No contract means no worries for many cell phone users

No-contract wireless service is growing in popularity even though it requires that consumers pay the full retail price for their smartphones, though those payments can be spread out over time.

"It's all about flexibility," said Jake Durkee, a cellphone customer, in interview with CBS News. "I would rather pay upfront and not have any obligations."

Indeed, Los Angeles Times consumer columnist David Lazarus argues that customers without contracts enjoy many advantages.

"The wireless companies have to compete more aggressively for your business. And that means they have to offer lower prices, faster speeds (and) greater reliability, or you are going to leave," he said.

T-Mobile (TMUS) was the first to offer no contract service and its larger rivals AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ) have followed suit. It's a trend that shows no signs of slowing. About 1.1 million have signed up for AT&T's no-contract plan in the past three months.

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    Jonathan Berr is an award-winning journalist and podcaster based in New Jersey whose main focus is on business and economic issues.