Apple iPhone Upgrade Program: What you need to know

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Kid with souvenir T-shirt at opening of Apple retail in Kyoto, Japan

Joining the Apple Upgrade Program means you always have the latest iPhone, unlocked, and can switch between carriers as and when you please. What is the scheme, where do you apply, and how do you join it?

What is the Apple Upgrade Program?

The Apple Upgrade Program lets you always own the most up-to-date iPhone, unlocked, for a monthly fee. Signing-up means that when a new model ships, you can get it without needing to break the bank (or credit card) to layout $1,000 on the new device.

The scheme is available in some of Apple’s biggest markets (including the UK). You are required to pay a monthly fee, get to keep the latest device, and can upgrade to a new model after 12 monthly payments but must give your old iPhone back.

If you keep the iPhone for 24-months, then you will own the device (and won’t need to make further payments) and won’t have to return it when you choose to upgrade – great if you want to skip models and hand (or sell) the old one on.  You can upgrade the device after six months, but will be expected to pay more.

iPhone -- the excitement is building

I’m expecting queues worldwide for iPhone as interest begins to spike.

What else do I get?

Apple iPhone Upgrade Program also includes AppleCare membership, which is added to the total cost of the device. This provides you withtwo years of hardware repairs, software support, and coverage for up to two incidents of accidental damage. It’s a great investment if you drop your phone frequently. AppleCare for iPhone 8 costs £129 in the UK, for the iPhone 8 Plus it costs £149 and £199 for iPhone X.

What does AppleCare provide?

Apple explains this gives you coverage against screen damage, accidental drops, liquid damage, access to Apple experts and set-up help, hardware repairs for two years and up to two repairs for accidental damage. There is a service fee for the latter two repairs:  $29 for a screen repair or $99 for other damage.

Does the Apple Upgrade Program give you network coverage?

You do not get network coverage, to get this you need to reach a SIM-only or PAYG deal with your choice of mobile network.

So, is it really a financing scheme?

Yes, the Apple iPhone Upgrade Program is actually a zero-interest finance package, which means you’re only ever paying for the device. When you return the device, you settle the debt and can upgrade. You will need proof of ID when you join the scheme.

Tim Cook

Tim Cook greets customers at iPhone X launch

What is the payment system?

You pay a small amount (£69 in the UK, nothing in the U.S.) in advance and then pay off the remainder in 24 (in the U.S.) monthly instalments.

When you have made 12 payments you can upgrade to a new device. You can also upgrade before you make those twelve payments – but only after six months. You will be expected to pay the difference, so if you’ve made 10 payments you’ll need to make two more in order to upgrade to a new device.

How do I join?

You can join the iPhone Upgrade Program at apple.com, in an Apple retail store, or using the Apple retail store app. You will need to provide your existing carrier details and should make sure to backup data from your old device first.

Don’t forget: If you join the scheme at an Apple Store you may be able to trade in your old iPhone or eligible smartphone for credit. With the iPhone Upgrade Program, you are limited to one iPhone purchase per online transaction,

What happens next?

You need to be 18-years or older to apply to join the scheme. You will be required to submit to a full credit check and make a standard financing application. This is a request for a 24-month loan. You need to make such an application each time you upgrade the phone.

Apple iPhone Upgrade: A guide

Apple iPhone Upgrade eligibility screen

What about when I upgrade?

When you get a new iPhone under this scheme you are effectively taking a 24-month loan on the device, subject to 12 minimum payments. When you return your iPhone and take out a new loan, you are creating a new agreement, but the old agreement is paid-off. You will not end up paying twice, once for the old agreement and the other for the new. They got your iPhone, after all. You will need to honour your existing agreement until you return your old iPhone, if upgrading a device you already own under the scheme.

What if the iPhone gets damaged?

If the iPhone you get under the scheme gets damaged and you have used up your allocated AppleCare coverage then you may have a problem returning the device. Apple’s terms and conditions insist that on return it must be in “good condition. This means it must:

  • Have an intact display
  • The display must work
  • Will Power on and will hold a charge
  • And has Activation Lock disabled.

One more thing: All repairs you make to your device under this scheme must be done at an Apple Store or through an Authorized Service Provider. You cannot get them fixed at your local (and cheaper) repair shop. Boo!

What if my iPhone is lost or stolen?

In the event your device is lost or stolen Apple seems a little bleak. “If your iPhone is lost or stolen, you will not be eligible for the Upgrade Option. In the event your iPhone is lost or stolen, contact AppleCare,” it warns. You may want to take out insurance, or check if your home insurance covers the device.

Do return your iPhone

If you decide to upgrade and are required to return your existing device you really must make sure you do, as if you do not then Apple will reinstate the original agreement, meaning you’ll acquire another monthly payment.

Does the iPhone Upgrade Program work in my country?

Apple is working to make the scheme available internationally, at present it is available in the U.S. and the UK. There may be slight differences in how the scheme is implemented in different countries.

Can I join the scheme now but take the iPhone when new models ship?

Apple let customers get pre-approved loans in time for new iPhones in 2017. This meant all the necessary checks had been done by the time the new models shipped, so eager customers got a chance to receive their new smartphone on launch day. The company is likely to do the same every year.

Where can I find more information?

Before signing up to the scheme you should check through Apple’s terms and conditions and make sure you are comfortable with them. Then take a look at the Apple iPhone Upgrade Program website.

Jonny Evans

Watching Apple since 1999. I don't say what they should do. I say what they might do. They sometimes do.

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