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T-Mobile will soon require half your phone to be paid off before upgrading with Jump

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T-Mobile store (STOCK)
T-Mobile store (STOCK)

T-Mobile is modifying its Jump early upgrade plan later this month, and all of the changes aren't for the better. Come February 23rd, Jump customers will no longer be limited to two upgrades per year. Instead, you'll be able to upgrade whenever you want and as often as you want. But there's a catch: with the modified plan, you'll have to pay off at least half of the total cost of a phone before you can upgrade.

For example, on the old Jump plan, if you bought an iPhone 5S, you'd pay zero down and then $27 per month towards the full cost of the phone ($648). After six months, you could then upgrade to a new phone simply by trading in the iPhone 5S and paying the down payment (often zero). In the case of an upgrade after just six months, you would have paid just $162, or 25 percent, towards the full cost of the iPhone 5S. With the upcoming change to Jump, however, you'll be responsible for paying at least 50 percent of the total cost of the phone before upgrading. In this case, you'd have to pay an additional $162 when you trade in your iPhone to get a new device.

It will now cost more to upgrade twice per year, but who needs to upgrade that often?

The new terms are very similar to Verizon's competing Edge early-upgrade program, which also requires customers to pay off at least half of the phone cost before upgrading. While the change does make Jump a worse deal for those who want to upgrade very often, the truth of the matter is that there's very little reason to get a new phone every six months. Top-tier phones like the iPhone and Galaxy line only come out once per year. And after a year of paying off installment payments, half of the total cost will be paid off and you'll be able to upgrade with no additional fee. It's also worth noting that however much of the phone cost you pay using installment payments, you're responsible for the full taxes whenever you upgrade, making two or more phones per year a very expensive proposition.

In addition to the change to the plan terms, T-Mobile will start letting customers buy tablets on Jump.

A T-Mobile representative tells The Verge that the changes announced today are about giving its customers more choice, but it seems likely that the carrier instead moved to stop a select few enthusiasts from getting a new phone every six months on the cheap — a setup that likely cost the company. Nevertheless, customers who have signed up for Jump before February 23rd will be grandfathered into the plan and won't be forced to change.

Jump, announced last year, was the first early upgrade plan offered by any of the major US carriers. Customers who choose to use Jump pay $10 per month to get the plan and the device insurance included with it, and then pay a certain amount per month to pay off the total cost of a new phone. In order to upgrade, customers have to trade in their phone.