First of all, the major cellular companies are legally required to have at least a 14-day grace period (used to be 30 days) allowing you to get rid of the contract without Early Termination Fee (ETF). You will still have to pay the activation fee. Smaller or regional cell carrier, often have month-to-month plan without the long term contract. If you are passed your trial days, and a contract with a big cell phone company, there is still hope.
Last year Verizon Wireless increased the “regulatory fee” from 13 cents per month to 16 cents per month. While this increase was neglected by virtually all Verizon members, Consumerist.com, a subsidiary of Consumer Reports, stated that even this 3 cents increase is enough to void a contract.
“It doesn't matter if it's $50, a penny, or in this case, 3 cents. It's still materially adverse,” noted the report.
Many member who called Verizon faced resistance, customer service representatives have said that this increase of 3 cents was immaterial. Other subscribers who were more persistent had difficulty getting out of their contracts without paying the ETFs, other users were given substantial amount of credits toward their account, while others received forgiveness on overage charges.
If you want to get out of your contract because of defective device or poor network signal near your work or place of living, and your cell phone carrier doesn't cooperate, contact the Federal Trade Commission or Better Business Bureau. Valid claims might convince the carrier that it is easier to let you free.
Websites like Celltradeusa.com and Cell Plan Depot people trade their cell phone contracts. You need to state the carrier, manufacturer, model and specific plan details like minutes, data options, and time left on contract, and how much is your monthly payment.
The big four companies try their best to discourage early termination. Although most will cut the fees by $10 for every month you were a member, even towards the very end of your contract, you will still have ETF of about $100. Towards the very end carriers will offer discounts on new/upgraded phones (with a new contract of course).
AT&T has early termination fee of $325, minus $10 per month of service used. For instance if you have been using the phone five months then decide to end your contract, it will cost you $325 minus $50 (plus any fees you have accrued).
Read this articles by the FCC on ETFs, Early Termination Fee, FCC blog post, Early Termination Fees Made Simple.