Apple iPhone Upgrade Program – Everything You Need to Know

You might not have even heard of it—Apple’s announcement of their iPhone upgrade program never really made national news like their device announcements do. And shortly after, the news fell to the wayside, becoming just another page on the Apple website. But just because it hasn’t reached the levels of popularity that classic carrier upgrade programs have, it doesn’t mean Apple’s program is anything less, or necessarily more, for that matter.

In 2015, Apple unveiled a program that was meant to be their attempt to usurp iPhone sales from cellphone carriers by offering old school subsidization perks that those same carriers had recently done away with.

Known as the “early upgrade”, this perk was the primary means of buying a new iPhone for many consumers. And in 2013, most carriers gave up their early upgrade programs, choosing instead to force consumers to pay full price for their phones through monthly installments tacked onto their phone bills. Consumers balked at the change but that didn’t seem to stop them from buying the newest, greatest iPhones even at full retail price.

And now Apple, seeing an opportunity, has brought back a similar program to the masses. But how does Apple’s iPhone upgrade program measure up to the programs of yesteryear? And what other options are there?

Understanding Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program

Apple Upgrade Program

Apple’s iPhone upgrade program is simple and straightforward. To put it simply, Apple wants consumers to buy their devices from them, rather than from their cellphone carriers. To sweeten the pot, they’ve introduced their upgrade program as an added incentive to go directly through Apple.

Any iPhone you buy from Apple can be used with the carrier of your choice. You just have to make sure you’re buying a Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, or Sprint iPhone. Some carriers work well together and some do not due to competing cellular technologies (GSM and CDMA), so you need to know who your carrier is beforehand.

When participating in the Apple iPhone Upgrade Program, you’re essentially financing your phone in monthly installments intending to fully pay off the phone at 0% interest after 2 years. The prices vary depending on the storage size and model of the iPhone. However, what makes Apple’s program special is that after 12 monthly payments (one year’s worth of paying off your iPhone) you can trade-in your iPhone for a new one and simply restart your 2-year financing commitment.

Think of this program as the same as leasing a vehicle—you’re essentially paying a dealership for the privilege of driving a new car. You don’t own the vehicle (yet), but you’re not interested in owning a vehicle, anyway. You’re a consumer that likes new things and “renting” the newest thing to trade it for the next new thing is your way of scratching that itch. The same is true of the iPhone upgrade program—think of it as leasing the newest iPhone from Apple, with the ability to trade it in for the newest thing every year while continuing to pay for that privilege in monthly installments.

Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program also comes complete with AppleCare+, which is Apple’s extended warranty. Apple’s warranty is great, especially if you’re accident-prone. In essence, you’re getting the newest iPhone protected by great liability insurance at a steady monthly cost.

Apple iPhone Upgrade Program FAQ

Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program

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Apple’s iPhone upgrade program, while straightforward, covers a complicated industry. Smartphones, the carriers they run on, and the myriad of different questions they beckon may deter you from participating in the program, but there are often simple answers to your questions.

What Happens to My Old iPhone?

You do not keep your old iPhone with Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program. Unlike carrier upgrade programs, Apple will take your old iPhone in exchange for a new one. Think of this program as leasing an iPhone—it goes back to the company you bought it from when you get a new one.

What Carrier Does This Program Work On?

Apple’s program works on virtually any carrier, assuming you’re buying the right iPhone for that carrier. Cellphone carriers have no say in this type of deal—you’re buying your iPhone through Apple and will add the iPhone to your cellphone plan independently. Someone at the Apple Store will help you with activating your iPhone through your carrier at the point of purchase.

Can I Upgrade Earlier than 12 Months?

Technically, you can upgrade iPhones before 12 months by paying 12 months’ worth of your iPhone early. For example, if you’ve made 6 monthly installments you can calculate the cost of 6 more payments, pay those all at once, and you’ll have satisfied the 12-month requirement and be able to upgrade your iPhone.

What Do I Need to Participate?

