AT&T's simplified device plans ask: lower payments or faster upgrades?

AT&T has tweaked its installment device payment options, narrowing them down into two plans that ask consumers a question: do you want lower monthly payments or the ability to upgrade your phone more quickly? If you answer the latter, you'll choose the A&T Next Every Year plan starting June 9, whereas everyone else will get the cheaper AT&T Next installment plan. This reduces the previous options from four down to a less confusing two.

AT&T Next is the carrier's installment plan that allows buyers to pay for an expensive phone in small payments every month rather than signing up for the traditional two-year-contract or paying for the phone outright. All the big carriers have their own version of the device installment plan, including Verizon and Sprint.

In this case, AT&T has whittled away at its own device installment options, taking it down to two options with easy-to-understand differences. Those who go with the AT&T Next plan will make device payments for 30 months, being able to upgrade every two years. Those with AT&T Next Every Year will be under a slightly shorter 24-month payment plan, but will be able to update their device every year.

AT&T hawks a couple of ways to get lower monthly payments on each plan — trading in an owned device and having whatever AT&T determines its value as added toward the cost of a new device, or paying some money up front toward the cost of the device.

Those who go with AT&T Next Every Year and upgrade after 12 months will have paid off half the value of their device and will be able to trade it in for a different one, otherwise it will be paid off in full in two years (24 months). Under AT&T Next, users will have paid off 80% of the phone's value at minimum when upgrade eligibility becomes available, and paid it off in full on the 30th month.