According to a Washington Post report, the White House has asked the FCC to change the rules on unlocked devices. Currently the way the system works is if you buy a phone from AT+T, Verizon, Sprint, or T-Mobile, the phone is "locked" to their network. Even after you are done with your two year contract (or if you pay for the phone outright at the beginning), you have to ASK AT+T, Verizon, Sprint or T-Mobile to unlock your phone. And if you fail to do so? Up to five years of jail time.
Wait. What?!? I have to ask a fucking company who has absolutely no reason to let me "free" the device that I paid for, or I go to jail? What kind of crazy system is this?!? Why even bother paying for a phone to begin with? If I can't unlock it why even bother "owning" a device since quite frankly at the moment I don't really even "own" it!!!
Which brings me to all these early upgrade plans, AT+T's Next, T-Mobile's Jump, Sprint's upcoming One Up program. Really these are glorified rental programs. You agree to pay monthly for your phone, and at the end of six months to a year, you can "upgrade" your phone to the newest model. This isn't necessarily going to get you out of the problem of switching carriers, as you would still have to pay an early termination fee, but at least you aren't locked to a device.
Over time you end up paying more and you don't own anything at the end of the day, but as long as it is illegal to "unlock" your own devices, and paying out right for an "unlocked" device to begin with is out of your price range, renting your device through these programs may be worth it.