The Pros and Cons of Buying an iPhone Directly From Apple
Debating whether to buy an iPhone from Apple or your cell phone carrier? Here's what you need to know.
Eager to get your hands on the latest iPhone? You can buy one from just about any major electronics retailer, but because most stores offer the same models at roughly the same prices, it’s often simpler and more convenient to buy an iPhone directly from Apple or your carrier.
But shopping for a phone involves more than convenience and price. You also have to consider things like extended warranties, the cost and ease of screen replacement and other repairs, and the long-term commitments woven into some deals offered by carriers.
How do you decide which route is best? Here are some things to consider.
The Pros of Buying an iPhone From Apple
Frequent upgrades. If you like having the latest iPhone in your pocket the week it’s launched, take a look at Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program. It helps you get that new phone every year by trading in your current model and making 12 months’ worth of payments to cover the balance in price.
The Cons of Buying an iPhone From Apple
You could miss special discounts. Although the iPhone rarely goes on sale anywhere, carriers often offer limited-time promotions if you trade in an old phone, add a new line, or switch to their service. For example, Verizon is currently offering up to $1,000 in bill credits with a qualified trade-in and if you’re on or upgrade to an Unlimited plan; it’s also offering an iPhone 11 for free when you switch from a different carrier or add a new line. T-Mobile is offering up to $1,000 off with a trade in and if you’re on or upgrade to their Magenta MAX plan. And AT&T is offering up to $800 in bill credits if you trade in an eligible smartphone.
Apple’s website highlights some special deals from these carriers but not all of them, so it’s worth checking with your carrier before ordering your iPhone.
Potentially lower trade-in value: Your current phone might be worth more when you trade it in at a carrier instead of Apple. An iPhone 11 in good shape, for example, has a $300 trade-in value at Apple compared with $800 at T-Mobile and AT&T, thanks to current promotions. Android phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S21+, also have much less trade-in value at Apple than at cell phone carriers—and Apple’s list of eligible trade-ins is much shorter, too.
Shorter financing term: Apple’s no-interest financing is spread over 24 months, so your monthly payment might be slightly higher than with carriers that have longer financing terms. T-Mobile spreads payments across 30 months, AT&T breaks payments into 36 months, and Verizon offers either 24- or 30-month financing. The total retail price will be about the same regardless of where you buy, but a longer term can be a bit easier on your wallet from month to month.