If you were one of the many Sprint customers who took advantage of Sprint’s unadvertised early contract buy-out program, thereby allowing you to get the HTC EVO 4G LTE only a year after upgrading to the EVO 3D, you probably won’t be happy to find out that this option is going away and will be replaced by a much more expensive one.

The new program works similarly to the old one, and will look like this:

  • Dumbphones
    9-11 months into contract: $150 fee to upgrade
    12-14 months: $125 fee
    15-17 months: $100 fee
    18-21 months: $50 fee
  • Smartphones:
    9-11 months: $275 fee
    12-14 months: $225 fee
    15-17 months: $175 fee
    18-21 months: $100 fee

This fee is in addition to the 2-year price of the device. So, for example, under this new program the EVO 4G LTE would cost $424.99 if you upgraded exactly one year after your previous upgrade ($225 smartphone upgrade fee + $199.99 price of the device). Under the current program, this same transaction would cost $324.99 ($125 early upgrade fee + $199.99 price for the device). Additionally, customers will apparently be required to use the buyback program on their current device if they are processing this upgrade at a Sprint retail store.

This new program goes into effect on Monday, June 18 and is being pitched to Sprint employees as providing a “better customer experience.” It’s a bit unclear to me how paying more money or forcing customers to give their phone back to Sprint is better for consumers, but I guess my opinion doesn’t really matter here.

What do you think of these changes? Is this reasonable, given the current economic conditions in which Sprint finds itself while trying to roll out a 4G LTE network, or are all these cutbacks just too much? Let us know what you think!

[Inside Sprint Now]