One good way to get out of your cell phone contract without paying the fat penalty is to wait for them to change your contract terms. I believe by law if they change your contract, you can either accept or cancel within 30 days without any fees.
The Consumerist reports that Sprint is adding some new charges as of January 1st, 2008. I don’t remember seeing this change on my Sprint bill, but many users on the SprintUsers forum have reported success canceling their contracts without fees, and one posted this as part of a conversation with a Sprint representative.
Sprints current policy as read by account services: “On Jan. 1st 2008 Sprint customers who have been affected by the fees, [consumer and IL customers], will have their ETF waived if they wish to terminate their contract. There will be no post-dating of cancellation where the ETF will be waived as only customers affected by the new surcharges will be eligible.”
If you want out of your Sprint contract, or just want to get some fresh new-contract deals, it may be worth a call. Even if you just jump ship to the Sprint SERO plan.
As for other carriers, I just ran across this “roaming hack” which supposedly lets you cancel with any wireless provider by placing a ton of calls while roaming. The idea is that you will make yourself and unprofitable customer that way, and they’ll just “fire” you. Not sure if it works though.