At its announcement of the new iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, Apple also introduced the iPhone Upgrade Program, which allows iPhone 6S/6S Plus owners to upgrade to a new-generation iPhone every year.
The new iPhone Upgrade Program allows iPhone owners to upgrade to a new, next-generation device every year. What it really is is more like a rental program similar to the Maxis Zerolution plan – which, incidentally, is also rather similar to some “upgrade” plans from US telcos.
Under the iPhone Upgrade Program, new owners of the iPhone 6S/6S Plus pay for the device over 24 months, starting from $32.41 per month for the base model (inclusive of Apple Care+). Note that in total, you will be paying more for the phone with this program – $777.84 for the 16GB iPhone 6S instead of the retail price of $649. However, if the owner decides to upgrade to, say, the iPhone 7 when it is released a year later, he or she simply returns their iPhone and restarts the 24-month installation cycle with the new device – there is no cancellation fee or any penalties involved, though Apple wisely did not state that the installation charges will remain the same.
Hence, at face value it does seem like you would be saving money by refreshing the cycle every 12 months, not to mention the fact that you’re guaranteed the latest iPhone model every year with this program. But on the other hand, you’re basically renting an iPhone if you decide to upgrade every 12 months – Apple does not mention if there is any trade-in rebate when you upgrade, instead vaguely stating “just trade in your current iPhone for a new one, and your new program begins”.
It isn’t hard to see that this upgrade program hugely benefits Apple – owners (who will most likely upgrade every year) are locked-in to the program for a minimum of 12 months, guaranteeing a stable monthly revenue for the company.
What’s important here is that this is Apple handling the program, instead of leaving it to the carriers to create a compelling upgrade program. This further loosens the grip carriers are able to impose on Apple – already the only “untouchable” phone brand that won’t let US carriers install bloatware on its phones – and crucially, opens the opportunity for the much-rumoured e-SIM embedded SIM card solution Apple is said to be working on for its 2016 devices.
Currently, the iPhone Upgrade Program is only limited to US residents. Your best bet for a similar experience here would be Maxis’ Zerolution – though with the new iPhones not coming anytime soon, other telcos could begin offering a similar upgrade plan.