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AT&T is set to simplify its quite complex Next installment plans in a bid to provide more clarity over the options available to consumers. Beginning June 9, it’s streamlining all of its installment plans to give you just two options, rather than the several options – 12, 18 or 24 month trade-ins and payments up to 28 months – currently available.

The first option, Next Every year, is designed for those who want the latest and greatest: if you agree to a 2-year payment plan, you can get a new phone every 12 months. For those who don’t need a new phone every year, the regular Next option lets you upgrade every 2 years as long as you’re willing to spread your payments over 30 months. Simplified they may be, but the plans are still somewhat confusing!

As with the current Next offering, you can reduce the monthly cost by making a down payment and/or trading in your current device. For those who prefer to buy phones outright or pay off your existing plan when you want a new phone, these changes won’t affect you as you’ll still have the freedom to upgrade and make payments as you see fit.

The simplified plans could be crucial for AT&T in the face of increased competition from rivals who offer simplified plans. T-Mobile offers a regular 24-month plan or a 12-month Jump on Demand option (with 18 months of payments) that offers the same (or more) flexibility with less commitment to monthly payments. Verizon’s Edge product – now rebranded as  Device Payment Plan – offers the same, allowing you to pay for your phone over monthly installments.

Like O2 in the UK, these simplified plans aim to separate your handset from your airtime contract, offering you the flexibility to upgrade as you see fit without having to pay costly termination charges. What do you think of AT&T’s simplified plans? Let us know your views in the comments below!