How to score an early phone upgrade from Verizon

Summary:Did a new phone just come out that you'd like to get your hands on, but it's not quite time for you to upgrade? Here's how to make the most of your chances to score an early upgrade from Verizon.

At the time of this writing, in just 2 short days, I will have a Droid DNA in-hand -- a much-welcomed change from my HTC Thunderbolt, which I also purchased the moment it hit the market nearly 2 years ago. This is only happening because I called Verizon and inquired about an early upgrade, despite having an inconsequential 2 months left before technically being able to upgrade. Up front, here are the details of some of what you can expect to transpire in attempts to upgrade early:

  • Speaking to a representative to explain to them what the problem is with your current phone, and why you want to upgrade early.
  • How long you have left before you're technically able to upgrade.
  • Required approval of a manager/superior, if the representative you're speaking to decides to go to bat for you.
  • An early upgrade fee. (Mine was $30.)
  • Immediate payment required for the desired phone of choice.
  • Acceptance of additional terms (extended contract, etc.) via phone.

For my particular experience, I kicked things off by calling 611 (the same as dialing 1-800-922-0204) from my cell phone, which is the number for Verizon support. I then beep-booped my way through the numerical menus until being transferred to customer support. Luckily, the first person I got a hold of was a pleasant-sounding young woman who I immediately felt like I could reason with. I told her the issues I've been having with my HTC Thunderbolt over the course of the past 4-5 months (real, actual issues, mind you; but what you say about your phone is up to you -- and any/all the negative stuff others across the Internet are saying about your phone ;) ), as well as how much I legitimately use my phone as a personal and work device.

I then expressed my interest in the Droid DNA and asked her if there was any possibility of upgrading early, whether that meant maybe paying an upgrade fee or simply being able to upgrade an inconsequential 2 months early. We then chatted more about the Thunderbolt and she confirmed with me that others have been experiencing similar issues as those I have recently with the phone (like I implied earlier: even if you're not having issues with your particular type of phone, I'm sure there are plenty of others you can learn from who are...).

After she decided she would try to help me out, it was just a matter of her getting managerial approval. Once that was out of the way, I ended up with a new Droid DNA for the promotional price ($199) + stipulations of said promotion (a new 2-year contract). But as I noted in the bullet points above, this endeavor cost me $30 -- something that was totally worth it to get a Droid DNA in my hand in place of this "Thundergarbage" that HTC and Verizon have left to die a sluggish Android 2.x death.

Now, that's the call that resulted in success. Prior to it, I found out first-hand what not to do in attempts to get an early upgrade.

Right now, I can tell you NOT to waste your time with visiting or calling a local Verizon store. I'm sure it's possible that you could get an early upgrade that way, but local Verizon stores are notorious for turning people away from early upgrades.

I had to learn the hard way that calling local Verizon stores is, indeed, an empty prospect. I tried inquiring about an early upgrade with 3 different people (Three's a charm, right? Wrong!), but each time, I was starkly reminded of how arduous a journey this would be if I hoped to succeed. One of the employees I spoke with told me that he, himself, had turned people away literally the day before they were able to upgrade. Likewise, another employee told me that I would just have to "grin and bear it" for the two remaining months of my "new every two" dealy-o.

I couldn't believe I was being told to "grin and bear it," but I suppose to think a company like Verizon should reward a ~10-year loyal customer by allowing them to fork over $199 and re-sign a 2-year contract, 2 months earlier than scheduled, would be mighty unreasonable. Lucky for me, it turned out not to be so unreasonable, after all -- but only in dealing with VZW HQ.

Let's face it: in 2012 (and soon to be 2013), having to wait 2 years before you can have a new phone at non-ridiculous pricing is an increasingly unreasonable expectation. Not even a full 2 years ago, I bought a then-top-of-the-line HTC Thunderbolt, and it was magnificent. But now, even Words with Friends lags on it. WORDS WITH FRIENDS! This once-stellar phone isn't just showing its age; it's crawling into its deathbed. The better option would be to allow customers to upgrade their phones every year, right? I think so.

With that said, here are a few more points worth mentioning in addition to those above:

  • Be realistic with your expectations. You may well end up with an upgrade if you have 9 months left, but don't be surprised if you get laughed at by a few representatives first -- and that's even if you end up with anything more than laughs at all.
  • Be courteous to whoever you're talking to, even if they're not the most friendly person. You're dealing with policies Verizon instills in their employees; not someone's personal attitude towards you (not initially, at least).
  • Try talking to multiple representatives if you get shot down or find yourself dealing with unyielding reps.
  • Representatives can add notes in their system about you for others to read, so, again; don't be a butt!
  • I'm not a Verizon employee, nor have I ever been, so use your head and exercise caution; you don't want to potentially screw up any future chances you might have to upgrade early by being too gung-ho this time around.

Lastly, if you'd like to read more experiences and advice from people who have tried to upgrade early, there are plenty out there -- like here and here. Good luck with your early upgrading endeavors!

Do you have any experience with upgrading early? Are/were you a Verizon employee, or do you know one who could shed additional advice/tips? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

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Topics: Verizon, Android, HTC

About

Stephen is a freelance writer and blogger based in Charlotte, NC. His contributions to ZDNet cover topics related to security, gaming, Microsoft, Apple, and other topics of interest with a tech/SMB skew.

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