As if you needed another reason to hate cell phone contracts. For the last few years, Verizon's upgrade cycle has been 20 months long - that is, you bought a new, discounted phone on-contract, and you could upgrade after 20 months. (Not to be confused with the cellular contract itself, which is a full 2 years/24 months.) According to an official statement from Verizon Wireless, customers now have to wait the full 24 months before upgrading.

Here's the relevant text from the announcement:

Upgrade eligibility begins at the end of 24-month contract. The change allows customers to plan on a single upgrade date for each of their connected devices and is in keeping with how the majority of customers purchase their new phones today. The first customers impacted by this change are customers whose contracts expire in January 2014. Customers may purchase a new phone at the full retail price at any time prior to the end of their contract.

In case you can't read past the contractual jargon (and it made my eyes cross for a while) it means that if you bought a new, subsidized phone or tablet and signed a Verizon contract in January 2012 or later, you've just had your upgrade pushed back by a third of a year. New customers who take phone subsidies will be subject to the same rules. If you pay full price, or if you've already passed the term of your original contract, you're eligible for a subsidy at any time.

This new policy stands in stark contrast to T-Mobile's new system, not to mention AT&T, which has kept the 20-month period. (Given how Big Red and Ma Bell tend to copy each other's policies, they might just follow suit after a while.) In any case, Verizon's justification of "allow[ing] customers to plan on a single upgrade date for each of their connected devices" seems somewhat less than genuine.

Verizon Wireless News Center - Verizon Wireless Changes Upgrade Eligibility