The UK’s EE is the latest operator to launch a plan that lets users upgrade to a new handset mid-contract, an approach that has already proved popular with US peers.
The operator’s announcement comes on the same day that Apple is expected to announce a new iPhone, just the kind of device that subscribers will want to acquire in an upgrade.
Pay-monthly subscribers on EE’s new package, which is called Swap, can upgrade to a new smartphone such as the iPhone when they are a minimum of six months into an 18 month or 24 month contract.
However, subscribers must start a new 24-month contract in return for their handset, as well as return their old device and pay a one-off fee that varies from £49 to £249.
The move by the UK’s largest operator follows that of local rival O2, which launched its Refresh plan earlier this year.
The idea behind EE’s new package is also similar to the Jump tariff pioneered by T-Mobile US, although the two packages work differently on the details.
Jump enables customers to upgrade to a new device twice every 12 months at an additional cost of $10 each month, as long as they have been part of the programme for six months.
Unlike EE, the US package does not require the user to accept a 24-month contract but instead is done on the basis of a one-month rolling arrangement.
US rival Verizon Wireless announced a similar plan called Edge this summer, while AT&T unveiled Next, another rival package.
Combined with EE’s leadership in the LTE market, the new package looks like another initiative to drive subscriber numbers ahead of a possible IPO next year.
Under the Swap scheme, the returned device must be in “good working order, with no significant dents, scratches or cracks on the screen”. It is open to 4GEE, Orange and T-Mobile subscribers.
The one-off fee (£49-£249) is related to the 24-month plan subscribers select. The more expensive the plan, the lower the upfront cost, and vice versa.