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Verizon launches iPhone upgrade program on eve of new iPhone

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Verizon will now sell you an iPhone that can be upgraded after just 12 months as a response to cheap iPhone plans from competitors Sprint and T-Mobile. Up until today, Verizon was the only one of the big four US carriers that did not offer an early upgrade plan, having discontinued its Edge program in August. Instead, Verizon offered a month-to-month financing option that had you pay off the cost of the phone over two years, with no chance to upgrade early. This new plan, exclusive to Apple's new iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, will let Verizon customers who opt for month-to-month financing trade in their old iPhone after 12 months for a new one if they've paid off half the device's full price.

Verizon is being transparent about trying to take its competitors down a notch. "If you’re not interested in upgrading, you still have the option to pay your phone off in 24 low monthly payments," the company said in a statement. "That’s a better option than those 'lease plans' offered by other companies, which can include surprise balloon payments just 18 months into your agreement, or ask you to turn over your phone without getting anything for it."

A telecom war is waging over annual phone upgrades

The leasing plans Verizon is referring to are a current telecom battleground. This week, T-Mobile and Sprint have been racing to the bottom to offer annual iPhone upgrade programs at the cheapest possible price. T-Mobile CEO John Legere announced on Twitter this week that T-Mobile customers will be able to get the new iPhone at as little as $5 a month (albeit one with a paltry 16GB of storage). Sprint responded today with a plan costing only $1 a month for the new iPhone. Both require you to turn over a current iPhone 6, so the audience of extra-thirsty iPhone upgraders is relatively slim compared to the general population who hold onto their phones for a couple of years at least.

AT&T also offers a program more similar to Verizon's called AT&T Next, which lets you trade in your device after enough monthly payments have been made.