AT&T Next: A guide to its early upgrade plan

22 June 2016

AT&T Next was unveiled in July of 2013, and the early upgrade program has undergone significant changes in the three years since. Customers have been able to pick from 12-month, 18-month, or 24-month early upgrade options - and as of May 2015, a new 12-month option with a 30% down payment.

However, from June 9, 2016 onwards, Next has been reduced to just two options for new customers: the standard AT&T Next (over 30 months), and A&T Next Every Year (over 24 months). 

Because of the number of upgrade terms AT&T offers, it's probably the most confusing option from the major carriers - even with the recent simplified plans. So here's a breakdown of everything you need to know.

AT&T Next at a glance

Monthly fee 5% of the purchase price to upgrade at 12 months, or 3.3% for a 24 month upgrade.
Repayment period AT&T Next Every Year: 24 months (for a 12 month upgrade)
AT&T Next: 30 months (for a 24 month upgrade)
Upgrades AT&T Next Every Year: Every 12 months, or when 50% of the device price is repaid
AT&T Next: Every 24 months, or when 80% of the device cost is repaid 
Subsidy still included in service plan? No: Mobile Share Value Plans offer a $15 or $25 monthly discount for each phone bought under the Next scheme; $15 for plans of 10GB of less, and $25 for plans over 10GB
Device downpayment required? For customers with good credit, no, but you can make an optional payment upfront to reduce monthly costs.
Customers with poorer credit may need to make a 30% down payment. 
Insurance included? No
Available for all plans? Yes
Available from Now

How it works

Under the plan, customers can choose a smartphone with no downpayment or upfront fee (although you're free to make an optional payment in order to reduce your monthly charges). 

Subscribers will then pay off their device in equal monthly installments: if they wish to upgrade after 12 months, it will be a 24-month repayment period. To upgrade after two years, customers will sign up for 30 equal monthly repayments.

For example, the iPhone 6s 16GB is normally $649.99 upfront and off-contract. To buy the iPhone 6s through Next, you’ll pay:

  • $0 to sign up, then either -
  •  24 monthly repayments of $27.09
  • OR 30 monthly repayments of around $21.67 – both options equalling a total of $650 over the life of your Next plan.

You can also choose to make an upfront payment of any amount in order to reduce your monthly repayments, but this is entirely optional if you have good credit.

The 'catch' is that if you upgrade early (i.e. before you've paid off your old phone in full), you need to hand in your old device when you sign up for your new phone. So you can't, for example, get a new phone and then sell your old one on eBay for a profit.

Although you don’t need to move to a new cell service plan to be eligible for the program (unless you are a new AT&T customer), or sign a service contract, you will need to sign an installment agreement for the repayment period. If you cancel your AT&T service before your device is paid off in full, you will be required to pay the outstanding balance.

AT&T Next 12 With Down Payment

Although this option is no longer available to customers, some AT&T users may still have devices on this plan, so it's worth mentioning. 

Customers on Next 12 With Down Payment are required to pay 30% of the device cost upfront, with the remaining balance to be paid back in installments over the next 28 months. More information on Next 12 With Down Payment is available here.

Things to remember

One of the big reasons to consider AT&T Next is the monthly discount on your cell plan's line access fees - at least, it used to be. AT&T has stopped offering two-year contracts with subsidized phones to new customers, but previously buying your phone through Next meant you could grab a $15 or $25 per month discount compared to an on-contract phone (depending on the Mobile Share plan you pick).

Now, all smartphones come with an equal access charge each month - regardless of whether you purchase through Next, bring your own phone, or buy upfront at full price. If you're on a plan of less than 15GB per month of data, you'll pay $25 each month for each smartphone you connect (in addition to the cost of the plan, and any phone payments you're making through Next). If your plan comes with 15GB or more of monthly data, your access charge is $15 per month for each smartphone.

Below is a quick comparison between the costs of buying a Samsung Galaxy S7 through Next with a 24-month upgrade option (on a 2GB Mobile Share Plan) and buying the same device on the same plan, but at full price upfront (spoiler: you're actually paying about the same in total with each option).

Samsung Galaxy S7 32GB

With AT&T Next over 30 months Without AT&T Next
Retail price $694.99 $694.99
Upfront cost $0 $694.99
Mobile Share plan with 2GB data $55 per month $55 per month
Monthly device payment $23.17 -
Cost after 12 months for plan and phone $938.04 $1354.99
Cost for 24 month upgrade $556.08 NA
Total cost of phone, including monthly Mobile Share plan, over 30 months $2345.10 over 30 months $2344.99 over 30 months
(*Prices accurate at the time of publication)

We also need to stress that you can only upgrade your device if it is fully functional and in good physical condition. If your phone is damaged or not working right, you’ll still be required to pay it off in full before you can upgrade - and Next doesn't cover cell phone or tablet insurance in the event of loss, theft or accidents.

Original gift box image via Shutterstock

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About AT&T...
iPhone SE

AT&T in one of the big four cell phone carriers in the United States with a massive customer base and huge network footprint across the U.S. 

  • Where to Buy: Online, in-store, over the phone
  • Bring Your Own Phone: If you have an unlocked GSM phone and your phone supports AT&T's LTE bands, you can bring your own phone to AT&T
  • Locations: AT&T's network and services are available nationally. AT&T's headquarters are in Dallas, Texas
  • Tethering: Customers can use their AT&T plan as a mobile hotspot, though usage is specific to each plan. Unlimited plans on AT&T have a hotspot cap of 10GB per month. 
  • Network: 4G LTE network using band 17 and band 5 (700Mhz, 850Mhz), band 2 and 4 (1900Mhz, 1700/2100Mhz). Many MVNOs (smaller carriers) also use the AT&T network. AT&T also supports HSPA (3G) & (3.5G) HSPA+.
  • Coverage: AT&T consistently ranks #2 in network coverage tests.
  • Prepaid: AT&T's pre-paid brand is call GoPhone -- AT&T also owns Cricket Wireless.
  • Taxes & Fees: AT&T will charge state taxes and fees on top of your monthly cell phone plan cost.

Fact: With over 147 million customers in the US and Mexico, AT&T is one of the largest wireless providers in the world. AT&T also owns Cricket Wireless. Take a look at AT&T's current wireless dealsAT&Ts phone line-up, or our review of AT&T


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