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Best way to buy your new iPhone


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Looking for the best way to buy a new iPhone? Here’s what you need to know.

The launch of the iPhone 8 iPhone 8 Plus is upon us, with the iPhone X coming down the stretch, and there are a lot of options for making your purchase. While we feel that the best way to buy your new iPhone is through the iPhone Upgrade Program using the Apple Store app, we’ve also assembled the best alternatives for those that want or need to purchase another way.

Best overall

iPhone Upgrade Program

If you’re a Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint customer looking for a quick and easy way to get your hands on the iPhone 8 or iPhone X, then you’ll want to buy it through the iPhone Upgrade Program using the Apple Store app.

The iPhone Upgrade Program lets you to pay a monthly fee for an unlocked phone, rather than the full price up front, with an option to upgrade to a new phone once per year after 12 monthly payments. You’ll only need to pay the phone’s sales tax up front. What’s more, AppleCare+ service is included, which covers phone support and two accidental damage incidents.

Use the Apple Store app

You can sign up for the iPhone Upgrade Program via the Apple Store App, which is great, because the Apple Store App is the best way to pre-order a new iPhone. Using the app, you get all of the advantages of ordering online, without having to worry about stalling pages. You can use your existing credit card information to make your purchase, buy with gift cards, and even check out with Apple Pay. It also requires very little effort on your part, which is great for those late-night pre-orders.

The Apple Store app offers access to a variety of payment plans for your phone, including a one-time purchase, the Apple iPhone Upgrade Program for customers not on T-Mobile), and the various carrier installment plans. Here’s how each of those break down for the iPhone X with 64GB of storage:

Apple iPhone Upgrade Program Apple iPhone Payments One-Time Payments AT&T Next Every Year (24-month agreement) AT&T Next (30-month agreement) Sprint 2-year contract Verizon Device Payment
Upgrade After 6 months and 12 payments No No After 12 months or sooner with eligible trade‑in After 24 months or sooner with eligible trade‑i After 24 months After 12 payments or sooner with a down payment
AppleCare+ Included Not Applicable +$199.00 +$199.00 +$199.00 +$199.00 +$199.00
Financed by Citizens One Citizens One AT&T AT&T Verizon
Unlocked Yes Yes Yes No No No Yes
Payments 24 24 1 24 30 1 24
APR 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Monthly Cost $49.91/mo. $41.62/mo. $41.63/mo. $33.30/mo. $41.62/mo.
Total Cost $1,198.00 + sales tax $999.00 + sales tax $999.00 + sales tax $999.00 + sales tax $999.00 + sales tax $549.00 + sales tax $999.00 + sales tax

And this is the breakdown for the iPhone X with 256GB of storage:

Apple iPhone Upgrade Program Apple iPhone Payments One-Time Payments AT&T Next Every Year (24-month agreement) AT&T Next (30-month agreement) Sprint 2-year contract Verizon Device Payment
Upgrade After 6 months and 12 payments No No After 12 months or sooner with eligible trade‑in After 24 months or sooner with eligible trade‑i After 24 months After 12 payments or sooner with a down payment
AppleCare+ Included Not Applicable +$199.00 +$199.00 +$199.00 +$199.00 +$199.00
Financed by Citizens One Citizens One AT&T AT&T Verizon
Unlocked Yes Yes Yes No No No Yes
Payments 24 24 1 24 30 1 24
APR 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Monthly Cost $56.16/mo. $47.87/mo. $47.88/mo. $38.30/mo. $47.87/mo.
Total Cost $1,348.00 + sales tax $1,149.00 + sales tax $1,149.00 + sales tax $1,149.00 + sales tax $1,149.00 + sales tax $699.00 + sales tax $1,149.00 + sales tax
  • Apple Store app – Download Now

Note for T-Mobile customers

While T-Mobile customers can take advantage of the iPhone Upgrade Program, it is not available for them online. Instead, you’ll need to head to your nearest Apple Store and sign up for the program there.

Why you might want to skip the iPhone Upgrade Program

Despite its advantages, there are reasons you might not want to get your phone through the iPhone Upgrade Program.

The biggest reason you may want to avoid the program is the monthly cost. While a 64GB iPhone 8 starts at $23.34 per month through AT&T’s installment plan, for instance, that same phone costs $34.50 through the iPhone Upgrade Program. The price of AppleCare+ is factored into Apple’s monthly installment, but if you don’t feel you need the protection, why pay more for it?

