle to hold onto and attract customers for the long haul. Sprint has a smaller user base than leading competitors AT&T and Verizon, and is in an all-out war with T-Mobile for third place in the market. Just last month, T-Mobile said it would buy out the equipment installment or leasing plans for customers willing to jump to its service. Meanwhile, T-Mobile is now going after AT&T Next and Verizon Edge customers, saying it will pay off the balance, covering the device cost instead of the ETF.

Last year, Sprint suffered several setbacks that saw the company lose subscribers to competing companies, but in February, Sprint announced that it was able to add nearly 900,000 customers in the fourth quarter. The additions were inspired in part by the new attitude Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure, who joined the company in August, has brought to the carrier. Claure wants to take the fight to his competitors and has launched several programs that do just that.

Chief among Sprint's programs is the company's " Cut Your Bill In Half" promotion, which promises to significantly slash smartphone bills for customers willing to switch from AT&T or Verizon. The program was bolstered by an ad campaign featuring customers taking a sword, chainsaw or some other sharp instrument to their old AT&T or Verizon bill. The company intends to keep the program going through 2015. Sprint has also offered better discounts and more data to customers.

Sprint's Direct 2 You -- the first of its kind in the US wireless business -- is another shot over its competitors' bows. Currently, customers who want to upgrade to a new device will either need to buy it online and handle their own data transfers or go into a store to have a representative handle the issues there. Sprint's Direct 2 You is an attempt to bring the in-store experience to wherever its customers are.

"Sprint is bringing an in-store experience to the comfort of a customer's own home, office or other location they choose with this innovative service that is unlike anything else in wireless today," a spokeswoman told CNET in a statement. "Sprint developed this service based on customer research and insights that clearly indicated the need for a revolutionary service like this one."