Think of Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program as a financing option for your iPhone. With that said, you’re going to need to have your social security number, a valid credit card, your license, and proof of your annual income to be eligible.

Financing? Who is Doing the Lending?

Because you are receiving an iPhone on loan, you’re applying for a loan to pay for the device upfront. The lender responsible for this transaction is Citizen One, a branch of Citizen’s Bank. As much as Apple would love to be, they are not a financial institution!

Can I Trade in My Old iPhone When Beginning the Program?

Yes, Apple will allow you to trade in your existing iPhone at the start of the program and get credit toward what you owe. Just remember to shop around—you have no obligation to take their offer and independent buyback programs (like us) will typically give you a more competitive offer.

Can I Just Pay off The iPhone? Do I Need to Upgrade?

While the primary perk of this program is to “upgrade” your iPhone early after 12 months of payments, it technically is a 24-month loan at 0% interest, which will pay off your iPhone in its entirety. If you choose to pay your loan for the entire 2 years, then your iPhone is yours to keep.

iPhone Upgrade Program Pricing

Pricing of Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program varies depending on the make and model of your iPhone. Currently, Apple offers 3 models to choose from, the iPhone XR, the iPhone XS, and the iPhone XS Max. The current pricing is as follows:

Apple Upgrade Program Pricing

All in all, you’re still paying the full price of the iPhone, whether that cost is spread across one or two iPhones over 2 years. But Apple knows that consumers love new technology, so the privilege of upgrading iPhones is extremely satisfying even if it’s not saving anyone any money.

However, don’t forget that AppleCare+ is included in this cost. If you take into account that expense, then you’re getting a little bit of a deal than if you bought the iPhone outright and purchased Apple’s extended warranty plan separately.

Apple’s Trade-In Program Vs. Other Options

Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program Comparison

There are always alternative options in the world of smartphones. There are entire markets centered around the industry of buying and selling handheld electronics. The devices are more pervasive than anything else in our lives, so everyone wants a piece of the pie. But what alternatives are there, and how do they compare to Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program?

Carrier Upgrade Programs

There was a time when you could say the top 4 carriers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile) had respectable upgrade programs for their customers. However, those days are long gone. Today, carriers expect you to pay full retail price for the newest iPhone, whether you pay that amount upfront or spread across your monthly phone bill. And with that cost, they will offer you no perks or incentives. Unless you’ve been extended a one-time promotion through your carrier, it’s best to explore other options if you’re trying to get the most bang for your buck.

Paying Full Retail Price

If you can afford a new iPhone every year, then drive your Ferrari down to the nearest Apple Store and have at it. Nothing is more straightforward than straight cash in exchange for a new iPhone.

Buyback Programs

Buyback programs like Buyback Boss are in the market of converting your used iPhone into cash. It’s a straightforward process that will leave you with money to do with as you please. You can surely take that newfound coin and use it on a new iPhone, essentially financing your yearly upgrade program.

However, how can a buyback program like Buyback Boss work alongside an upgrade program like the one offered by Apple? It’s easy—use the cash you get from Buyback Boss to fund the start of your iPhone Upgrade Program. We offer competitive rates, which are some of the highest in the market. Skip Apple’s trade-in and use us, then hop aboard the iPhone upgrade wagon for your future iPhone needs.

iPhone Upgrade Programs Are Great, But Buyback Programs Are Better

Just remember, as lucrative as Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program seems, you’re still paying full price for their device. So, if you already have the financial privilege to spend that money upfront, you’re much better off buying the device at full retail price to trade it in via Buyback Boss when you’re ready to upgrade. You could get as much as $520.00 back, which you can apply to the purchase of your next iPhone. If you’re already making the financial commitment of having the newest iPhone, then roll that investment into the next one, and the next one, and so on!

But for many of us, it’s much easier to pay off our consumer electronics in monthly installments. Apple knows this—that’s why they’ve offered a clever way to minimize your upfront financial impact while still enjoying the latest and greatest technology that Apple has to offer.