The setup of early termination fees is similar for Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile. If you've had your contract for longer than the company's initial return policy (usually 14 or 30 days), you'll probably be charged between $50 and $350 for terminating it early. Contracts for so-called advanced devices (think smartphones, tablets, and netbooks) cost more to terminate than contracts for standard devices.
Verizon's early termination fee is $175 for standard devices and $350 for advanced devices like smartphones. Like AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint, Verizon gives you a discount based on how many months of the contract you've fulfilled. For each month you've fulfilled in your cell contract, the ETF you'd pay to cancel goes down by $10 for an advanced device, or $5 for a standard device.
The cost of ending an AT&T contract early is almost identical to Verizon's: $325 if you're using an advanced device, $150 for all other devices. AT&T also gives you a break for every month of the contract you completed before terminating. Cancelling the contract for an advanced device will set you back $325 minus $10 for each full month of the contract you completed; non-advanced devices get a $4 discount for each full contract month before the cancellation.
T-Mobile doesn't distinguish between advanced devices and standard devices when calculating early termination fees; the only factor is how much time is left on your contract when you cancel. Early cancellation fees range from $50 if you have one to three months left on your contract to $200 if you're under still contract for six months or more. If you cancel your contract during the last month, you'll pay either $50 or your monthly recurring charges, whichever is less.
Like the other carriers, Sprint gives you a bit of a break on early termination fees based on how many months of your contract you've fulfilled. You can calculate what your ETF would be by taking the number of months that remain in your contract and multiplying by $20 for an advanced device, and $10 for a standard device — with a maximum ETF of $350 for advanced devices and $200 for standard devices, and a minimum ETF of $100 and $50, respectively. Here's a quick example: If you cancel a contract on an advanced device and there are 22 months still left on your contract, it'll cost you $350, because 22 x $20 is higher than the maximum $350. If you cancel with 10 months left in your contract, you'll pay 10 x $20 or $200. But cancel the same device when you've just got one month left, and the termination fee drops to $100 — the minimum ETF for a smartphone device. Sprint has published a handy chart so you can see what your ETF will be at a glance.