Apple releases a new iPhone every year and it always sends people into a buying frenzy. For most people the newest iPhone is a must have item but is it really worth upgrading your phone every year? Apple has been notorious for only doing a big update every two or three years leaving the phone in between to be almost the same as the previous year. Meanwhile you have to pay a huge upgrade fee and try to sell your old phone. Companies are now making it “better and easier” to upgrade your phone but is it really costing you more in the long run to upgrade?
Let's first look at what you actually get with a new smart phone. Going back as far as the iPhone 4 there has now been the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, and now the iPhone 5C and 5S. That is 4 years of phones just from Apple and people are still using the iPhone 4 to this day with zero problems. What you really get every year is very minimal in most cases, the iPhone 4S was a big deal because it had Siri but ever since then the changes have only been a faster processor, longer battery life and a better camera. Don't get me wrong I am a life time iPhone user but paying $600+ dollars for these minor features just doesn't seem worth it and some people are now using these upgrade plans that cell phone companies offer and it's costing them as much or more than some peoples car payments after a few years. Let's look at what upgrading to the latest smart phone for a marginally faster experience really ends up costing you.
We'll start with AT&T the original and still largest carrier and seller of the iPhone. When Apple released the iPhone AT&T was the only company who carried it and since then has been unstoppable when it comes to iPhones. They realized everyone wants to upgrade their cell phone every year but it was still very expensive out of pocket. It use to be 2 years you'd have to wait for a full upgrade and somewhere around 12 months for a partial upgrade. This meant if you wanted the new iPhone every year you might be paying $200-400 out of pocket. Most people cannot afford this so they started the AT&T Next plan. They offer that you can upgrade to the newest smart phone every year with “no down payment, no upgrade fee, no activation fee and no finance charges”. They either offer a 12 month plan or an 18 moth plan which sounds like it'd be the perfect way to get a phone right? No more paying $200 up front you now just pay $20 or $30 dollars in sales tax. What they don't like to make so obvious is the fact they will add on the fee of $35 a month to your cell phone bill. If we do some simple math their 12 month plan is 18 simple payments right? That means if you upgrade after 12 months you still owe them 6 payments that you can either pay in full or roll over onto your next bill. 18 payments of $35 is $630, you have now payed two or three times what you would have if you didn't use their plan! Using AT&T Next plan will make you pay full price for an iPhone every single year and when you rollover the last 6 payments it will only get more expensive over time. Is upgrading to the newest phone really worth $630 a year with AT&T?
Let's look at Verizon next, they are one of the major carriers of the iPhone and offer an almost identical upgrade plan called Verizon Edge. They are a little more straight forward with their plan at least and offer it as a “Here’s how it works: Choose the phone you want and sign up for a service plan. The full retail price of the smartphone will be divided over 20 months”. In just shy of two years you will have paid the full retail price of your smart phone which for an iPhone 5S 32GB is $749.00, if you divide that by 20 months it adds a payment of $37.50 to your bill. If you had just signed a new two year contract you'd pay about $200 for the phone which has to be upfront, but it saves you over $500.
As you can imagine this holds true for every single cell phone carrier they all give you the same great deals on upgrade plans. They are counting on you to want the newest phone and pay their outrageous prices to keep up with the Jones. If you're really set on upgrading to the latest and greatest phone every year do it the smart way. If you plan to stay with your cell phone carrier which most people do, plan that every year you'll need $200-300 for the newest upgrade when resigning your two year contract. If you break that down over just 12 months instead of 18 with AT&T or 20 with Verizon you could save just $17 or $25 a month for a shorter period and still get the next years newest iPhone! It will save you $12 a month and hundreds of dollars every two years. At this point you can sell your old iPhone and even come out on top! When you do their trade in plan you don't get to keep your old phone, if you buy the phone you can sell it on eBay, craiglist or any of the online places to sell it and break even or come out on top buying a new iPhone! After looking at what upgrading to the newest iPhone will really cost you is it even worth upgrading your phone every year?