Sprint dares to break with the two-year upgrade pack

One smartphone carrier is going to give a few customers a deep discount on their second thoughts and early upgrades.

It’s more than “sticker shock” when a smartphone owner drops, busts, or loses their phone and needs to get a new one. It’s more like “sticker buckshot wound from behind.” Paying upwards of $500 to replace your handy device, or to get a great new model before your two-year contract is up, is realizing just how much money your carrier makes off that contract, given that they’re sucking up $300 of up-front cost.

But at least one carrier is willing to step outside the two-year mindset and give phone droppers and eager upgraders something sweeter than a kick in the wallet. SprintFeed, a blog that focuses on (you guessed it) Sprint-centered news and rumors, shares a purported Spring memo revealing an “Upgrade Now” program, running from February through April (which I found via CNET). “Targeted customers” would get a pro-rated upgrade cost to trade in their old phones and hop up to newer 4G models. The cheapest you could get is Sprint’s standard upgrade fee, $36, at the 22-month mark. At just nine months, though, customers outside their warranty/exchange window, but still far from typical upgrade time, could pay $165 to upgrade their phone.

That $165 fee is, again, only for “targeted customers” of Sprint’s, who are signing up for another two years on top of the nine months they finished from their previous contract. But that’s a heck of a lot less than the $529.99 you’d pay for a Samsung Galaxy S II Epic Touch 4G.

Unlocked phones can be the best phone nobody knows about, if that’s the phone the customer wants. But in a field with lots of marketing hype, where a device takes a while to grow accustomed to, a chance to pay a slight penalty to hit the rest button seems like a no-brainer. Here’s hoping this idea catches on beyond certain targets in a two-month window.

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