Sprint pledges to halve your AT&T or Verizon bill, with a few catches

Under new CEO Marcelo Claure, Sprint has been trying out unusual new discounts to steal postpaid customers away from the other big carriers. On Tuesday, the company announced a new rate deal that, on its surface, promises to beat AT&T and Verizon plan pricing — but new subscribers need to produce a current Verizon or AT&T bill to get the price.

Here’s how the promotion, which Sprint is calling “Cut Your Bill in Half,” works: If someone who wants to switch to Sprint currently is in an [company]AT&T[/company] or [company]Verizon[/company] contract, first they need to get a copy of their current bill and upload it to Sprint’s website or bring it into a official Sprint store. From there, a Sprint employee will figure out which Sprint plan most closely matches your old plan in terms of minutes, texts, and data allotment. Sprint will then offer the plan it selected for “half the price” of the your existing Verizon or AT&T plan.

In one example provided by Sprint, it says that a family plan costing $260 per month on Verizon can be halved to $130 per month as part of this promotion.

Sprint already had a promotion where it covered ETF fees up to $350 in the form of a prepaid Visa gift card, which can be paired with the current “Cut Your Bill in Half” deal, if applicants meet its separate requirements.

It’s meant to be a simple process, and Sprint doesn’t anticipate turning many people away. Of course, there are still a thicket of fine print requirements: First, participants in this promotion won’t be able to purchase a subsidized smartphone from [company]Sprint[/company]: They’ll have to enroll in Sprint’s leasing program, pay in installments, or purchase the phone outright at full retail price.

Second, you’re required to turn in your current AT&T or Verizon smartphone to Sprint, losing whatever equity you had in those devices. Most people won’t mind, considering it’s unusual to be able to use a Verizon or AT&T branded device on Sprint’s network, but that’s a real cost that consumers should be aware of. If you don’t have a smartphone to turn in — perhaps it got lost — Sprint will charge $200 per line.

The fact that Sprint wants your old device is interesting given Claure’s background in refurbishing, managing, and selling old devices as former CEO of Brightstar. Sprint has already committed to buying back phones that work on its own networks through its leasing programs, but most of the phones that will be traded in through this promotion won’t work on Sprint or the smaller carriers that use Sprint’s network.

Finally, although the Sprint offer is for a “limited time” starting on December 5, people who subscribe will be able to keep their discounted rate into the future — until they want to add more data or minutes. When that happens, “plan changes will be subject to national plan pricing that is available in market at that time.”

Here’s Sprint’s FAQ.

Also, this promotion doesn’t apply to current [company]T-Mobile[/company] subscribers — or Sprint subscribers. It’s clearly a play for new customers only. T-Mobile is already competing on data prices in a way that AT&T and Verizon aren’t, and current Sprint subscribers are simply out of luck.