iPhone Upgrade Programs: Everything You Need to Know

We used to have a much simpler relationship with our cellphone carriers. They’d ask us to sign a 2-year contract, we signed that contract, and they’d drastically subsidize for us the price of the latest and greatest smartphones on the market. It was a great way to stay up-to-date with the newest tech. However, the standard upgrade processes for all of our major cellphone carriers have changed a lot in recent years. It’s no longer as lucrative or as straight forward as it once was.

What’s Changed with iPhone Upgrade Programs?

These days, your phone carrier will still allow you to “upgrade” your iPhone when your 2-year contract is up. However, they’re no longer going to offer a subsidy on your phone. They’ll either offer to sell the phone to you at full-price up front or they’ll let you pay off the balance as a monthly installment that is added to your phone bill. You may be scratching your head and asking what exactly you, as the consumer, get from either of these two options. The simple answer is; nothing. You could trade in your old phone and receive a credit, but the sad truth is that carriers no longer have much in the way of incentives when re-signing your contract.

iPhone Upgrade Program

Do Carriers Offer Promotions?

Once in a while, you can hop onto a promotion offered by your particular carrier. They may offer a certain type of iPhone (usually not a model that is current generation) for a reduced cost. Truthfully, these phones are usually old stock that is collecting dust and needs to be moved out for the more recent product. It’s not uncommon to see a 2-generation old iPhone go for something crazy like 99 cents. As long as you’re okay with using an outdated phone, it’s a win-win if you can snag one for less than a dollar, right?

Think again—what most carriers won’t make clear to you is that, in order to take advantage of one of their random promotion, they’re also going to be putting you back onto a 2-year contract. You’re more than likely eligible for a carrier promotion because your current status on your cellphone plan is “out of contract”, meaning you’ve had your current phone for longer than 2 years (the extent of the average phone contract) and haven’t made any changes since then. Once you’ve re-upped your contract by accepting the promotion you can expect to pay higher data and equipment fees due to a counterintuitive byline within your contract renewal, which will quickly make up for any discount you received on that phone. No matter what carrier you use, renewing an expired contract will typically result in an increased monthly phone bill.

Are There Any Other Options for Reducing the Cost of a New Phone?

In a way, yes—there are other ways for you to reduce the cost of buying a new phone. The easiest course of action would be to use a credible iPhone buyback program like Gazelle, DeCluttr, or Buyback Boss. What these services do is provide an easy and quick way of trading in your phone for its maximum value. With the cash you receive from these services, you could pay off a large portion of the price of a new iPhone.

iPhone buyback programs are hassle-free—they’re a lot easier than trying to sell your phone yourself. We’ve all been burned by no-show buyers from Craigslist and some of us have even been scammed trying to sell your phone online. Buyback programs offer peace of mind and quick cash.

iPhone Buyback Programs vs. Carrier Upgrade Programs

Your carrier may offer a trade-in service with their upgrade program that is pretty similar to the traditional standalone buyback programs on the market. However, you may or may not get the best bang for your buck trading your phone directly to your carrier.

Most importantly, carrier upgrade programs will only allow you to use their upgrade services if your contract is up. So in order to use their service, you’ll need to re-sign with them, possibly changing the cost of your monthly bill. They’re also pickier about what phones they’ll take. And don’t forget that, whether or not you’re trading an old phone in, you’re still essentially “renting” a new phone from a carrier when you upgrade unless you pay the full retail price (sometimes well over $1,000) for your phone. That means more monthly fees on top of your standard phone bill.

On the other hand, iPhone buyback programs operate year-round and you can take advantage of them whenever. You’re also going to receive actual cash for your phone, allowing you the freedom to shop around across multiple carriers and multiple manufacturers. In short, buyback program will always offer you a better price and more flexibility when trying to get cash for your phone. You can’t go wrong.

Carriers Have Dropped Upgrade Incentives; You Need to Sell Your Old Phone

The sad truth is that carrier upgrade incentives no longer exist. They’ve seen the demand consumers have cultivated for constant upgrades and have pulled their discounts back, knowing that many of us cannot resist the urge of buying a new phone even when it’s at full price. And the more shortsighted of us do not seem to have any qualms of paying full price on a phone through monthly installments that are snuck into our phone bill. Out of sight, out mind, right?

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Instead of focusing on upgrades, come to terms with the fact that iPhone upgrade programs just don’t have your interests in mind anymore. Rather, do your research and consider using the services of an iPhone buyback program. You’ll be surprised by how much money you can get for your phone, especially if it’s last-gen and in good physical shape. And with the cash from your old phone in hand, you’ll have plenty more options when it comes to buying your new smartphone whether or not you’re re-upping your carrier contract.