One of the unexpected announcements from Apple’s Hey Siri event on Wednesday was the official iPhone Upgrade Program that lets buyers purchase an iPhone in installments directly from Apple, bundled with an AppleCare+ extended warranty. The program is similar to what some carriers are already offering their subscribers, and while it might not be the overall cheapest option – thank T-Mobile for that, at least for the time being – it might still be the better program in the long run, as Apple’s offer has some advantages over the others.
When comparing pricing options for buying a 16GB iPhone 6s under an installment upgrade plan, 9to5Mac found that Apple’s program might be slightly more expensive than what the carriers are offering (see image below).
But there are also some benefits that are not immediately evident when looking at numbers.
Unlocked iPhone 6s
Apple’s iPhone 6s – or whatever model you end up buying under the Upgrade Program – comes unlocked. That means you can switch operators as many times as you like, and move back and forth between carriers depending on your needs. Mobile operators will gladly sell you an iPhone in installments, but the device will stay lock to the carrier until it’s paid in full.
Accidents happen, and you may end up smashing a brand new iPhone 6s Plus against the concrete. That’s when extended warranty can come in handy, and under Apple’s program you’re paying $129 for the extra warranty in installments. That means your monthly budget won’t take a hit from paying the full AppleCare+ price at once.
Only Apple offers a bundled warranty under the plan.
Even cheaper new iPhones
Even if you don’t care about switching carriers, Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program is already putting pressure on carriers, who will likely come up with special offers to undercut Apple’s price. These offers will be temporary, but they might be exactly what customers who don’t want to switch mobile operators need. T-Mobile is currently running such a promotion, selling the 16GB iPhone 6s for just $529, cheaper than anyone else. It wouldn’t be surprising to see others launch similar offers in the coming weeks.
One more thing
Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program might be a signal that the company is prepping an even bigger move in the mobile landscape. Like Google, Apple might be interested in launching its own wireless service in the future, and it’s now beginning to line up the pieces for it. The company already created its unique SIM cards for iPads that have cellular connectivity, and this iPhone Upgrade Program would also fit with a future MVNO product like Google’s Project Fi.
“Investors and carriers are likely wary about whether this is a foot in the door to something potentially much more threatening,” MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett told Reuters about the Upgrade Program. “As it stands right now, it is still relatively benign.”