What you need to know before buying an iPhone at the Apple Store

Apple store
Apple store

Buying an iPhone at the Apple Store isn't quite as simple as walking into a clothing store and buying a pair of jeans. If you come prepared, the process will go a lot more smoothly. Having been an Apple Store specialist myself, I can help you get in and out of the Apple Store with your brand new iPhone in hand more efficiently.

Do some research first

Do a little bit of research before you go in. Have some idea about which iPhone you might like. The specialist in the store can answer questions and help you decide on a model, but having some idea before you go will keep you from feeling overwhelmed by choices. Plus, it's always a good idea to go in when you are relaxed and not rushing off to an appointment.

Decide if you want a SIM-free iPhone

Do you need or want a SIM-free iPhone? In other words, an unlocked, international phone that will work in any country and with any cellular company's SIM card in it? If so, you'll want to ask for the SIM-free phone up front. If you use a cellular carrier other than Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, or Verizon, you will need to get a SIM-free phone. The SIM card from your current phone can be easily removed and placed into your new one. If you don't have a working SIM card, Apple will give you a new one upon request or you can get one from your carrier.

Note: You cannot finance a SIM-free phone so plan on having the money available for the full amount.

Bring correct ID

If you want to finance your new iPhone, you'll need two forms of valid ID. First, one of the following: driver's license, state ID, military ID, or passport. You also need a second form of ID. As long as the address on your primary ID matches the address on your carrier bill, your second form of ID can be nearly anything, such as a credit card with your name on it. If it doesn't match — for example, you've just moved — the second form of ID must be a utility bill from the last 90 days and that address must match what the carrier has on file.

Make sure you're an authorized user with your carrier

If you wish to finance and activate the phone, in addition to the forms of ID mentioned above, you will also need to be an authorized user on your carrier account. If you're not sure, ask the primary person on your account to go on the carrier's website or call and check, then add you if you aren't already one.

Know your carrier account information

You will need to know the last four digits of the primary's social security number as well as the account PIN and password. Not every carrier requires a PIN, but if yours does, you will need to know it. It is not the same as the password on the account.

Bring a credit card for the iPhone Upgrade Program

If you wish to finance your new iPhone through the iPhone Upgrade Program, which is only available for the latest iPhone models, in addition to all of the above, you will need a credit card. Not a debit card, you must have a credit card, which will be used to run a credit check. You will need to fill out a form which will include your social security number and your salary, so be sure you know that information.

If you've put a freeze on your credit, you'll need to unlock that before you go to the Apple Store, or else you won't be approved for the iPhone Upgrade Program.

A note about credit freezes and how they apply to the iPhone Upgrade Program

Back up your iPhone to iCloud

If you want to set up your new iPhone in the store, and you want everything from your old phone to be on it, be sure you have a current iCloud backup. If you haven't done one in some time, doing the backup could take hours, which is why you don't want to do it in the Apple Store.

Know your Apple ID and password

If you're planning to set up your new iPhone, you will need to know your Apple ID and password. If you've forgotten the password, you'll want to reset it before you go to the store.

Any questions?

Most of the people that work at an Apple retail store are fun and friendly. When you walk into the Apple Store well prepared, you can just relax and enjoy the experience of purchasing an incredible piece of technology. Do you have any questions for how to have the best buying experience at an Apple Retail Store? Ask in the comments below.

Karen S Freeman

Karen is a contributor to iMore.com as a writer and co-host of the iMore Show. She’s been writing about Apple since 2010 with a year-long break to work at an Apple Store as a product specialist. She's also a contributor at TechRadar and Tom's Guide. Before joining iMore in 2018, Karen wrote for Macworld, CNET, AppAdvice, and WatchAware. She’s an early adopter who used to wait in long lines on release days before pre-ordering made things much easier. Karen is also a part-time teacher and occasional movie extra. She loves to spend time with her family, travel the world, and is always looking for portable tech and accessories so she can work from anywhere.