The yearly iPhone cycle, it’s where we all look lovingly at the shiny, new devices from Apple. At the same time, our old phones somehow become old and outdated, despite months of devoted service. It wasn’t long ago, that I walked out of the Annapolis Apple Store with a gold iPhone 5s, a phone that has now lost its luster in the glare of the iPhone 6 Plus. Once you decided on the color, best storage option and which model to buy, the next move is to check eligibility for the all-important subsidy and a plan of action to upgrade to the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus. We’ll help guide you through the process, highlighting costs, value and impact on your current plan.

Upgrade to iPhone 6

A comprehensive look at how to check your eligibility, the cost of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, carrier pricing, off-contract purchases and plans that allow you to upgrade early.

How much does the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus cost?

Prices can differ based on where you are in contract. Here’s the breakout of costs associated with receiving a full subsidy. This means that you are either out of contract or switching to another provider. To them, you are a new customer, so you’ll receive the added benefit of the subsidy. Just below are the iPhone 6 off-contract costs. When you look at these numbers, it puts into perspective the value you are getting in return for signing a contract.

iPhone 6 and 6 Plus pricing, off-contract

Given the choice between spending $199 or $649, I’m guessing most would like to spend less and here’s how. If you are out of contract, then by all means, you should upgrade. When you are out of contract, carriers don’t reduce the cost of your plan. Part of that cost includes the subsidy for a phone. If you are using an old out-of-contract phone, the carrier is benefiting on your dime.

How to check eligibility for an iPhone upgrade

Most of the major carriers require a 2-year contract, which you likely signed when you bought your previous phone. Each carrier has a webpage setup to check your eligibility for an upgrade and I’ve included links to each. You’ll need to be the primary account holder and have your login credentials. You can also use this eligibility checker from Apple, which works for AT&T, Sprint or Verizon customers.

An easier way is to text your provider and they’ll reply with your upgrade eligibility.

  • AT&T: *639#
  • Verizon: #874
  • Sprint: 1311
  • T-Mobile: #874

How to upgrade to iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus

If you are out of contract, you can opt to sign up for a new 2-year contract agreement and receive the new iPhone at a significant discount. You’ll pay an upgrade fee at all of the major carriers, upwards of $40.

What if you are in-contract, or already looking ahead to the iPhone 7? To help make things easier, the carriers have new programs for customers who would like to upgrade more frequently than every 2 years. These options may be helpful if you don’t want to pay full, off-contract price for an iPhone 6, provided you are okay with the conditions of the agreement. Let’s take a look at each program and how it will affect your monthly bill, associated costs and what you’re agreeing to when switching plans.

AT&T Next Upgrade Options

If you are out of contract, you can choose the standard subsidy based on the pricing above. You’ll also be hit with a $40 upgrade fee, which AT&T explains away as various costs to keep a high quality of service. In the past, forum members have found AT&T representatives who were willing to waive the fee, but that’s been getting increasingly difficult in recent years.

Regardless of whether you are in or out of contract, you’ll be offered the AT&T Next plan. This allows you to purchase a new iPhone 6 for $0 down and there is no upgrade fee. The cost of the phone is spread out over either a 20-months (AT&T Next 12) or 24-month(AT&T Next 24) payment plan. For example, a 16GB iPhone 6 would cost either $32.50 per month over 20 months (AT&T Next 12) totaling $390 or $27.09 over 24 months totaling $325.08. Think of it as financing your new phone, but there’s more to the story.

AT&T Next

The AT&T Next plan was designed for customers who would prefer to upgrade often. If you’re paying for a phone through either 20 or 24 months, how do you upgrade next year when Apple releases the iPhone 7 or iPhone 6S Plus? Well, here’s the catch with Next. Once you reach a certain number of installment payments, you can get back in line for a new phone. To do so, you have to turn in your current phone or pay the balance of your installments. If you turn in your old phone without paying for it, you don’t receive any trade-in value or credit. Your phone must be in good physical condition, full functional and not damaged.

Are you with me so far? If so, here’s my chance to lose you, thanks to AT&T. When you sign up for Mobile Share Data Plans with Next, you can save up to $25 per phone. They reduce the Smartphone Access charge. For a 2GB Mobile Share plan, instead of paying $40 for Smartphone Access, you’ll pay $25. That’s a savings of $180. A standard 2GB Mobile Share is $960, with the comparitive Next plan is $780. A 10GB plan is $25 per month savings. Costs over a year are $1380 compared to $1680, a $300 savings.

Verizon Edge Upgrade Options

Not to be outdone, Verizon also has a program for early upgraders who want the latest and greatest. The Verizon Edge plan lets you purchase a new phone with payments split up into 20 monthly payments. After 30 days and provided you paid 60 percent of the device, you are able to upgrade. Anyone who pays 60 percent of the cost of a device and upgrades after 30 days might has well set money on fire.

There are no activation or upgrade fees with Verizon Edge. Like AT&T Next, you’ll see a reduction in the cost of your Smartphone Access charge up to $25 per month, with the maximum reserved for those on a 10GB or greater plan. For most folks, you’ll save $10 per month. The 1GB/2GB/3GB/4GB/6GB plans all have the same discount, so AT&T Next is actually much better when it comes to plan discounts. The Everything Plan pricing remains the same, so there is no difference.

Verizon Edge is easier to understand than Next,which is confusing with their 12 and 18 plans. Ultimately, they are virtually the same. With AT&T, you can upgrade after 12 installments, which shakes out to the same 60 percent Verizon requires to upgrade.

T-Mobile Jump

AT&T Next and Verizon EDGE were created to deal with T-Mobile’s Jump program. Jump lets you finance your smartphone, again splitting the cost over 24 months. If eligible, you can qualify for zero percent financing. Jump requires that you opt for one of T-Mobile’s Simple Choice Plans, as seen below.

T-Mobile plans

By paying $10 per month, you can jump to a new phone, provided you have paid half of the cost of the phone or 12 payments. You also have to trade-in the phone, without receiving any value on what you’ve paid.

T-Mobile JUMP!

Ultimately, they all different names, but these programs are very much alike. Where they differ are the plans themselves. If you upgrade early and don’t cover the cost of the iPhone in full, you’re leaving a fair amount of money on the table. Selling your iPhone can result in a hefty return.

How to purchase a contract-free iPhone 6

Apple sells the T-Mobile contract-free iPhone 6 on their store. It comes with a T-Mobile SIM card, but will worth with AT&T. If you are planning to visit the Apple Store on September 19th and don’t have plans to switch carriers, you can purchase a phone for your respective carrier. A full-price iPhone 6 is not bound by a contract, so you can call immediately and have it unlocked. There are added benefits of an unlocked iPhone 6. For one, it’ll work on other carriers, provided you get a GSM model. An AT&T unlocked model will work on T-Mobile and internationally. If you plan on traveling, this allows you to purchase SIM cards locally. This will allow you to use your iPhone 6 overseas without concerns of high roaming rates.

Are you upgrading to the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus? Are you going the traditional subsidy route, using one of the early upgrade plans offered by your carrier or enjoy the freedom of an off-contract iPhone 6?

Have questions? Leave them in the comments or discuss with the community in our iPhone forums!