Sprint stealth upgrade by adding/dropping lines
November 12, 2011 10:03 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone ever added a line to their Sprint account to be able to upgrade their phone early? If so, how did it go? Any catches?

Last Christmas I got my wife a Blackberry Style, which was the phone she wanted, and reluctantly signed up for a 2-year contract with Sprint because they were the carrier who had that phone. Unfortunately the Style turns out to be a crappy phone which crashes all the time, loses texts, does not multitask reliably, and has horrible battery life if she so much as installs a game on it. This phone is not defective, except in the sense that it was programmed by a bunch of idiots; replacing the phone would not solve these problems. Naturally, she hates this phone and has wanted to replace it for months.

(Later I got an Evo 4G, so we now have a 2-line Sprint family plan.)

What she really wants now is an iPhone 4S. Unfortunately, we are many months away from being eligible to get that phone as an upgrade, and despite repeated entreaties to Sprint reps over them selling us a phone that is essentially broken and unfixable, we cannot get them to cut us a break.

Now, the early termination fee for her Blackberry is $160 (confirmed just a couple days ago with a Sprint rep). So, in theory, we could add the iPhone as another line on our plan at the subsidized price, swap the phone numbers between the Blackberry and iPhone, and then a couple days later pay the $160 to drop the Blackberry. Even counting the activation fee on the extra line, this would be $250 less expensive than buying the iPhone outright. (Even when we're eligible for an upgrade, it would only be worth $150, so this seems a better deal even than that.)

This seems too simple, and a huge loophole, so I'm thinking there must be some reason it won't work. Anyone done something like this on Sprint, and if so, how did it go?
posted by kindall to Technology (6 answers total)
Can you not activate the phone online? Verizon is CDMA just like Sprint, and they have something that allows you to do that with a phone that has a clean ESN. I don't have Sprint service, but maybe somebody can chime in on this?
posted by oceanjesse at 10:50 PM on November 12, 2011

OK... so I activate it online, assuming I can do so. What does that get me and how does it impact what I'm asking about?
posted by kindall at 11:28 PM on November 12, 2011

You're paying an ETF on your Blackberry, and you're committing to a new extended contract in exchange for a subsidized iPhone. Where's the loophole?
posted by thejoshu at 5:46 AM on November 13, 2011

Usually the ETF is not connected to the physical phone, but connected to the phone line (and number). If you cancel the line with the Blackberry, there goes her phone number, and she'll get whatever new one the iPhone got. If that's OK, then by all means forge ahead. If not, you'll have to cancel the line that got started when you bought the iPhone, which is a full ETF, not for the $160.
posted by deezil at 8:05 AM on November 13, 2011

I just tried (and failed) to do this on Sprint with an iPhone 4S. Basically, I was thwarted by what deezil just said: the contract is connected to the line, not the phone. When I did the number swap, all of a sudden I had a new phone number on a crappy old phone and a contract end date two years in the future. Fortunately I was able to swap everything back and return the iPhone without penalty

You might be able to do the following, though: port the number out for the line you want to drop to a crappy phone on prepaid carrier, then after a while port the number in as a new line. I wasn't brave enough to attempt this, though.

Even when we're eligible for an upgrade, it would only be worth $150, so this seems a better deal even than that.

When you're eligible for an upgrade on Sprint, the savings is at least $150. The savings include any instant savings and/or rebates associated with the phone just like with new lines. So when you're eligible, you'd be able to get an iPhone 4S for $199.
posted by zsazsa at 1:45 PM on November 13, 2011

Aha, so the pitfall is she has to change her phone number. That seems to be fine with her, so I believe we will be proceeding shortly.
posted by kindall at 10:05 PM on November 13, 2011

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