With four major carriers, buying an iPhone X or iPhone 8 can be more complicated than you'd think. While Apple has its own iPhone upgrade program, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile all have versions of their own. Which plan you choose depends on your needs and, of course, your carrier. However, getting around to upgrading can be challenging to say the least.
With so many carriers, things get confusing fast. If you walk into an Apple Store to upgrade your carrier-locked iPhone, you may be turned away. However, you can upgrade that iPhone at the Apple Store, even if you don't have the iPhone upgrade program — as long as that plan is through AT&T Next, Sprint Flex, or Verizon's Device Payment Program.
I write this from personal experience. My previous iPhone was under AT&T Next, and since I had completed the required 12 months of payments on the iPhone, I was ready to upgrade to an iPhone 8 Plus.
The first Apple Store I visited turned me away at the door. They told me that I would have to go to AT&T to upgrade my device. That didn't sit right with me, since, in the past, you could always upgrade iPhones at the Apple Store, regardless of your carrier.
If you look at the purchase page on Apple's site, the company says you can upgrade phones purchased from both AT&T and Verizon. Even The Verge and 9to5 Mac say you can, although those articles were written before Apple expanded service to Verizon.
While Apple's site doesn't explicitly show the same results for Sprint's service, I confirmed with Apple that you can upgrade your Sprint iPhone at the Apple Store.
I decided to visit another Apple Store. This location initially said the same thing as the first. However, after asking a manager, we confirmed that, yes, you can upgrade AT&T and Verizon-locked iPhones with Apple.
Now, you know you can upgrade your iPhone through Apple. But you're going to want to show up prepared — there would be nothing worse than making a fuss about your upgrade only to find out that you can upgrade after all.
Unfortunately, T-Mobile JUMP! customizers can only upgrade their iPhones through T-Mobile itself, either online or in store. If you have T-Mobile, sorry to disappoint.
For all others, I'd recommend looking at your plan carefully again. Make sure you've followed the rules — if you're on an "upgrade every year" type of program, you have to complete at least 12 months' worth of payments before upgrading, while a two-year program typically needs 24 months' worth of payments to fulfill the requirements. You can check your carrier's trade-in program details here:
That doesn't necessarily mean you need to have the iPhone for 12 or 24 months — if you've had the iPhone for less than that time, you'll just need to pay the difference. For example, if you've paid off a one-year upgrade iPhone for eight months, you'll need to make four months' worth of payments before being eligible for an upgrade. If you have any questions about the number of payments you have left, the Apple employee you talk to should be able to show you after gathering your information.
The important thing is to get your foot in the door. If your Apple employee isn't aware that you can upgrade through Apple, politely ask for a second opinion from a manager. Many times, the employee will ask even without you asking. Once the employee knows they can help you upgrade, they will be able to walk you through the whole process.
How has your experience been with upgrading through Apple? Let us know in the comments below!