Apple adds AT&T Next as online payment option for iPhone buyers

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Apple on Thursday quietly added a new payment option to its online storefront, giving AT&T subscribers who are in the market for a new iPhone the ability to make their purchase using installments through the carrier's AT&T Next program.

The initiative will allow consumers to spread the unsubsidized cost of the iPhone out over either 12 or 18 months, without the necessity of signing a fixed service contract. They are then eligible to upgrade to a new device at the end of the term.

Consumers can cancel their subscription at any time, but they will be on the hook for the balance of the handset's cost.

Though there is no required down payment, Apple says they will collect sales tax at the time of purchase. Those living in states that do not levy a sales tax could find themselves going through the purchase process without paying anything.

AT&T announced Next last July, on the heels of T-Mobile's introduction of the similar Jump program.

"With AT&T Next, customers can get the newest smartphone or tablet every year with no down payment," AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega said at the time. "That's hard to beat, and it's an incredible value for customers who want the latest and greatest every year."