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Apple iPhone Upgrade Program: The ultimate guide

Iphone 12 Mini
Iphone 12 Mini (Image credit: Apple)

Apple has a unique upgrade plan that allows you to hand over your one-year-old iPhone for a brand new one every year for a specific monthly cost in perpetuity. It's basically a leasing program that lets you upgrade every year without changing your monthly cost unless you upgrade to a more expensive model or Apple increases the price of its phone that you're on the program for.

If you don't want to upgrade every year, or if you don't want to upgrade one year, but do want to upgrade another year, you have some flexibility (as long as you are always approved). The plan actually lets you spread the cost of an iPhone with AppleCare+ across two years without interest. Upgrading after one year just lets you keep making payments at the price of a two-year plan without early trade-in fees.

If you're thinking about buying the iPhone 12 using the iPhone Upgrade Program, or if you've been on the program for at least a year and are wondering what to do next, we've got everything you need to know about it right here.

iPhone Upgrade Program: Everything you need to know

iPhone cameras

iPhone cameras (Image credit: Rene Ritchie)

Once you've decided which is the best iPhone for your lifestyle, it's time to decide how you're going to pay for it. If you're thinking about signing up for the iPhone Upgrade Program for the first time this year, we've got some details that may help you decide.

iPhone Upgrade Program: Everything you need to know

How to get loan pre-approval for the iPhone Upgrade Program

Apple Music on iPhone

How to sign up and activate an Apple Music family plan (Image credit: Casian Holly / iMore)

Whether you're brand new to the program or re-enrolling from last year or the year before, you can get pre-approval for the iPhone Upgrade Program ahead of iPhone preorder launches. Pre-approval becomes available within the week of a new iPhone's preorder date. If you don't see the option to get pre-approved, check back another day.

How to get loan pre-approval for the iPhone Upgrade Program

How to prepare for your iPhone Upgrade Program trade-in

Iphone 12 Pro Camera

Iphone 12 Pro Camera (Image credit: Apple)

If you have an appointment with an Apple specialist to upgrade, there are a couple of things you should get ready to take with you to your appointment. Otherwise, Apple will send you a trade-in kit, which includes a box that you can use to send back your old iPhone, if you are a continuing participant of the iPhone Upgrade Program.

How to prepare for your iPhone Upgrade Program trade-in

How to upgrade to a new iPhone if you are on the iPhone Upgrade Program

Iphone 12 Iphone 11 Iphone Xr Cameras

Iphone 12 Iphone 11 Iphone Xr Cameras (Image credit: Rene Ritchie)

If you enrolled in the iPhone Upgrade Program a year ago when you purchased your iPhone, you are eligible to upgrade to the latest model. Here's how!

How to upgrade to a new iPhone if you are on the iPhone Upgrade Program

Does Apple have any other payment options?

As a matter of fact, yes. Apple recently added a second payment plan called iPhone Payments, which lets you make payments on an iPhone across 24 months without any option to upgrade after one year. The biggest difference between this and the iPhone Upgrade Program (aside from the fact that there is no upgrade option) is that you don't have to buy AppleCare+ with this loan agreement. Once you've paid off the loan, it's all yours. No strings attached. Well ... no strings other than you have to pick a carrier.

As of last year, with the launch of the Apple Card, there is now a third payment plan: Apple Card Monthly Installments. If you have an Apple Card with enough credit to buy a new iPhone, you can take advantage of 3% cashback on top of a more flexible payment plan than a loan via iPhone Payments.

So how do you know whether to buy your new iPhone using Apple Card Monthly Installments vs iPhone Payments, or maybe you should go with iPhone Payments instead of the iPhone Upgrade Program? Let iMore be your guide.

Questions?

Give us a shout if you have any questions or run into any issues!

Updated October 2020: Updated for iPhone 12 and added information about iPhone Payments and Apple Card Monthly Installments.

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).