At a time when T-Mobile is trying to redefine the less-than-stellar reputation of wireless carriers, it looks like regional player US Cellular has taken a big step backwards. The company is no longer allowing customers to access the upgrade reward in the Belief Project, which allowed those who had completed an eighteen month contract to buy a new phone at the subsidized price without signing another contract. After July 27th, US Cellular customers will have the same old contractual ball and chain if they buy a new device at the advertised price.

The news comes from Engadget, which confirmed the change with US Cellular after being tipped by an anonymous source. The company's quote is below (emphasis added):

At U.S. Cellular, we are continually evaluating the entire experience we offer to our customers. Beginning later this month, all customers will be required to sign a 2-year contract when purchasing a subsidized device. In addition, a restocking fee of $35 will be introduced as an update to the 15-Day Excellence Guarantee policy and will be charged when a customer returns a device during the 15-day time period. These changes will allow us to invest in improving our customer experience and offering new products and services to our customers.

While the percentage of customers taking advantage of these benefits was probably pretty small, and infinitesimal compared to the greater US market, it's still discouraging to see carriers become less customer-friendly. As of December 2010, US Cellular claimed one million participants in the Belief Project, though it's not known how many of them took advantage of the chance to upgrade without a contract. T-Mobile's "Uncarrier" and JUMP! programs have been trying to lower prices and increase options as of late, and new initiatives from AT&T and Verizon have at least been trying to match it (even if they're a diabolical attempt to keep customers shackled to one service).

It's unclear if the rest of the Belief Project, which included points for faster upgrades, free accessories, and bill payment in a manner similar to airline miles, will be sticking around. The link to the Belief Project on US Cellular's website now redirects to a points program FAQ, but the Rewards Program itself appears to be intact. So if you're a US Cellular customer who's been sitting on an upgrade for a while, you might want to get a new device before next Saturday, and save yourself a possible early termination fee. Of course, there's always the option to pay for a phone outright and avoid the whole mess.

Source: Engadget

Jeremiah Rice
Jeremiah is a US-based blogger who bought a Nexus One the day it came out and never looked back. In his spare time he watches Star Trek, cooks eggs, and completely fails to write novels.
  • ProductFRED

    I can't believe this.

    *badum tsss*


    "Your call is important to us... Please hold the line."
    "These changes will allow us to invest in improving our customer experience and offering new products and services to our customers."

    Daily lies.

  • solbin

    I can see why they do this. My guess is that they are changing this to prevent people from switching to other providers and their new plans. It still is a hit to consumers though. What stops somebody from buying a GS4 after 18 months, cancelling the service, switching to Verizon/AT&T/T-mobile or any of the MVNO's and selling the phone for a profit?

  • Danny Davis

    US Cellular actually has customers?

    • solbin

      US Cellular still one thing going for it: Unlimited data is still available. The downside to this is I heard that roaming coverage went from Verizon to Sprint (someone correct me if I am wrong on this).

      • KevinMCo

        I don't think so. USCC was always clear that the data cap is 5 GB. Looking at their website, it appears they still offer 5 GB alongside lower-priced 2 GB options.

        I can see why they are doing this. I had US Cellular back when they carried the HTC Desire (what a fantastic phone that was). However, when the Galaxy Nexus came out as a Verizon exclusive, and my mother wanted to switch to an iPhone, the Belief Project's "one contract and you're done" feature was too good to pass up. We jumped ship in December of 2011 and we aren't really interested in going back.

        • solbin

          They still do have unlimited. You need to add a phone and a talk and text plan for it to show up. It is 89.99 for 450 minute talk/unlimited text/unlimited data.

          I used to have a HTC Desire as well from USC. What a piece of crap phone. Installing more than a handful of apps meant that your storage is full and won't be able to install anymore unless you start deleting them..

          • Manny

            They actually don't have unlimited data, sources:I used to be an agent for them

          • Marco Mendoza

            yes they do its only 40 dollars a month added on to the monthly minutes and text plan

      • Marco Mendoza

        they do have unlimited data while on their network and it caps at 20gb. but once you roam you only get 200mb

    • cwirth7

      Yes. Happy customer for years.

  • Marco Mendoza

    they changed their policies because they are getting the iphone abd they paid
    apple 4 billion dollars to carry it. so they need to recuperate the money

    • Danny Davis

      They definitely heading in the wrong direction when Cricket has jumped on the payment plan bandwagon.

  • Kimberly Heck

    I am on USCC and their customer service is horrid...No one can help you and then they say it's all your fault. I have phone insurance and they sent me a replacement phone that didn't work, but that was my fault. The signal is awful and I pay $35/mo for the data plan when I can't access the internet most days. Thinking of giving Verizon a try!