If you didn't hear about Sprint's recent announcements at CES, it's understandable: The press was busy covering AT&T's secret plan to destroy net neutrality and gloriously potty-mouthed T-Mobile CEO John Legere's promise to pay off early termination fees. But in an ever-so-quiet move, Big Green decided to kill its barely three-month-old One Up trade-in plan and introduce a Friends and Family plan that the company has the gall to actually name "Sprint Framily Plan."
But before we jump into the surreal world of Sprint's branding decisions, let's take a moment to remember One Up.
One Up, now down
One Up was Sprint's trade-in plan designed to compete with T-Mobile Jump, AT&T Next, and Verizon Edge. When we ran through the numbers, One Up was actually a pretty good deal. But all that that has been rendered moot as the company quietly retired the program last week.
Customers who signed up for One Up will still receive a $15 monthly discount on the Unlimited, My Way, or My All-in plan (but not if they switch to the new Framily plan, which we will detail below). The discounts will be suspended once customers upgrade or migrate plans.
One Up customers will be able to trade in their phone as part of their annual upgrade, but will then have to choose a new plan. Former One Up customers should also keep in mind that they will not be able to get a new phone at a subsidized rate until the current Installment Agreement is fulfilled.
Keep it in the Framily
Sprint also used CES to introduce a new program, which they decided to bestow with the worst name in telecommunication history: Sprint Framily Plan. That "r" is not an accident. Framily = Friends + Family.
Yep, they went there.
Unfortunate branding aside, the plan is worth taking note of. The Framily Plan allows customers to invite up to nine members to join, and the more framilymembers (ugh) who join, the better savings.
The plan begins at $55/month for an individual, but drops $5/month per line down to $25/month per line once seven people are on the plan.
A "Sprint Framily" can be made of multiple phone lines within one account or across different accounts. Each "Framily group" will be billed separately. And no, the plan will not be eligible for small business or "corporate liable customers."
The plan offers unlimited talk and text with 1 GB of data for each member. Individual members can buy unlimited data for an additional $20/month, which only they would be charged for.
While not an apples-to-apples comparison, the Framily plan does offer big savings for each individual on Verizon's Share Everything, AT&T's Mobile Share plan, or T-Mobile's Family Plans.
The Framily Plan is not a bad deal for the loose conflagration of individuals in your life. However, the fact that Sprint had such a difficult time getting that message out there may speak to far larger obstacles that the company has to contend with.
And as for One Up's early demise, it was one of many missteps that has led to a dismal year for Sprint. The company got the worst marks in our annual carrier round-up and has been jettisoning customers. According to data from Kantar Worldpanel, between Q3 2012 and Q3 2013, Sprint fell to last place among U.S. carriers for smartphone sales.
This slide into fourth place owes just as much to a strong year for T-Mo as it did to a poor year for Sprint. However, if Big Yellow doesn't find a way to turn things around (or at least stop the bleeding), it may soon find itself occupying the also-ran spot, once reserved for the newly ascendent T-Mobile.