For people who have champagne tastes on a beer budget, AT&T’s Next Plan offers a way to get the latest smartphones for $0 down. Here’s the deal. You pay $0 and walk away with a new phone. There’s no annual service contract, and you also don’t have to deal with the hassle of typical activation, upgrade, or finance fees that other plans have. There are a few different Next Plan tiers, and they are a bit confusing. The AT&T Next 24 plan has the smallest monthly payment, but you have to pay over a 30 month period. There’s also the AT&T Next 18 Plan, where you need to make payments spread over 24 months (but you pay a higher bill each month than on the Next 24 Plan). Finally, there’s the AT&T Next 12, which sees you paying the highest monthly bill over a relatively short period of 20 months. If you want a new smartphone before your plan ends, you can pay to upgrade early.
While the AT&T Next plans are great for people who have very little money upfront, the costs over time can be rather high. In some cases, another phone plan would be the better value. That being said, CNET argues that the Next Plan is a good choice for people who tend to hang on to their smartphones for a long time before upgrading, or for those who are on either the lower end or the higher end when it comes to monthly data usage. Consumerist has a great breakdown of the year-over-year costs on this plan, which even factors in savings when you upgrade early.
If you’re looking for a new smartphone for $0 down, here are five of the very best phones you can get on the AT&T Next Plan. Our list includes Android phones, Windows phones, and even one deal where you get a free Fitbit with your new phone.
1. Motorola Google Nexus 6 (32GB Model)
TechRadar gave this phone 4.5/5 stars, while the Verge gave it an 8.6/10. It’s a solid phone that offers a 6-inch display, a 3220mAh battery, and a camera with a 13MP sensor, Optical Image Stabilization and HDR+.
If you are looking for an Android phone that will age gracefully, this should fit the bill nicely. One nice feature with this phone is that, when you use the Motorola Turbo Charger, you can get about six hours of battery life after just 15 minutes of charging. Don’t forget to grab a Nexus 6 case to protect your new phone. A case will help prevent damage, ensuring that you can trade in your phone without hassle many months down the line.
Bottom line: If you want a new phablet that runs Android 5.0 (Lollipop), has great battery life, and also offers a large display, this is a great choice.
Price: $0 down, AT&T Next plans start at $22.77/month
- Comes with Android 5.0 Lollipop installed
- Quad HD display
- Ideal for people who use a lot of Google apps and services
- 3 GB of RAM
- Fast charging feature requires Motorola Turbo Charger, sold separately
- Non-removable battery
- Larger form factor
- Some find native camera app a bit limited in terms of features
2. Samsung Galaxy Note 4
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 boasts a 2.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor, up from the 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 used in the Note 3. The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has some nice battery features. There is a “fast charging mode,” which lets you from from zero percent battery life to 50 percent battery life in about 30 minutes. The battery has been scaled up from the Note 3, from 3,200mAh to 3,220mAh in the Note 4. One cool feature is the ability to use your Note 4 with a Samsung Gear VR headset. If you want to experiment with VR technology, this is pretty much the only phone currently available through AT&T Next that will let you do that.
If you like Samsung’s phones, but want something cheaper or something with a few less bells and whistles, try the Samsung Galaxy Alpha, which is also available on the Next Plan.
Price: $0 down, AT&T Next plans start at $27.54/month
- 5.7-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED display
- S-Pen adds additional functionality
- Multi window lets you use two apps at once on the same screen
- Works with Gear VR
- Stylus does not appeal to all people
- Multi Window does not support all applications
- Adaptive fast charging requires an AFC compatible charger to work
- Some may prefer smaller form factor
3. LG G3
If you want a premium smartphone experience without a steep price tag, the comparatively inexpensive LG G3 is an excellent option. While some of the design features are a little unusual (specifically, the rear key for controlling some features), overall this phone is very user-friendly.
One area where this phone excels is photography. The rear camera has a 13 MP OIS+ sensor. Laser Auto Focus lets you quickly take a great photo, but you can also use the Magic Focus feature to adjust the focal point from one object to another after a photo has been captured. If you need a new case to go with the phone, check out our post on the best LG G3 cases.
Price: $0 down, AT&T Next plans start at $15.97/month
- Quad HD display
- Screen illuminates to help you take better selfies, even in low-light conditions
- Unlock device with Knock, which has 86,358 possible code combinations
- Content lock lets you protect your sensitive data
- Removable 3,000mAh battery
- May be too small for people who want a phablet experience
- Smaller battery than some other Android smartphones
- Lightweight design may make the phone feel less premium to some people
- Rear key can take some getting used to
4. Nokia Lumia 830 (16GB), Bundled with Fitbit Flex Activity Tracker
$0 down is already a pretty good deal, but an AT&T Next plan looks even better when you get a free Fitbit added into the mix. If you want a Windows phone, the Nokia Lumia 830 is one of the best options out there.
This phone is slim, sleek, and has the cool factor of integrated PMA wireless charging. Instead of dealing with the hassle of cables, you can just place your phone on a wireless charging pad (like this one from Duracell). If you have been eyeing a Fitbit for a while, this deal gets you a new phone and a new fitness tracker at the same time, which is pretty awesome. One minor caveat: some Windows phone users are disappointed with the app selection on their devices, compared to the selection you’d find on iOS or Android.
Price: $0 down, AT&T Next plans start at $13.34/month
- Comes with a free Fitbit
- Plays nice with all your other Microsoft products
- Comes with Cortana
- Personalize the start screen
- 16GB may be a bit small for some people
- App selection is smaller than what you get with iOS or Android
- Camera sensor a mere 10MP
- Smallish 2200mAh battery
5. HTC One M8
One of the best-reviewed smartphones of 2014, the HTC One (M8) was the follow-up to the HTC One. There’s a new version of this phone, the HTC One M9, which will hit stores on April 12. However, early reviews from the Verge suggest that the M9 isn’t a big enough step up from the M8. That’s good news for budget-conscious consumers. You can buy an M8 and not feel like you’re missing out on the very latest phone.
Plus, since this phone is a little older, it will cost you less per month than some other options on this list. The price may even decrease a bit more once the M9 is in stores next month. If you need a phone that is beautiful, functional, and thoughtfully designed, this is it. The only major gripe HTC One M8 owners seem to have is with the camera, but those issues aren’t terrible when you consider how well-reviewed the phone has been in every other regard.
Price: $0 down, AT&T Next plans start at $22.34/month
- Critically acclaimed
- Extreme power saving mode makes your battery last longer
- BoomSound speakers
- Works with the Dot View case
- Some reviews have panned the camera
- 2600 mAh battery may not be ideal for some
- Battery is non-removable
- Warranty is limited