At its annual fall event, Apple just announced the brand new editions of their flagship phone — the iPhone 15 and Plus models and the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max models. If you’re someone who likes switching out their iPhone as new models emerge each year and looking to upgrade your current iPhone soon, Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program might be right for you. 

This program is basically an “iPhone as a service” plan. Instead of paying the full value up front or making monthly payments to own a particular phone after two years, the iPhone Upgrade program lets you trade in your current phone for a new model after making 12 monthly payments. Of course, for that privilege, you’re paying a subscription fee for the foreseeable future. 

Since the iPhone 15 was just announced and will be available for preorder on Sept. 15 and available to purchase in store on Sept. 22, this could be a good time to get in on all of the upgrading action. To check your eligibility, all you have to do is sign in on Apple’s Website, and you will know whether your current phone is eligible for an upgrade. 

How does the iPhone Upgrade Program work?

You buy an iPhone from Apple — from an Apple Store in person, Apple’s online store or the Apple Store app — and agree to pay it off off over 24 months. But after making half of those payments, you’re eligible for a free upgrade. After 12 months, you can trade in your current phone for a new model. The clock starts again on the 24 months of payments and eligibility to upgrade after making 12 of them. 

Why buy from Apple instead of a carrier?

Apple sweetens the deal by including its AppleCare Plus coverage at a slight discount with the iPhone Upgrade Program. AppleCare Plus is the company’s insurance and extended warranty program that would otherwise cost $8 a month for the iPhone 15, $9 a month for the iPhone15 Plus, or $10 a month for the iPhone 15 Pro or 15 Pro Max. With the Apple Upgrade Program, you pay $6.21 a month for AppleCare Plus on the iPhone 15. 

AppleCare Plus doubles the standard one-year warranty to two years, but that’s less of a concern if you’re planning on trading in your phone after the first year. The real value of AppleCare Plus is getting accidental-damage protection. You get unlimited accidental damage claims to repair your phone. A cracked screen will run you $29, and other accidental damage will cost you $99. Phone support is also extended to two years with AppleCare Plus, up from the standard 90 days.

Screenshot of Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program Pricing for the iPhone 15 Series

The iPhone Upgrade program starts at $39.50 for the 128GB iPhone 15. 

Screenshot by Mary-Elisabeth Combs/CNET

How much does it cost?

Pricing ranges from $39.50 a month for the 128GB iPhone 15 to $74.91 a month for the 1TB iPhone 15 Pro Max. 

What about AppleCare Plus with Theft and Loss?

If you worry less about dropping or damaging your phone and more about losing it or it getting stolen, you can pay a bit extra per month to upgrade to AppleCare Plus with Theft and Loss coverage. With AppleCare Plus with Theft and Loss covers two incidents of theft and loss per year, with each replacement running you $149, which is still cheaper than buying a new iPhone. Upgrading to AppleCare Plus with Theft and Loss coverage adds $4.16 to your monthly Upgrade Program bill and lets you pay a small deductible to replace a lost or stolen phone rather than the full cost of replacement.

How do I pay?

You’ll need a credit card or debit card to sign up, at least in the US. In the US, Apple uses Citizens Bank for the installment loan, and it requires a valid, US-issued credit card to be eligible. You are not eligible to sign up with a prepaid card. 

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Is there an age limit?

Yes. Sorry, kids, you need to be 18 years old to apply. (And given the prices of the new Pro models, I hope you’ll start being nicer to your parents.)

How do I trade in my current phone?

You can take it to an Apple Store and make the swap there, but you can also save the trip and buy from Apple’s online store or the Apple Store app. When you order an iPhone online from Apple, it’ll arrive with a trade-in kit so you can package up your suddenly outdated phone and ship it back to Apple. You need to get it back to Apple within 14 days.

Read more: The best ways to sell or trade in your old iPhone in 2023 

What if my current iPhone is banged up?

According to Apple, your current iPhone needs to be in “good physical and operational condition.” That means it should:

  • Be able to power on and hold a charge
  • Have an intact and functioning display

I haven’t made 12 payments yet on my current phone — can I still upgrade?

Yes, but it’ll cost you. If you’ve made at least six monthly payments on your current phone, you can pay the difference between your current balance and the total for 12 payments to fast-forward the clock and get a new iPhone.

Do I need to upgrade?

No, not all at! You aren’t forced to upgrade. If you’re happy with your current phone, you can keep using it and continuing to pay it off. After 24 months, you will have paid it off and can continue using it without the monthly payment, or you can turn around and sell it to help finance the cost of a new phone when you’re ready.

How is this different than Apple’s Trade In program?

Note that the iPhone Upgrade program isn’t the same as Apple’s Trade In program. While you are exchanging your old iPhone for a newer model in both programs, with the iPhone Trade In program you are simply trading in an old device for a discount on a newer one. 

If you are a part of the iPhone Upgrade program, you are discouraged from participating in the trade-in program, since you don’t outright own your device in the iPhone Upgrade program. If you do wish to participate in the Trade In program, you will be on the hook for the balance of both the phone you were trading in and the new phone.

For more, here’s everything that was announced at the 2023 Wonderlust event and when iOS 17 will be released.

Originally published three years ago. Updated with information about the latest iPhone models.

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