Best answer: Buying the SIM-free version of the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro is the best way to go. It frees you of any hassle you may have dealing directly with your carrier.
Taking the SIM-free route without the hassle
If you prefer having the option with the most flexibility, then buying the SIM-free version of the iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max is the way to go. The reason for this is you won't have any carrier information that you need to handover, nor will you have to sweat through any credit check from Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program. You just simply show up to the store, pick your phone of choice, and cash out. Once you have the phone, you can pop in a nano SIM from the carrier of your choice, whether it's postpaid or prepaid. Furthermore, you can bounce around from carrier to carrier as you please without the hassle of being handcuffed to a contract or installment fee with one phone company.
The downside is you're going to have to shell out all the cash up front when buying your new iPhone. There's no contract or monthly installment to help with upfront cost. This means you'll likely pay $699 for the 64GB model, $749 for 128GB, and $849 for the 256GB iPhone 11 models. As for the iPhone 11 Pro, cost start at $999 for the 64GB model, $1149 for 256GB, and $1349 for the 512GB model. The Max has the same storage options as the 11 Pro, but start at $1099, and all the way up to $1449 for the 512GB model.
Luckily, Apple has its iPhone Upgrade Program for those who don't want to pay that much money up front.
The iPhone Upgrade Program offers some flexibility and benefits
Deciding to go with Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program for your unlocked mobile device is a smart decision because of some flexibility and added benefits. For starters, you get an unlocked iPhone that you can use with any U.S. carrier, like you would if you were to have bought it out right with the SIM-free option. In addition, through the iPhone Upgrade Program, you'll get to pay monthly installments with Apple's standard AppleCare included in the total price. If you want to include the highest AppleCare+ protection, it'll cost some additional money billed monthly via a new subscription model it rolled out yesterday. The AppleCare+ protection program offers both theft and loss protection.
iPhone Upgrade Program payments for the iPhone 11 start at $29.12 per month for the 64GB model, elevating to $35.37 per month for the 256GB variant. As for the iPhone 11 Pro, monthly cost start at $41.62 for the 64GB model, $47.87 for 256GB, and $56.20 for the 512GB model. The 11 Pro Max will start at $45.79 a month, $52.04 for 256GB, and $60.37 for 512GB per month. Customers from Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint can enroll in the program online, in the Apple Store app, or in a local Apple Store nearby. A decision on whether you've been approved or not usually only takes a couple of minutes.
Just keep in mind, by going this route, you'll be agreeing to a credit check performed by Apple and its partner Citizen One. You can also try your chances applying for an Apple Card, which is better because it offers less interest and up to 3% back on all Apple purchases. Remember, financing is for 24 months, but if you want to pay it off in full before the term is up you can, or you can keep it and trade it in for a new iPhone the following year.
Apple iPhone Payments
If you prefer not go through the iPhone Upgrade Program, then you'll probably be into Apple iPhone Payments. This option is a new payment system offered through Apple's Store app. It essentially mimicks the carriers' monthly installment process when picking up a new phone at checkout. However, the difference with getting it through Apple verses your carrier is your iPhone will come to you unlocked. All iPhones coming from Apple bought under a specific phone network will be unlocked, including Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint - sorry AT&T customers, you're left out.
Visible is a mobile virtual operator (MVNO) who uses Verizon's cellular network to provide low-cost service at $40 per month. Aside from the price, the cool thing about Visible is all its iPhones purchased through them come unlocked.
The prepaid carrier allows you to get your unlocked iPhone on a financing plan through Affirm. The financing through Affirm can cost you as low as 0%, which lets you pay off the price of the iPhone over time. You'll pay your monthly installment along with your service cost.
Other carriers aren't so generous
The unlocking situation with other carriers isn't so generous. To be clear, each carrier does allow you unlock your iPhone, however, they're some caveats.
For example, back in the day Verizon used to unlock your phone soon as you inserted your SIM card in the slot and activated your line. Now, it's not so instant anymore, as the carrier has recently changed its device unlocking policy. So, with its new policy, Verizon will unlock your iPhone once you have it active on its service for 60 days. AT&T requires you to wait 14 days before unlocking your device if its new, while T-Mobile waits after 40 days, and Sprint 50 – Yikes!
Just keep these unlocking policies in mind if you buy your iPhone 11 through these carriers out right or on an installment. Regardless, after they finally unlock your phone, it opens possibilities to use an eSIM if you want to use two services at the same time. Currently, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile all support eSIM on the iPhone.
Buy from Apple for hassle-free results
The iPhone 11 comes with an assortment of colors, a powerful A13 Bionic chip, and stellar ultra wide lens to take advantage of the newly released Night Mode feature. Buying this phone unlocked from Apple lets you use it on any carrier right away.
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