Sprint’s latest promotion, which begins tomorrow, offers current Verizon and AT&T customers a deal worth 50% off their current monthly phone bill. It seems straight forward enough, right? I wanted to take a closer look, and I’ll warn your now: this post is a long one, so hear me out.
Here’s how it works:
- Bring in your latest Verizon or AT&T bill to a Sprint Store or upload it to sprint.com/halfprice. Bring all the phones and devices currently on your account. You’ll be trading them in.
- In exchange for trading in your current devices, Sprint will pay “up to $350″ towards the termination fee or the device installment payments you currently have left with Verizon or AT&T. That bonus comes by way of a Visa gift card after you’ve gotten your final bill from Big Red or Ma Bell. Not turning in your current phone will cost you $200 bucks on your new Sprint bill.
- As for new devices — you can choose any device Sprint currently offers (but can’t bring your own) and pay for it up front, at full retail price, or go with Sprint’s “Easy Pay” installment plan, which tacks on $15 – $40 per device you buy, each month.
- You can keep your current number(s), and the process of porting them over from Verizon or AT&T is actually what cancels your current service with that carrier. Do NOT cancel your service with Verizon or AT&T before you switch to Sprint, or your number won’t be retrievable.
Sprint provides a few compelling examples of the savings this promotion provides.
A Verizon customer with four smartphones sharing 15 GB of data on the More Everything plan (which includes unlimited calling and texting) will pay $260 each month. With the promotion, that same customer could get the same rate plan and features for $130 each month.
Here’s Where it Gets Interesting
What’s NOT included in that figure is actually what may cost you the most: the unspoken costs and fees.
If, for example, that Verizon customer got four new Galaxy S5-es from Sprint, that $130 bill becomes $239 each month with $27 per month, per device tacked on top.
Want insurance on your devices? Add on another $36 bucks ($9 per line x 4 lines). Now that “$130 bill” is $275 a month, and then you have to add on taxes.
It’s safe to say you’ll spend $300 a month — $170 more than the face value of what you’re told in the store. Since we’re trying to compare apples to apples here, that final number is the number you should compare against your current Verizon or AT&T monthly bill.
Should You Switch to Sprint?
The answer to the question – Should you switch to Sprint? – lies in the answers to two other questions:
a.) Do you fully own the devices you already use or are you paying for them each month?
If you already have late-model devices — say, anything made within the last 12 months — and they’re paid for, whether by signing a contract and paying the subsidized price or by paying the full retail price – you will lose the value you’ve already paid for those by switching.
If you have late-model devices that aren’t fully paid for (Verizon EDGE and AT&T Next customers), switching to Sprint may or may not cost you anything extra. Say, two months ago, you purchased a new Galaxy Note 4 on Verizon, and you’re paying it off with the EIP or Edge program, you may still owe more on it than the $350 Visa gift card Sprint will give you for switching. In that case, you’ll be stuck with the difference out of pocket to pay off the phone.
If your devices are older and you’re ready to upgrade anyway, the switch is a no brainer (as long as you can answer positively to the second question below). This is especially true if you’re already out of contract and free to leave Verizon or AT&T.
b.) How important is coverage, speed, and reliability to your usage?
If you travel outside major metropolitan areas often, Sprint has hit or miss coverage out in the sticks. Often, even when they do, it’s their legacy 3G network, which is abysmally slow. We’re talking about dial-up speeds. It’s painful. Check Sprint’s nationwide coverage maps, here: Sprint Coverage Checker.
If you live in some fairly well-populated small towns or large cities and don’t travel much, Sprint’s 4G LTE network will likely satisfy all your needs. They currently have LTE in 540 cities across the country, and that number is continually growing.
Fact: Sprint’s 4G LTE download and upload speeds are the slowest in America. Real-world speeds, as tested and reported by CNET, average 3.36 Mbps on the download side, and 3.02 Mbps on the upload side. Compare that to Verizon’s LTE network, where I consistently see download speeds of 58 Mbps, far eclipsing even my home broadband from Comcast. AT&T was found to provide average LTE download speeds of 40.5 Mbps and upload speeds of 19.36 Mbps. Depending on how and how much you use your devices, this may make a difference in your decision to switch to Sprint or to remain with Verizon or AT&T.
Read the Fine Print About Data Throttling
Sprint can throttle your data at any time, for any reason, if you switch.
Many of us rely on our smartphones for everything BUT the part that makes and receives calls. In other words, we rely on data. If you take advantage of this promotion and make the switch to Sprint, you should know that YOUR data usage will be prioritized LAST on the totem pole of Sprint customers. In other words, everyone who pays full price comes first.
Read the fine print at the bottom of the offer:
“Other plans may receive prioritized bandwidth availability. To improve data experience for the majority of users, throughput may be limited, varied, or reduced on the network.”
The concerning part of this isn’t that Sprint reserves the right to throttle heavy usage data hogs. It’s that they’re specifically reserving the right to throttle everyone who takes advantage of this offer. Now, not only are you using what Consumer Reports rates as America’s slowest 4G LTE network, but if the other people in your area are full price-paying customers, your data will be even slower, still.
While Sprint’s offer to cut your bill in half sounds appealing, there’s a lot to consider before you take the bait. If you’re still reading at this point, you should have all the information (or at least links to all the information) you need to help in that decision.
I don’t have any agenda here — I couldn’t care less which carrier you use — but I do have an interest in making sure you have all the facts before you jump on the latest marketing ploy for your money.
This post originally appeared on ZAGG.com.