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Is Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program Worth It?

Is Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program worth it? We broke down the numbers and found that it’s not the cheapest option if you want to upgrade to a new iPhone every year. In fact, the Apple iPhone Upgrade Program could cost you as much as $110 more than paying in full – and it’s even more expensive than some carrier plans. Here’s what you need to know to decide which iPhone upgrade program is right for you.

How Apple’s iPhone upgrade program compares

The table below compares total cost of ownership over one year for an iPhone 11 64GB.

PlanTotal Payments One YearTrade-In ValueTotal Cost of Ownership
Apple Upgrade Program$424$0$424
Verizon Annual iPhone Upgrade Program$350$0$350
AT&T Next Up$340$0$340
Sprint iPhone Forever$350$0$350
T-Mobile Jump$350$0$350
Pay in full, sell to buyback store$699$385$314

Prices rounded to the nearest dollar. Trade-in value based on 55% of the original retail price

As you can see, the Apple iPhone Upgrade Program costs more than other options – but we’re not comparing apples to apples, since the Apple iPhone Upgrade Program comes bundled with AppleCare+, an insurance program that covers damage but not loss and theft.

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AppleCare+ with Theft & Loss is an available add-on for $4.17 per month. Let’s see how that stacks up to other options with comparable insurance plans.

Plan w/InsuranceTotal Payments One YearTrade-In ValueTotal Cost of Ownership
Apple Upgrade Program w/AppleCare+ Theft & Loss$474$0$474
Verizon Annual iPhone Upgrade Program w/Verizon Wireless Phone Protection$432$0$432
AT&T Next Up$448$0$448
Sprint iPhone Forever$530$0$530
T-Mobile Jump$530$0$530
Pay in full, sell to buyback store w/AppleCare+ Theft & Loss$855$385$470
Pay in full, sell to buyback store w/Verizon Wireless Phone Protection$781$385$396

Prices rounded to the nearest dollar. Trade-in value based on 55% of the original retail price

When you account for insurance that covers loss and theft, the Apple iPhone Upgrade Program is in the middle of the pack. Sprint and T-Mobile are the most expensive options, while Verizon is the cheapest carrier plan – but a final option is even cheaper: pay full price for your phone, then sell it to an online buyback store.



No trade-in value kills iPhone upgrade programs

iPhone upgrade programs sell you on the idea that you can get a brand-new iPhone each year. Once you pay off half the value of the device, you can return it (as long as it’s in good working condition) and upgrade to a new iPhone without paying the balance. It seems like a good deal, until you consider that you’d spend less money if you simply paid full price for your iPhone and sold it to an online buyback store when you’re ready to upgrade.

Historically, used iPhones in good condition retain around 55% of their original retail prices after one year. In the case of the iPhone 11, that means it would be worth around $385 after a year. Subtract that from the $699 sticker price, and your total cost of ownership comes to $314. That’s $110 less than you’d pay with Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program.

Did you know? Many phones are worth $100+. Find the value of your phone.

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The potential savings are even more pronounced when you consider the cumulative price gap over time: in our scenario, paying in full and then selling would net an additional $550 in your pocket over five upgrade cycles – a hefty down payment toward a new iPhone.

What about insurance?

Of course, you probably want to insure your phone. If you pay in full and opt for Verizon’s Wireless Phone Protection, your total cost of ownership would be $396 after you sell your iPhone. That’s $78 less than you’d pay on Apple’s plan (if you purchased AppleCare+ with Theft & Loss) and $134 less than you’d pay with T-Mobile and Sprint insurance plans.

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Paying in full doesn’t mean you need to pony up $699 upfront, either; you can still purchase your iPhone on an installment plan through Apple, make the first 11 payments, and pay the balance in the 12th month. Then, you can instantly sell your phone to offset that payment and put cash toward a new iPhone.

Another benefit of paying in full? You’re not locked into an upgrade program, which can prevent you from switching carriers in order to take advantage of upgrade benefits.

