Sprint offers existing customers a rented iPhone for $5 per month

Sprint — as well as the other big carriers — have offered several discounts and promotions for the latest iPhone over the past month in order to sign up new customers. Now Sprint is using iPhone 6 discounts to retain existing customers with a $5 per month lease offer extended to customers who already have Sprint contracts.

At first glance, the new Sprint program looks like a solid deal. Basically, existing Sprint customers eligible for an upgrade can sign up for the new $20 per month iPhone lease program, then get a $15 credit back each month while retaining their original — sometimes grandfathered — plan. That works out to $5 per month to lease an iPhone 6, or $10 per month for an iPhone 6 Plus, which means over two years you’ve only paid $120 (or $240) for your phone.

Sprint’s new leasing program says you have to return your device after two years or pay it off. There’s also an option to lease it on a month-to-month basis. If you’re one of those people whose old phones collect dust in a drawer, that’s not that much of a downside, especially since you’re likely to get a new device around then anyway.

However, because existing customers signing up for this new program may have plans which have built-in costs for traditional subsidies — as opposed to the $50 plan [company]Sprint[/company] is pushing for new iPhone subscribers — Sprint subscribers looking for a new iPhone may still be better off with another deal that lets them keep the phone at the end.

The loyalty credit is a limited time offer, but it runs through January 2015, so it will be available for the all-important holiday shopping season.

There have been a lot of competing promotions from the carriers surrounding the new iPhone because when people switch devices they often switch carriers as well. iPhone season — and the holiday shopping rush — is critically important for Sprint and its new CEO Marcelo Claure, which fell behind T-Mobile in smartphone sales earlier this year.

Unfortunately for Sprint, it apparently didn’t do well on iPhone pre-orders, with many more people pre-ordering a T-Mobile iPhone than a Sprint iPhone. That might have been because Sprint’s best promotions weren’t previously available for existing customers — unlike, say, [company]Verizon[/company], which offered existing customers an early upgrade. [company]AT&T[/company] and [company]T-Mobile[/company] also ran attractive promotions of which its existing customers could take advantage.

These sales are a sign that carriers are fighting for customers, and while it may be damaging to Sprint’s margins, it’s great for the customer.