T-Mobile vs. AT&T

T-Mobile CEO John Legere introduces "Jump," the company's new device upgrade program. Now T-Mobile is giving AT&T an earful for its similar "Next" plan. (John Minchillo / AP Images for T-Mobile / July 10, 2013)

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In a move rarely seen in the tech industry, T-Mobile is criticizing rival AT&T for coming up with a new phone upgrade plan that is similar to what it introduced earlier this month.

AT&T on Tuesday introduced "AT&T Next," a plan that lets customers upgrade their smartphones once every 12 months. Users get their phones with no down payments or fees, and pay for them on a monthly basis (payments range from $15 to $50 depending on the device).

The new plan drew comparisons to T-Mobile's "Jump" plan, which lets customers upgrade their devices twice per year. That plan works by having customers make a down payment for their phone (normally $100), pay their device's monthly payment (normally $20 or $25) and pay an extra $10 per month for the upgrade plan.

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"What AT&T announced isn’t a strategy; it’s a reaction to our Un-carrier moves," T-Mobile said in a statement. 

T-Mobile went on to criticize AT&T's plans and said its own plan was superior (a claim AT&T, of course, refutes), but the move is notable simply because in the monkey-see, monkey-do world of tech, rivals rarely call each other out when one imitates someone else's new feature.

Facebook, for example, is one of the biggest culprits. Earlier this summer, it added video recording to Instagram after Twitter's Vine gained popularity. Facebook created the Poke app after Snapchat gained a massive following a few years ago. And it added the ability for users to "check in" at a location, similar to Foursquare's location-based app. 

Apple has also drawn from features that others have introduced. A year ago, it touted its 4-inch screen for the iPhone when such screens had been out for years. And earlier this summer, it added a new feature to iOS called Control Center that many others including rival Samsung have had on their phones for years.

Imitating rivals has long been the norm in the fast-changing, highly-competitive technology industry, and being first hasn't always been an advantage. More wireless carriers are likely to come out with phone upgrade plans to counter T-Mobile's pioneering move. 

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