Apple iPhone upgrade program: Here’s how it works



James Martin/CNET

This story is part of Apple Event, our full coverage of the latest news from Apple headquarters.

New iPhone models are on the way — read about the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro models here — making it a good time to review Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program. It’s basically the “iPhone as a service” plan: Instead of paying the full value up front or monthly payments to own a particular handset after 2 years, the iPhone Upgrade Program guarantees you a new iPhone every year. Of course, for that privilege, you’re paying a subscription fee for the foreseeable future. 

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How does the iPhone Upgrade Program work?

You buy an iPhone from Apple — from an Apple Store in person, Apple’s online store or the Apple Store app — and agree to pay off it off over 24 months. But after making half of those payments, you are eligible for a free upgrade. After 12 months, you can trade in your current phone for a new model. The clock starts again on the 24 months of payments and eligibility to upgrade after making 12 of them.

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Why buy from Apple instead of a carrier?

Apple sweetens the deal by throwing in AppleCare Plus coverage, its insurance and extended warranty program that would otherwise cost $7.99 a month for the iPhone 11 or $9.99 a month for the iPhone 11 Pro or Pro Max. The service doubles the standard one-year warranty to two years, but that’s less of a concern if you are planning on trading in your phone after the first year. The real value of AppleCare Plus is getting accidental-damage protection. You get two accident claims that’ll replace your phone (each carries a $99 charge, but that’s cheaper than buying a new phone). You’ll also be able to replace a cracked screen or two for $29 per incident. Phone support is also extended to two years with AppleCare Plus, up from the standard 90 days.

How much does it cost?

Pricing ranges from $35.33 a month for the 64GB iPhone 11 to $68.66 a month for the 512GB iPhone 11 Pro Max. 



What about AppleCare Plus with Theft and Loss?

If you worry less about dropping or damaging your phone and more about losing it or it getting stolen, you can pay a bit extra per month to upgrade to AppleCare Plus with Theft and Loss coverage. It adds $4.16 to your monthly Upgrade Program bill and lets you pay a small deductible to replace a lost or stolen phone rather than the full cost of replacement. The deductible varies by model, from $199 for the iPhone 8 to $229 for the iPhone XR and iPhone 11 to $269 for the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max.

How do I pay?

You’ll need a credit card to sign up, at least in the US. In the US, Apple uses Citizens Bank for the installment loan, and it requires a valid, US-issued credit card to be eligible.

Is there an age limit?

Yes. Sorry, kids, you need to be 18 years old to apply. (And given the prices of the new Pro models, I hope you will start being nicer to your parents.)

How do I trade in my current phone?

You can take it to an Apple Store and make the swap there, but you can also save the trip and buy from Apple’s online store or the Apple Store app. When you order an iPhone online from Apple, it’ll arrive with a trade-in kit so you can package up your suddenly outdated phone and ship it back to Apple. You need to get it back to Apple within 14 days.

What if my current iPhone is banged up?

According to Apple, your current iPhone needs to be in “good physical and operational condition.” That means it should:

  • Be able to power on and hold a charge
  • Have an intact and functioning display

I haven’t made 12 payments yet on my current phone — can I still upgrade?

Yes, but it’ll cost you. If you’ve made at least six monthly payments on your current phone, you can pay the difference between your current balance and the total for 12 payments to fast-forward the clock and get a new iPhone.

Do I need to upgrade?

No, not all at! You are not forced to upgrade. If you are happy with your current phone, you can keep using it and continuing to pay it off. After 24 months, you will have paid it off and can continue using it without the monthly payment, or you can turn around and sell it to help finance the cost of a new phone when you’re ready.

Are there any other benefits to the iPhone Upgrade Program?

Yep! You now get a free year of Apple TV Plus with the new iPhone, too.  

Originally published 2 years ago.

Update, Sept. 11, 2019: Added information about new 2019 iPhone models.


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