How do people upgrade their iPhones every year and find them?
October 15, 2013 10:37 AM   Subscribe

I've noticed that a number of people have been upgrading their iPhones (less so with other models) every year without paying anything out of pocket. How does this work?

I've noticed that a number of people have been upgrading their iPhones (less so with other models) every year without paying anything out of pocket. How does this work? Doesn't the 2 year contract limit how many times you can upgrade.

FWIW, I'm on ATT and need a new phone ASAP (looking at the 5S, which doesn't really seem to have any major upgrades, and want to keep my options open to other phones coming out next year).

Also, what's the best way to get hold of a 5S. Looks like it is out of stock everywhere.
posted by touareg to Technology (16 answers total)
 
I know someone who would just cancel his contract, pay the early termination fee, and sell his old phone on Craigslist or Ebay to offset the fee.
posted by deadmessenger at 10:41 AM on October 15, 2013


T-Mobile and I think Verizon have a plan that allows you to upgrade every year. This entails charging you a lot more for your phone and service. There's no special trick, if you want a new phone you're gonna pay the $650 or so that it costs, either up front or in installments over 2+ years. You can usually sell an iphone in good condition for about 70-80% of it's initial value on craigslist, as long as you do so before the newer version comes out.

Are you sure the people you're talking to paid nothing out of pocket? People often don't understand the details of their own phone service.
posted by skewed at 10:46 AM on October 15, 2013


Are you positive they aren't paying anything out of pocket? They likely are they just may be doing something else like selling their old phone to help offset costs.
posted by magnetsphere at 10:49 AM on October 15, 2013


Response by poster: Looks like that seems to be the case -- I guess they're selling it. However, doesn't that mean you have to pay full price for the phone if you get it before the end of the 2 year contract?
posted by touareg at 10:56 AM on October 15, 2013


Who are these people and how do you know they aren't paying out of pocket?

Anyone I know who upgrades before their contract is up either a) pays full price for the new phone, or b) has an upgrade on another line that they use to get the contract price.

The way that phone pricing and contracts work is that there are two prices. The "full price" (approx $600 for an iPhone I think) and the "contract price." The contract price is cheaper because they are locking you into paying them monthly for two years. You can buy a new phone at any time during that contract period, you just have to pay the full price.

That said, with all the major carriers you can swap upgrades around. If you are still in contract but someone else on your plan isn't, you can use their upgrade for a phone on your line.
posted by radioamy at 10:57 AM on October 15, 2013


Tmobile recently did away with their contracts. Now, you buy the phone either up-front or on a 0% APR payment plan over 12-24 months. If you cancel your service or upgrade before the end of the 24 months, you just pay the remaining balance on the payment plan at that time. Their new Jump program (like ATT's Next program) allows you to upgrade every 6 months (ATT's is once per year I think).

Also, to my knowledge there aren't any new iphones you can get without an upfront cost with the 2-year contract renewal. Usually it's still around $50-$200 for the phone vs the retail price of $650.

Look into the ATT Next or Tmobile Jump programs if you think you'll be upgrading frequently. Tmobile also has a device trade-in program (and did I mention no contracts?) -- you can currently trade in an iphone 4S for $195.
posted by melissasaurus at 11:20 AM on October 15, 2013


I know someone who would just cancel his contract, pay the early termination fee, and sell his old phone on Craigslist or Ebay to offset the fee.

My brother did this with a number of his iPhones. IIRC, he jailbroke or at least unlocked the phones, and as such, was able to break even or come out a bit ahead when he got the newer phone, depending on where he lived at the time. Some cities have big enough markets for iPhones that the prior versions still sell well on Craigslist shortly after the newest and fanciest versions are released.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:25 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


doesn't that mean you have to pay full price for the phone if you get it before the end of the 2 year contract?

Yes, unless you use someone else's upgrade, in which case you can get it for $200 (or $100 for the iPhone 5c). Someone was playing fast and loose with the facts when they told you they got a new iphone for nothing out of pocket.

By the way, none of those trade-in programs and early upgrade programs are a very good deal. Even if you do want to upgrade yearly, you'd end up paying less if you just bought the phone outright and sold the old one. Lots of businesses are around that will buy your old phone, but none of them will give you nearly as much as you can get with a craigslist add and a few well-lit pictures. T-Mobile's no-contract plan is a better deal, though. Not so much on price, but on flexibility, you won't take a hit if you decide to leave early, and if you keep your phone more than 2 years, you'll pay much less than you would on a ATT/Verizon contract.
posted by skewed at 11:26 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, what's the best way to get hold of a 5S. Looks like it is out of stock everywhere.

I can't vouch for this, but this website scrapes store.apple.com for the most up-to-date information about availability per zip code. It looks like it does some decent localization, but I can't verify the in-stock-ness of these phones. Also, this is for the US only.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:30 AM on October 15, 2013


How S is ASAP? I ordered from AT&T online 9/28, it shipped on 10/2, and it was on my front doorstep on 10/3.

Note: It said it wouldn't ship until at least 10/7 but it was obviously being generous with estimates.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:31 AM on October 15, 2013


FWIW, I'm on ATT and need a new phone ASAP (looking at the 5S, which doesn't really seem to have any major upgrades).

For what it's worth, Samsung is selling more phones than Apple and has twice Apple's market share. There are totally other, less expensive phones on the market worth looking at.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:32 AM on October 15, 2013


Also, what's the best way to get hold of a 5S. Looks like it is out of stock everywhere.

OK I'm gonna let you in on a secret. All Apple Stores update their inventory at 10:00PM. If you go online and do a direct to store purchase you can usually find things in stock shortly after 10:00.
posted by Gungho at 11:41 AM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, what's the best way to get hold of a 5S. Looks like it is out of stock everywhere.

I ordered mine a bit after midnight on Friday night, and arranged to pick it up at the apple store that Saturday morning.
posted by homodachi at 12:03 PM on October 15, 2013


Virgin Mobile has the grey 5S with 32GB in stock for $649.

Just to chime for VMO, I've been happy with their service so far. They're using Sprint CDMA for the cell service and the prepaid monthly plan is half the price of what TMO is charging.
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:14 PM on October 15, 2013


I've done this for years. I sell my current phone, then buy the new model used

Of course this wont work right now for the 5s since it's going for more on the secondary market than retail(ugh). Give it a few months for that ridiculously inflated market to collapse and it'll work.

Generally i'd end up only spending about $100 to upgrade. For instance, i sold my 4 for about $350 as i remember(32gb), and then bought my 4s(16gb) for $420 or so. Those were both AT&T phones.

Echoing above that there's no way to do this without being out of pocket unless you had the 64gb model of the previous phone, and upgraded to the most basic(and probably the grey/black) new phone. And even then you'd probably be SOL.
posted by emptythought at 3:50 PM on October 15, 2013


I do this all the time, since June 2007.

I always buy the phone outright, and for a month before a new release, I am phone-less because I sell my good condition phone for nearly the amount I bought it for. Then I just offset the purchase with this money, and pay the $10-20 that's missing.

iPhones are different from every other phone on the market. They should be considered an asset because they retain their sale value.
posted by squirbel at 6:52 AM on October 16, 2013


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