Cricket Wireless will charge a $25 Device Upgrade Fee on online phone upgrades starting August 20, 2017. The Upgrade Fee itself is not new, Cricket stores already change it. The fee applies when you purchase a phone from Cricket to replace your current Cricket phone. The fee does not apply if you switch to a Cricket phone purchased from a retailer like Target, Walmart or BestBuy.
The fee seems to be a way for Cricket to charge current users more for phones than it charges new users without actually having two different prices. Cricket sells its phones at subsidized prices, including some used phones that are available for 99¢ online.
Cricket recently switched customers to a new proxy that delivered lower pings and more reliable picture messaging. The switchover is occurring over several months (some customers still haven't been switched). Howard Forums users discovered that swapping your service to a new "white" SIM caused an instant switch to the new proxy. The white SIMs cost $10 from Cricket so it became popular to buy a 99¢ phone just for the SIM. I wonder if that gave Cricket the idea to start charging the inline upgrade fee?
It's not clear when and how the upgrade fee will be collected. I suspect that the fee will be charged when the phone is ordered online rather than when the user calls Cricket to switch their service to the new phone. Otherwise customers could avoid the fee by moving their active SIM from the old phone to the new one.
A sharp eyed Howard Forums member discovered the upcoming change in a new footnote on Cricket's Charges & Fees page.