T-Mobile pioneered it with its Un-carrier 1.0 Simple Choice plan back in 2013. Verizon followed suit late last year and AT&T saw the writing on the wall and joined the bandwagon recently. Now, it is the turn of the nation's fourth largest wireless carrier, Sprint, to finally join its three bigger rivals in doing away with multi-year contracts and subsidies for smartphones, as promised back in August, last year. According to what looks like a leaked document sent out by the Sprint management to its sales staff, the carrier seems to have decided to replace 2-year contracts with 'Lease' and 'Easy Pay' as its two main offers for subscribers looking for new smartphones on its network. What all this means, is that the traditional method of buying subsidized flagship smartphones at $199 or $299 is now well and truly a thing of the past for mainstream customers on all four major carriers in the country.
While there's no word on how long it will take for the new plans to actually take effect, the document seems to suggest that it will happen on the very day Sprint decides to make it's decision official. One thing to note, however, is that the new plans at Sprint will only be applicable to smartphone buyers, whereas subsidies (and hence multi-year contractual obligations) will continue to remain in place for tablets at least for the time being. The document also states that only 'select customers' will henceforth be eligible for subsidies on mobile phones, while most new and existing subscribers will have to either buy handsets at full price up front or pay a monthly installment on the same without any obligation. The document, however, mentions that customers will still be able to upgrade or add new lines to their plan(s) via subsidy "on a reactive basis" only.
Sprint's decision to ditch the convoluted contracts comes close on the heels of the two largest carriers in the nation getting rid of the subsidy regime recently, as mentioned earlier. While the contract-free era at Verizon already started late last year, AT&T's new plans will come into effect today (January 8th) onwards. While there's no word on how Sprint will redesign its plans in keeping with consumer preferences, only time will tell if the company will be able to get its act together and stop the loss of market share in recent times that has seen the carrier officially lose its number three rank in the country to T-Mobile, led by its brash, belligerent and pugnacious chief executive, Mr. John Legere.