Now that we’ve established that paying in full then selling your iPhone is the cheapest option, let’s take a deeper dive into the differences between Apple and carrier iPhone upgrade plans.

iPhone upgrade programs compared

Apple Upgrade Program

The Apple Upgrade Program lets you upgrade to a new iPhone every year (once you’ve made 12 payments, or 50% of the device’s value). It works with any major carrier and comes packaged with AppleCare+, an insurance plan that covers accidental damage. AppleCare+ with Theft & Loss can be added for an additional $4.17 per month.

Monthly pricing starts at $35.33 for the iPhone 11 64GB and tops out at $68.66 for the iPhone 11 Pro Max 512GB. Add Loss & Theft, and it comes to $39.50 and $72.83, respectively.



Verizon Annual iPhone Upgrade Program

Verizon’s program is like Apple’s, with the caveats that it doesn’t come with AppleCare+ (insurance must be paid separately) and you must remain a Verizon customer. Without insurance, Verizon is cheaper than Apple: $29.16 per month for an iPhone 11 64GB and $60.41 for an iPhone 11 Pro Max 512GB.

Add Verizon’s Wireless Phone Protection for $6.85 per month, which covers loss, theft, and damage (but not post-warranty defects, which you don’t really need since the warranty is good until the one-year upgrade mark), and the totals come to $36.01 and $67.26, respectively. That’s slightly more than you’d pay for the Apple Upgrade Program packaged with AppleCare+, but less than you’d pay with the Theft & Loss add-on you’d need to get comparable coverage from Apple.

Verizon Insurance: What it covers, what it doesn’t

AT&T Next Up

You’ll need to pay an additional $5 monthly fee to participate in AT&T’s annual iPhone upgrade program. You’ll also need to remain an AT&T customer and purchase insurance separately.

With the additional $5 fee, the iPhone 11 64GB monthly price is $28.34. The iPhone 11 Pro Max 512GB is $53.34 per month. Both are cheaper than Apple’s plan, but if you want to add insurance coverage the minimum plan costs an additional $8.99 per month (AT&T Mobile Insurance, which covers device damage plus loss and theft). That brings the totals to $37.33 and $62.33, respectively, which is a better deal than Apple offers for comparable coverage.

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Sprint iPhone Forever

The Sprint Flex plan is an 18-month lease, but it allows you to upgrade once you’ve made 12 device payments. Like other carrier plans, you’ll need to remain a Sprint customer and your iPhone won’t come bundled with insurance. You’ll pay $29.17 per month for an iPhone 11 64GB and $45.84 per month for an iPhone 11 Pro Max 512 GB.

Sprint Complete – the carrier’s only insurance option – comes bundled with AppleCare, and costs $15 per month for an iPhone 11 64GB and $19 per month for an iPhone 11 Pro Max 512GB. It covers damage, loss and theft, so coverage is comparable to Apple’s best plan, but it brings the total cost to $44.17 and $64.84 per month, respectively. That means Sprint with insurance would cost more than the Apple Upgrade Program with AppleCare+ Theft & Loss for the iPhone 11 64GB, but less for the iPhone 11 Pro Max 512GB.

Is Sprint Complete a good deal? Find out

T-Mobile Jump

Like other carrier iPhone upgrade programs, T-Mobile’s Jump allows you to upgrade to a new iPhone after you’ve paid off half the device. Despite claims made in some articles, a T-Mobile support agent said Jump does not come with device protection; rather, customers are encouraged to purchase Protection 360 for $15 per month. The insurance covers accidental damage, loss and theft.

Monthly pricing is $29.17 for both the iPhone 11 64GB and iPhone 11 Pro Max 512GB ($44.17 with Protection 360), subject to approved credit.

Is T-Mobile insurance a good deal? Find out

So, is Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program worth it?

The short answer is not really. It costs more than carrier programs – and significantly more than paying in full. Even with AppleCare+, it’s not a good deal since it doesn’t cover loss and theft (a staple of most carrier insurance plans). When you add in the additional cost for AppleCare+ with Theft & Loss and compare it to similar carrier insurance, you’ll get a better deal with Verizon and AT&T. Pay full price (even on installments), then sell your iPhone to an online buyback store, and you could even save hundreds of dollars over the long haul.

Related Help

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