Why is it that your cell phone inevitably bites the dust in the time frame between your free* upgrades? Do you think there's some mad scientist behind the scenes programming something in the phone that makes it quit charging/blow up/fall apart months shy of your next upgrade? Cell phone companies are assured that you will pay the price of a new phone at this time because, otherwise, you'd be A) paying a monthly phone fee for nothing, or B) paying an enormous amount of money to get out of the contract.
*free if you consider having to pay an upgrade fee"free"
(I think some physical components of cell phones are outsourced to the same guy who messes with your car as it comes off the assembly line so that it will combust four days after the warranty ends. I hate that guy.)
One man tried to strike back against the evil cell phone companies. Corey Taylor, in an effort to get out of the cycle of dead phone/contract stipulations, faked his own death. He made a fake death certificate and had a friend fax it to his carrier, Verizon Wireless. Unfortunately, the company caught on and he ended up paying to get out of his contract.
It's hard out there for a consumer
Some companies are so pushy and manipulative that they make you want to follow Corey's example. Have you ever tried to let a magazine subscription lapse? You'll get about 712 "Here's your last chance!" letters from them.
Have you ever dealt with AOL? Their customer service reps must be professional stalkers because you CANNOT get off the phone with them. Tell them you're cancelling because you can no longer afford it, they'll lower your fee. Tell them you're cancelling because your computer is dead, they'll offer to send someone out to your house to take a look at it. I don't even think faking your own death would work with them. They'd just turn their obnoxious hard sell on your next of kin.