You have a lot of options when buying an iPhone, including buying directly from Apple, your carrier, or an electronics store. And if you buy a new iPhone every year, maybe Apple’s iPhone upgrade plan has caught your eye.
What does this plan offer and how does it compare to other methods of buying an iPhone? Let’s dive into the iPhone upgrade plan to help you decide if it’s right for you.
What is the iPhone Upgrade Program?
The iPhone Upgrade Program, available in the US, UK, and China, is a plan that Apple offers to get a new iPhone every year. Instead of buying your iPhone up front, you pay Apple a monthly fee for the device. After a certain number of payments, you can trade in your current phone and upgrade to the newer one, restarting the program.
While you buy an iPhone from Apple, the plan still works with your carrier. The company will connect your phone to your carrier for you and you can switch providers if you wish. You are not locked into an operator contract because of the telephone.
In addition to the device, the iPhone upgrade program includes AppleCare +. If you’re unfamiliar, this is Apple’s own “extended warranty” service that covers two service visits (with a deductible) for accidental damage every 12 months. It also includes software support and hardware coverage.
If getting a new iPhone every year sounds good to you, let’s see what you get with the upgrade program.
How does the iPhone upgrade program work?
You can join the iPhone upgrade plan through Apple’s website or in person at an Apple Store. Once registered, you will receive your new phone and agree to pay the cost, plus AppleCare +, for 24 months. There is no interest or additional fees, so the cost is the same as purchasing outright (you will pay all taxes at the time of purchase).
After you’ve made the equivalent of 12 payments on the device and used the program for at least six months, you can upgrade to the latest iPhone. At that time, Apple will send you a new phone, along with a courier to return your old one (or you can exchange it in store).
If your old device is damaged, you may be charged a fee to repair it. Once you receive the new device, the upgrade plan starts over with new coverage and AppleCare + payments.
You don’t need to upgrade after 12 payments. If you want, you can continue to pay an additional 12 months for your current iPhone. Once it’s refunded, you own the device and can do whatever you want with it: keep it, trade it in for a new device, or sell it to a friend.
Join the iPhone Upgrade Program
To get started online, go to the iPhone Upgrade Program page and click Join now. You will be asked which iPhone you want; at the time of writing, you can choose from the iPhone 13 or iPhone 13 Pro lineup.
The checkout page is the same as when buying an iPhone from Apple normally; select the size, color and storage options for your device. Choose your carrier and Apple will send it ready for use on this network. Under payment options, select Apple iPhone Upgrade Program, you will then be able to register or verify your eligibility for the upgrade.
You’ll then need to enter some information to apply for the loan from Citizens One, the service Apple uses for the program. This includes your date of birth, your Social Security number, and your annual income for a credit check. You also need a credit or debit card for payments. To check the fine print, see the iPhone Upgrade Program terms and conditions.
How much does the iPhone upgrade program cost?
The amount you pay in the iPhone upgrade program depends on the specific device you choose. You will see the current prices on the upgrade program main page linked above, which are shown in the screenshot below.
These start at $ 35.33 per month for the 128GB iPhone 13 mini and go up to $ 74.91 per month for a 1TB iPhone 13 Pro Max.
Every iPhone upgrade program includes AppleCare +. If you want, you can choose to upgrade to AppleCare + with theft-loss instead. This includes everything in the basic plan, plus two replacements in case you lose your device or if it gets stolen. Upgrading to this plan costs at least an additional $ 4.16 per month (depending on your device).
As mentioned, these prices are exactly the cost of an iPhone. For example, the 128GB iPhone 13 costs $ 799, plus $ 149 for AppleCare +. The total of $ 948 divided by 24 months is $ 39.50 per month, which is the cost of the iPhone Upgrade Program (excluding tax).
Apple explains that you have to pay “the equivalent” of 12 months of payments before upgrading to your new phone. This means that if you want to upgrade sooner (you might have bought your iPhone in November and want to get a new phone next September), you can pay the rest of the balance from the first year to upgrade. upgraded before the end of 12 months.
Is the iPhone Upgrade Program a Good Deal?
Whether the iPhone upgrade program is right for you depends on your needs and wants.
If you never damage your phone and don’t want AppleCare +, then the iPhone Upgrade Program is a hard sell. You’re spending at least $ 149 more for the convenience of monthly payments, and if you don’t use the service, it’s money wasted.
You better put that extra money in a fund for your next phone. Remember, repairing a damaged screen usually costs a lot more than the price of AppleCare +.
If you’re looking to save as much money as possible on your iPhone, or don’t want to upgrade every year, you’re probably better off staying away from the upgrade program. Let’s run a quick calculation of two extremes to examine this.
IPhone upgrade plan vs. purchase every two years
First, let’s say you start the iPhone Upgrade Program today with a 128GB iPhone 13 at $ 39.50 per month. After a year, you’ll have paid $ 474 on this phone and then traded it in for the (alleged) iPhone 14, probably at the same price. So after two years you will have paid $ 948.
However, at this point you have a half-paid phone. You will therefore either have to trade it in and start over, or pay an additional 12 months to own the phone (an additional $ 474, for a total of $ 1,422 after three years, in both cases).
Instead, let’s say you buy the 128GB iPhone 13, skip the AppleCare + coverage, and keep the phone for two years. Your cost is $ 799 for those two years. Then, at the end of this period, you can trade in your iPhone 13 for credit for (presumably) an iPhone 15.
As of this writing, the iPhone 11 has an Apple trade-in value of $ 340. Suppose in two years you can trade in your iPhone 13 and get the same amount of $ 340 on your new phone. Subtract the trade-in value from the assumed $ 799 cost of the iPhone 15, and you will have spent $ 1,258 after three years.
At that point, you’ll have a year-old phone that you can use however you want. Compare that to the iPhone upgrade plan scenario, where you spend less after two years but have a phone that isn’t fully paid off, and end up paying more over three years.
If you’re able to sell your old iPhones for more money than Apple’s trade-in (maybe to a friend or on Facebook Marketplace), the value of buying a phone every two years goes up. Plus, you don’t have to do exactly the above. Maybe you keep your phone for three years, or use Apple’s iPhone payment option to pay for the device for 24 months without AppleCare +.
Paying a monthly fee, forever, to own the latest iPhone can be exhausting. If you can live without having the newest model, using an older iPhone for a few years will save you a lot of money. Devices as old as the 2015 iPhone 6 can run iOS 15 in 2021, so you can use older devices for years to come.
IPhone Upgrade Program: Convenient, But Not Perfect
Overall, Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program is best for people who want a new iPhone every year, don’t mind paying a monthly cost forever, and would buy anyway. AppleCare +. If you don’t meet these three criteria, the upgrade program is probably not for you.
To save money, you should keep each phone for at least two years and then trade it in or sell it. And remember, you don’t need to buy your new iPhone either. There are plenty of places to buy a refurbished or used iPhone that will perform just fine.
Want to get a good deal on a used iPhone? Here are the best retailers to buy a used or refurbished iPhone.
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