How do people constantly upgrade their iPhones?
August 16, 2014 5:56 PM   Subscribe

I'm on Verizon and have been stuck with an iPhone 4 (yes, the original 4) for what feels like the better part of 2 years. My Verizon account says I'm not eligible for an upgrade until December. What are my options to upgrade now without breaking the bank?

Now with iPhone 6 mania about to hit full force it seems like everyone I know (on Facebook, at least) will be upgrading to a 6 the day of. I'd be quite happy to upgrade to the current 5s, but how is it that people seem to continuously upgrade their phones as soon as a new one comes out? Are they actually paying the list price?

Is there some secret upgrade cycle I'm unaware of? Obviously since I have an iPhone 4 I'm not very hip to these things, but any advice to get me current would be helpful. I'm willing to pay a couple hundred extra to upgrade and obviously extend my new contract, but I don't want to pay $600+ or whatever it is just for the privilege of a marginally better phone.

Thanks for any advice.
posted by the foreground to Technology (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Anecdotal stories about early upgrades are likely before the change to a 2 year upgrade cadence.

If you are on a family plan, you can transfer an upgrade to your line. Verizon Edge is a particularly poor value to get an early upgrade if it's still around.

If you have unlimited data, you would lose it if the upgrade were on your line. There are ways to get around this of course.

Your options are to pay for an used or refurbished device or to wait for an upgrade.
posted by palionex at 6:05 PM on August 16, 2014

I traded my iPhone 4 (also the original) for an iPhone 5s about a month after the 5s was released. I had upgraded to the 4 pretty close to the 4's release date, too. The iPhone 4 was released back in 2010, to my recollection, so it sounds like within the past two years you made a decision to buy an older model. That's your answer.

With digital cameras, some experts advise trading up to the newest model as soon as it's released. If you stay within that window the resale value on your older model will hold up well, and on every cycle you'll basically be losing less than it would have cost you to rent the equipment for two or three years. There's a similar cycle happening here. If you consistently upgrade with the iPhone's release dates—not annually, but consistently—then you won't feel out-of-cycle like you describe.
posted by cribcage at 6:16 PM on August 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

A lot of people sell their phones on craigslist to people who lost or broke their phones and need a quick fix.
posted by PSB at 6:34 PM on August 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

The "trick", such as it is, is that it costs a few hundred bucks to buy the current iphone with a 2 year contract or to upgrade to the current model once you're out of contract and eligible for an upgrade. If you elect to get whatever iphone is being offered for free then you are buying technology that is at least a year old and have to wait another 2 years until you'll be out of contract so bare minimum of 3 year old technology at that point. For comparison sake, I bought a 4s in Dec 2011, a full year before you bought your phone, and my husband bought a 5 in fall 2012, so you could have had much newer models if you'd spent the money to do so. (Not criticizing your choice, just explaining the consequence of it)
posted by drlith at 6:35 PM on August 16, 2014

Verizon will often let you upgrade a few months early. No, this isn't from a million years ago either. Go in and talk to a rep in person at an actual verizon store, not an "authorized retailer" mall kiosk or something, one of their real stores. Tell them you're going to cancel if you can't do this. You, or they might have to talk to call in to one of the phone support lines and restate that point, but it can generally be made to happen.

Alternatively, they pro-rate ETFs. You can probably pay like, $50-75 at this point to cancel your plan and then just open a contract with another carrier and instantly get the $200 for the new model, fully subsidized deal. I'd try A before B if you like your service, but... yea.

I upgraded from the 4 to the 5 this way, switching carriers. Friends who have broken their phones or just wanted the new one have weaseled out early upgrades though.

You can also just buy phones on craigslist or whatever, but that often costs closer to the $600 you mentioned not wanting to pay than not...(a 5s, even right now, is still like $450-500. when the 6 comes out it will likely cost even more than retail because it'll be sold out everywhere)
posted by emptythought at 8:01 PM on August 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have sold my last year's phone on eBay and applied the profit to the new phone. Unfortunately, this is not an option for you because your iPhone is four years old. Assuming it's a 8 GB model, you'd get about $100 on eBay and extra storage space doesn't get you much more - even the 32 GB iPhone 4 would be lucky to get $170.

If you plead with your local carrier's rep, they might cut you some slack. Then, if you are so inclined, keep the new phone in pristine condition so you can sell it online when it is time to upgrade to next year's model.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:05 PM on August 16, 2014

If you have an iPhone 4 that you bought in December of two years ago, you bought it when the iPhone 5 was already out. That same Christmas I paid around $200 for an upgrade to an iPhone 5 and then sold my old iPhone 4 to make back most of that cost. Presumably if I wanted to I could do the same this winter after the 6 comes out.
posted by MsMolly at 8:12 PM on August 16, 2014

People spend the $200 it costs to upgrade to the newest iPhone and then sell their old one on Craig's list or eBay to recoup most if not all or more of that money. Like people above said, you bought an older model when a newer one was available so that's part of it too. Wait until December and spend the $$ to get the new one, and then you'll always be "on cycle."
posted by katypickle at 4:41 AM on August 17, 2014

I sell my phone on either Ebay or, then put the proceeds towards the new phone.
posted by matty at 10:34 AM on August 17, 2014

I have two lines on my account, one for me, one for my gf, and I alternate which line I claim the upgrade on.
Once I get the new phone hardware I install it onto my line, then move her SIM from 2 years ago's phone to last year's phone. I always get the latest model, and she's happy to get last year's technology for free.
posted by w0mbat at 11:07 AM on August 17, 2014

I had a locked iPhone 4 and upgraded to an unlocked 4S direct from Apple, one year later. Resold my 4 on kijiji (craigslist) for around $300 and applied it to the new phone. If you want to upgrade your phone, just wait until the iPhone 6 is released. Then the 5's will all be on sale, both second-hand and in stores.
posted by lizbunny at 7:17 AM on August 18, 2014

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