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Best way to buy your new iPhone


his year, are three new flagship phones from Apple — iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max. While we feel that the best way to buy your new iPhone is through the iPhone Upgrade Program using the Apple Store app, we’ve also assembled the best alternatives for those that want or need to purchase another way.

Best overall

iPhone Upgrade Program

If you’re a Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile customer looking for a quick and easy way to get your hands on the iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Pro, then you’ll want to buy it through the iPhone Upgrade Program using the Apple Store app.

The iPhone Upgrade Program lets you pay a monthly fee for an unlocked phone, rather than the full price up front, with an option to upgrade to a new phone once per year after 12 monthly payments and six months. You’ll only need to pay the phone’s sales tax up front. What’s more, AppleCare+ service is included, which covers phone support and two accidental damage incidents. Apple’s latest AppleCare+ addon, Theft and Loss, is an additional $4.17 on top of your Apple Upgrade Program monthly payment.

Use the Apple Store app

You can sign up for the iPhone Upgrade Program via the Apple Store App, which is great, because the Apple Store App is the best way to pre-order a new iPhone. Using the app, you get all of the advantages of ordering online, without having to worry about stalling pages. You can use your existing credit card information to make your purchase, buy with gift cards, and even check out with Apple Pay. It also requires very little effort on your part, which is great for those late-night pre-orders.

The Apple Store app offers access to a variety of payment plans for your phone, including a one-time purchase, the Apple iPhone Upgrade Program, and the available AT&T and Verizon carrier installment plans.

Why you might want to skip the iPhone Upgrade Program

Despite its advantages, there are reasons you might not want to get your phone through the iPhone Upgrade Program.

The biggest reason you may want to avoid the program is the monthly cost. While a 64GB iPhone 11 starts at $29.13 per month through AT&T’s installment plan (if you take the 24-month option), for instance, that same phone costs $35.33 through the iPhone Upgrade Program. And when all is said an done, and that iPhone 11 is paid off, on AT&T you’ll have paid $999, while with Apple, you’ll have paid $1,198. The price of AppleCare+ is factored into Apple’s monthly installment, but if you don’t feel you need the protection, why pay more for it?

Additionally, if you like owning your phone, the iPhone Upgrade Program might not your best option. While you can certainly hang on to the same phone for 24 months, the program seems geared more towards those who want to upgrade every year and don’t mind parting with their older device.

Best way to buy an iPhone without a contract

Buy it outright

Of course, if you’re a saver, or just have the disposable income, you can always purchase your new iPhone outright.

If you’re not keen on having to make monthly payments, being forced into an upgrade schedule, or being tied to a specific carrier, this is a great option.

If you’re buying outright, here’s what you can expect to pay:

Model Price
iPhone 11 (64GB) $699
iPhone 11 (128GB) $749
iPhone 11 (256GB) $849
iPhone 11 Pro (64GB) $999
iPhone 11 Pro (256GB) $1,149
iPhone 11 Pro (512GB) $1,349
iPhone 11 Pro Max (64GB) $1,099
iPhone 11 Pro Max (256GB) $1,249
iPhone 11 Pro Max (512GB) $1,449

You have a number of options for purchasing your iPhone at the full retail price and without a contract:

  • Apple – As you might expect, Apple lets you purchase the iPhone at full price for the four major carriers. For the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, there’s even a SIM-free option that lets you take your new iPhone to any carrier that you want.
  • Carriers – Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint all give you the option to purchase your iPhone at the full price up front, though naturally that option is often emphasized less than their own installment plans.
  • Third-party retailers – Best Buy, Target, and Walmart also offer the iPhone at full price, though these retailers don’t offer SIM-free options. So while you can purchase your iPhone outright and without a contract, you’ll still come out of the purchasing experience as a customer of one of the carriers.

Best on a budget

Installment plan

If you’d rather not pay all of that money at once, you can spread it out over multiple months with an installment plan. It’s exactly what it sounds like: You take the full price of the phone and divide it up over 12, 24, or 36 monthly payments (usually with 0% interest).

This is the best option for those on a budget, because you can increase or decrease your monthly payments depending on how soon you’d like to pay off your device and upgrade to a new one.

Apple iPhone Payments

Apple iPhone Payments share similarities with the iPhone Upgrade Program, with a couple of major differences. With this payment plan, you pay the full retail cost of the phone over 24 months, but your monthly payments are cheaper than those of the iPhone Upgrade Program because AppleCare+ isn’t included in the price. You also don’t have a built-in upgrade path. After you’ve completed your payments, the iPhone is entirely yours, so if you plan to keep your iPhone longer than a year, and particularly, longer than two years, this is an excellent option. But if you want to be able to upgrade every year, there are better options for you.

Best with a carrier

Carrier payment plan

If you’re tied to your carrier (i.e. you’ve already started an installment plan on Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, etc.), the carrier payment plan might be best for you.

Most carriers have moved away from the subsidized two-year contract option instead of offering you the option to pay a monthly installment plan alongside your monthly fees for data, text, etc.

  • AT&T offers an AT&T Next plan that lets you upgrade your phone every one or two years.
  • Verizon offers an Annual Upgrade Program that lets you upgrade your phone each year provided you’ve paid off at least 50% of your installment plan.
  • T-Mobile offers T-Mobile Jump!, which gives you the option to upgrade your phone provided you’ve paid off at least 50% of your installment plan.
  • Sprint offers the iPhone Forever plan, which — for $22 a month — lets you trade up to the latest iPhone at no extra charge.

Not the best

Trade up

If you’re not tied into any upgrade or carrier plans, you may want to trade in your current iPhone for credit toward your next one. You can visit an Apple Store with the phone you want to trade in to get instant credit or fill out an online form and mail in your phone — you’ll get a gift card via email.

This option isn’t the worst, especially if you prefer to buy outright. Depending on which iPhone you’re trading in and its condition, you’ll be getting up to $600 in credit. So while you’re not necessarily walking away with the new iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Pro in hand, you could still save a hefty chuck of change on the full price of your iPhone.


The iPhone Upgrade Program is a solid option for most people looking to get their hands on a new iPhone, and using the Apple Store app makes buying through the program even easier. With AppleCare+ included in the monthly cost, it also gives you extra peace of mind about your brand new phone.


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