Additionally, if you like owning your phone, the iPhone Upgrade Program might not your best option. While you can certainly hang on to the same phone for 24 months, the program seems geared more towards those who upgrade every year and don’t mind parting with their older device.

Best way to buy an iPhone without a contract

Buy it outright

Of course, if you’re a saver, or just have the disposable income, you can always purchase your new iPhone outright.

If you’re not keen on having to make monthly payments, being forced into an upgrade schedule, or being tied to a specific carrier, this is a great option.

If you’re buying outright, here’s what you can expect to pay:

Model Price
iPhone 8 (64GB) $699
iPhone 8 (256GB) $849
iPhone 8 Plus (64GB) $799
iPhone 8 Plus (256GB) $949
iPhone X (64GB) $999
iPhone X (256GB) $1,149

You have a number of options for purchasing your iPhone at the full retail price and without a contract:

  • Apple – Naturally, Apple lets you purchase the iPhone at full price for the four major carriers as well. For the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, there’s even a SIM-free option that lets you take your new iPhone to any carrier that you want.
  • Carriers – Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint all give you the option to purchase your iPhone at the full price up front, though naturally that option is often emphasized less than their own installment plans.
  • Third-party retailers – Best Buy, Target, and Walmart also offer the iPhone at full price, though these retailers don’t offer SIM-free options. So while you can purchase your iPhone outright and without a contract, you’ll still come out of the purchasing experience as as customer of one of the carriers.

Best on a budget

Installment plan

If you’d rather not pay all of that money at once, you can spread it out over multiple months with an installment plan. It’s exactly what it sounds like: You take the full price of the phone and divide it up over 12, 24, or 36 monthly payments (usually with 0% interest).

This is the best option for those on a budget, because you can increase or decrease your monthly payments depending on how soon you’d like to pay off your device and upgrade to a new one.

Best with a carrier

Carrier payment plan

If you’re tied to your carrier (i.e. you’ve already started an installment plan on Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, etc.), the carrier payment plan might be best for you.

Most carriers have moved away from the subsidized two-year contract option, instead offering you the option to pay a monthly installment plan along side your monthly fees for data, text, etc.

  • AT&T offers an AT&T Next plan that lets you upgrade your phone every one or two years.
  • Verizon offers an Annual Upgrade Program that lets you upgrade your phone each year provided you’ve paid off at least 50% of your installment plan. Verizon customers can also get anywhere from $100-$300 off their iPhone 8 (a credit applied to your bill over 24 months) when trading in an iPhone 5 or newer and signing up for an unlimited plan.
  • T-Mobile offers T-Mobile Jump!, which gives you the option to upgrade your phone provided you’ve paid off at least 50% of your installment plan. T-Mobile is also offering $300 (again, split over 24 months), for customers who trade in an iPhone 6 or newer when purchasing an iPhone 8 or iPhone X with an equipment installment plan. Additionally, the carrier has announced its own iPhone upgrade program, which will allow you to trade in your current iPhone when you have paid 50% of it off, wiping out the remaining payments and letting you upgrade to the latest iPhone at no extra cost. T-Mobile calls this a “one-time benefit” that those who pre-order or purchase an iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, or iPhone 8 can take advantage of for free.
  • Sprint offers the iPhone Forever plan, which — for $22 a month — lets you trade up to the latest iPhone at no extra charge.

Not the best

Trade up

If you’re not tied into any upgrade or carrier plans, you may want to trade in your current iPhone for credit toward your next one. You can visit an Apple Store with the phone you want to trade in to get instant credit or fill out an online form and mail in your phone — you’ll get a gift card via email.

This option is arguably worse than the others. That’s because at most you’re getting $260 toward the purchase of your next phone, so you’re not necessarily walking away with the new iPhone 8 or iPhone X in hand. That said, if you have an older device you’re willing to part with, trading it in for credit isn’t a bad idea. Who knows, maybe Liam will be the one recycling it!

Conclusion

The iPhone Upgrade Program is a solid option for most people looking to get their hands on a new iPhone, and using the Apple Store app makes buying through the program even easier. With AppleCare+ included in the monthly cost, it also gives you extra piece of mind about your brand new phone.

Update October 2017: Added information and pricing breakdowns for the various ways that you can purchase an iPhone X, as well as information about where to get an iPhone for the full retail price and without a contract.



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