PhotoA couple weeks ago, we mentioned how smartphone industry analysts believe that industry is entering a far more competitive phase of its history, basically because smartphone technology has been around long enough to thoroughly saturate the market: with the exception of children whose parents deem them not yet old enough, pretty much everybody who wants a smartphone has one by now.

Therefore, smartphone companies seeking to expand their profit margins must either “poach” customers from competing businesses, or convince the customers they've already got to shell out additional money.

Which explains Verizon's “theoretically exciting, but actually quite snooze-worthy” announcement that it's made some changes -- "upgrades," it calls them -- to the “Edge” program it rolled out last July. Here's what Verizon's press release said about Edge Upgrade at the time:

“... the new Verizon Edge device payment plan offers an affordable way to upgrade to the newest device and satisfy your love of technology. Verizon Edge is a flexible equipment payment plan that spreads the retail price of a phone over 24 months. You can also upgrade to a new phone after six months if 50 percent of the retail cost has been paid.

“Here's how it works: Choose the phone you want and sign up for a month-to-month service plan, it's as easy as that. The full retail price of the phone will be divided over 24 months and you'll pay the first month at the time of purchase. If you want to upgrade after 6 months, just pay off 50% of the full retail price of the phone and you can choose a new phone and start all over again.”

Money to burn?

Side note: As consumer advocates, we're compelled to point out that paying for a brand-new latest-gen smartphone every six months (or even paying for half of a brand-new latest-gen smartphone every six months) has the same effect on your net worth as does keeping one smartphone and periodically setting fire to large piles of $20 bills (assuming you do so in a manner cognizant of local safety codes).

And unless you're in an extremely good financial position – say, well-paid, debt-free and a year's living expenses in the bank, at minimum – we'd strongly advise smartphone buyers to pick a phone they'll want to keep for a good long length of time, no matter how tempted they are by the latest smartphone upgrades announced each week.

However, if you choose to ignore this, Verizon's updated Edge Upgrade program now offers consumers the ability to give up paying for half of a new-gen smartphone every half-year, in lieu of paying for half of a new-gen smartphone every month. Yes! CNet broke the news on Jan. 19:

“In the latest tit-for-tat in the escalating jockeying between carriers, Verizon has modified its Edge payment and early upgrade plan. Until now, customers had to wait six months to upgrade. Now they can do it after 30 days. …. Verizon said that eligibility will require news customers to pass credit checks. What's more, it said that prepaid accounts are not eligible for Verizon Edge. A spokesman for Verizon said "this is currently a promotion but we have not set an end date.”

PhotoA thoroughly unimpressed tech blogger for Engadget noted that “the tweak was technically a promotion, but it's not actually much of a deal. Although the wait-time has been reduced by a factor of six, the amount due hasn't changed a penny.... While it's always good to have options, maybe it's a better idea to sort out your buyer's remorse during your carrier's return window.”

And if you're the type of person who's genuinely interested in the opportunity to switch smartphones every month, it's a good idea to sort out your finances: write down the numbers, see where your money's going every month and decide whether you can really afford to keep replacing high-end technology more frequently than most people replace their socks.

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