My Samsung Galaxy S3 is on the last days of it's life. The phone no longer turns on all the time and its become unreliable. My upgrade is only a month away at the end of June and was wondering if I could get an early upgrade. I contacted customer chat support and they told me they could do it and I said I would contact them back. I got back to them and they told me that I could only do it through Verizon Edge, something I don't want to get. I called customer support and they rep told me I could only get the upgrade a week early. It's just frustrating because I used to be able to get my upgrades early with no problem and a lot of the time they were offered to me.
There are no early upgrades anymore. Early Edge is an option, which I realize you said you don't want, but even if you did there are typically only one or two phones you can get with that. If you have an old phone you can activate temporarily (or if you can borrow one) that is probably your best option. Then you can upgrade to the phone of your choice when your upgrade date comes.
Week early is all that is being done now. Don't do Early Edge since your phone is not working correctly, you can't even consider that. You must have working phone in pristine shape for that.
I have read of others being able to get an upgrade a bit earlier, at least earlier than a week. I talked to customer service and there is unfortunately nothing they can/want to do. Verizon Edge isnt even an option for me anymore.
If someone has told you that they've gotten an upgrade earlier than a week prior to their time, trust me, it's an exception and not the rule. And trust me, those exceptions are made few and far between. Best advice is to try and find al el-cheapo phone eBay or see if you can borrow a device from someone who has a spare. I've got an old HTC Thunderbolt that I keep around just for a situation of such as I don't use AppleCare or pay for insurance. And I'm sure you can pick up an old standby such as the Thunderbolt on eBay for pennies these days. Something to think about...