When you buy a new iPhone, there are plenty of places to buy it from, including your carrier and tech stores. And while each of these has its own pros and cons, you shouldn’t forget about the option of buying your iPhone directly from the source: Apple.
Let’s look at some reasons that buying your iPhone from Apple can be worthwhile. They don’t apply in all cases, but are worth considering before you make a purchase.
1. You’ll Own Your Phone
Nowadays, most mobile carriers don’t offer subsidized prices on phones if you pay in installments over the course of a few years. That means that if it’s financially viable for you, buying your iPhone in full and upfront is advantageous, particularly when purchased from Apple.
Owning your phone means you can do whatever you want with it. If you fell on hard times and needed to sell your iPhone for some quick money, you could do that when you own it outright.
But when paying for your phone monthly through a carrier, even if you sold it to someone, you’d still have to make the remaining payments on the contract. This is one of the big considerations when deciding whether to buy your iPhone from Apple or your carrier.
Apple selling unlocked phones is another big benefit of this. It’s easier to sell an iPhone when the new owner can connect it to any network, instead of trying to find an applicable buyer for a device that only works on a certain carrier.
Some carriers do offer to unlock their phones after you pay off the device. But even if you buy your phone upfront, most providers have restrictions on unlocking phones. You might need to use the service for a certain amount of time, or come into a store and meet “other requirements.” Those are extra hoops to jump through when you could just get an unlocked phone from the start.
Note that when you buy from Apple, you can still connect to one of the big four carriers at purchase time and your phone will arrive ready-to-go. In almost all cases, your device will be unlocked. Choose the “Connect on your own later” option on Apple’s site to ensure this.
2. Freedom to Switch Providers
When you buy your iPhone unlocked from Apple, you can take it to whatever carrier you like. You aren’t tied into a contract the mobile provider wants you to sign for the device.
Say you bought your iPhone today and brought it to your existing AT&T account. If a better deal came along with T-Mobile in six months, you could leave AT&T (assuming you had no contract for the service) and move to T-Mobile whenever you want. Since your phone is 100% yours, you don’t have to worry about being chained to your carrier for as long as you have that device.
This is even better when you get away from the big carriers and sign up with an MVNO like Mint Mobile. If you don’t mind losing a few fancy features of the major carriers, you could save a lot of money while still getting reliable service.
3. More International Flexibility
With most carrier plans, international travel is expensive. You’ll probably get slapped with a daily fee simply for bringing your phone out of your home country, plus you’ll have to pay increased rates for calls and data. If your phone is locked to a network in your country, there’s not much you can do about this—aside from keeping your device in airplane mode the whole time and only using Wi-Fi.
But with a fully unlocked phone, you can buy a local SIM card anywhere you go and use that service for much less money. Buying a prepaid card from your destination country that covers your normal usage is much less expensive than paying your home carrier’s international rates.
4. Apple Has a Great Return Policy
If you buy a new iPhone from Apple and don’t like it, you aren’t stuck with your purchase. In the US, Apple offers 14 days from the date you receive your product to return it, with no questions asked. This means that if, for example, you try a Pro Max iPhone model and find it too large, you aren’t stuck with it for a year or more.
If you live near a physical Apple Store, you can bring your return there and get a refund immediately. Otherwise, Apple makes it easy to print a return shipping label through your Apple ID order history so you can drop it off with a shipping service.
With carriers, the return policy can vary wildly. Some offer a similar two-week period for returns, but might charge you a restocking fee or impose other restrictions. If you aren’t sure whether you’ll love your new phone, buying from Apple gives you no-pressure time to try it first.
5. Cash Back With Apple Card
If you have the Apple Card or are interested in signing up for it, using that to pay for your purchase from Apple will result in maximum cashback. The Apple Card gives three percent cash back on all purchases from Apple.
While this isn’t a massive amount of money, every little bit helps on a large purchase like a new iPhone. Since most credit cards don’t give extra cashback on tech purchases, three percent instead of one percent could result in an extra $15 or $20 in your pocket.
But for everyday usage, compared to many other credit cards, the Apple Card isn’t that great. Lots of other cards offer rotating percentages back on common categories like gas and groceries. You’ll earn more cashback with one of those cards buying everyday items than you will from buying an iPhone once every two years.
So while you shouldn’t sign up for an Apple Card just to buy an iPhone, buying your phone from Apple reaps more benefits if you already have the card.
6. The iPhone Upgrade Program Option
Most of the points above focus on why buying your iPhone unlocked without carrier interference is so great. But buying outright isn’t possible for everyone. If paying monthly works better for you, and you worry about damaging your iPhone, then the iPhone Upgrade Program is another reason to buy from Apple.
With this program, you pay a monthly fee to cover the cost of your iPhone, as well as AppleCare+ coverage. Once you’ve made 12 payments, you’re eligible to trade in your current phone and get the latest model, starting the process again. See our full explanation of the iPhone Upgrade Program for more info.
By paying monthly, you lose some of the flexibility we discussed above. But if you prioritize getting the latest iPhone each year and would buy AppleCare anyway, this is a decent option.
At the time of writing, the lowest possible price for the iPhone Upgrade Program is $35.33 per month for a 128GB iPhone 13 mini. Meanwhile, the most expensive is $74.91 per month for a 1TB iPhone 13 Pro Max. You can also choose to upgrade to AppleCare+ with Theft and Loss for an additional cost, if you like.
Buying an iPhone From Apple Has Its Advantages
We’ve made an argument for why buying your iPhone unlocked right from Apple is a smart idea. In short, buying your phone unlocked means it’s yours to do with as you wish, instead of you having to dance around carrier rules to use the phone how you want.
If you’re able to get a great deal from your carrier, don’t plan on switching providers, and never travel internationally, then another option might be better for you. But wherever you get it from, make sure you buy your new iPhone at the right time.
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