Now that Apple has announced its shiny, new smartphones and watches, you may be considering an iPhone 15 upgrade. And you’re not alone. But once you’ve picked out the model you want, there’s one big decision left: How are you going to buy it?
Sure, you could buy your new iPhone 15 or iPhone 15 Pro outright, but look further and you’ll find a slew of other options that may make more sense for you and your budget. The Apple iPhone Upgrade Program and similar carrier-based alternatives help you get new iPhones annually, often while simultaneously avoiding big lump-sum payments.
With these monthly payment plans, you might also free up some cash for any USB-C cables and accessories you may need as well. But if you’re trying to figure out which to buy, we’ll help figure out if the Apple iPhone Upgrade Program is right for you.
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If you love the iPhone, and always tempted to buy the latest model, Apple’s iPhone Upgrade program is designed for you. Because it only asks that you cover a year’s worth of monthly payments, It enables annual upgrading to the latest iPhone.
To be clear, the iPhone Upgrade Program pricing doesn’t just cover the price of the specific iPhone you want. Apple also throws in AppleCare+ coverage on top, which includes repairs and replacement hardware via mail-in and carry-in service. And, the program includes unlimited incidents of “accidental damage protection,” though service fees and taxes may apply. Your iPhone, its battery and the included cable are all covered. For instance, if your battery falls under 80% of its original capacity, you can get it replaced.
If Apple needs time to repair your iPhone, AppleCare+ includes Apple’s Express Replacement Service, which nets you a replacement iPhone, shipped from Apple — giving you access to a phone during said repair. Oh, and you’ll also have 24×7 access to Apple tech support via phone or online chat.
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The iPhone Upgrade Program is best for those who want a new iPhone every year and know they need the protections of AppleCare+. But it ain’t cheap. A year of the iPhone 15’s monthly $39.50 payments, for example, costs $474, which is $21.38 less what 12 monthly iPhone 15 and AppleCare+ payments cost — but still not chump change.
However, if this appeals to you, those who pay $948 for 24 of the iPhone 15’s iPhone Upgrade Program payments will break even compared to the iPhone 15 ($799) with the two-year AppleCare+ ($149) plan.
The carriers offer plans that are surprisingly similar, but you’ll have to go directly through the carriers to see each one — it won’t show up on the Apple Store app.
AT&T’s Installment Plan with Next Up is its counter to the Upgrade program, allowing you to pay both monthly smartphone installment payments and an additional $6 per month Next Up fee. That lets you upgrade once 50% of device cost is paid off and you turn in your original financed device. The $6 monthly payments do not apply toward financed device cost balance.
Verizon has its own similar early upgrade program. You need to have paid at least 50% of the purchase price to upgrade to a new eligible smartphone on a device payment agreement. That’s just like Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program, which requires you to have paid 12 of your 24 payments before you’re eligible.
Mike Andronico/CNN Underscored
There is, of course, a $35 upgrade fee to be paid at both AT&T and Verizon. You may get that fee even if you go with Apple, as the fine print for its Upgrade Program states “The Financed iPhone requires wireless service activation on a new or existing wireless service plan with an eligible carrier under the carrier’s terms, and may be subject to an additional fee charged by your carrier.”
But in the end, the carriers and Apple all offer ways to buy a new iPhone 15 once you’ve paid off half its bill and feel ready to commit to a new iPhone. The only differences seem to be the extra fee AT&T applies, and whether you prefer to go through Apple or your local carrier.
For folks who waited longer, there are also regular discounts AT&T offers its own iPhone upgrade programs for the iPhone 15, offering up to $1,000 in bill credits for the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, and up to $830 in bill credits for other phones.
For Verizon, those adding a new line on the Unlimited Ultimate plan — be they switchers or existing customers — can get up to $1,000 off a new iPhone 15 model, when trading in any old iPhone. Yes, even that iPhone 5 you held onto because you’re definitely not a hoarder. Smaller trade-in bonuses are available for those who select the Unlimited Plus (up to $830 off) and Unlimited Welcome (up to $415 off) plans.