The iPhone Upgrade problem is a great way to get a new iPhone every year, without the hassle of re-selling your old phone. I used to do the latter, but it’s really problematic selling an iPhone on eBay, or through other services. You get targeted by scammers as soon as you list a new iPhone on eBay, and I don’t really trust the company to resolve, in my favor, if a buyer pretends that I didn’t send them the phone. You can also trade in your old iPhone to Apple, and I did that last year, but it’s not very advantageous.
So last year I got on the iPhone upgrade program. You pay £69 up front, then the remainder of the cost of the phone over 20 months. After twelve months, you’re eligible for an upgrade. The amount you pay includes AppleCare+, so you are protected in case of damage, or any issues covered by warranty.
The problem in the UK is that you have to go to an Apple Store each year to use the upgrade program. I understand why this is necessary the first year, as they need to identify you, but in subsequent years this shouldn’t be the case. (However, I took out a 12-month, zero-interest loan for my last MacBook Pro online; I didn’t need anyone to physically identify me.) In the US, after the first year, you reserve a phone online, Apple ships it to you, and a few days later they ship you a box to return your old phone.
This difference is problematic for a couple of reasons.
First, there aren’t many Apple Stores in the UK. I have to drive about an hour to get to my nearest Apple Store. Second, when you get there, you enter Apple Store Hell: that noisy, crowded atmosphere which is everything a retail outlet should be. I really hate the Apple Store environment, and only go where when I have no choice.
But there is a more important issue regarding the data on your iPhone. Getting your new phone this way means you cannot transfer your data from the old phone. (I assume this is the case; given how long it takes, I can’t imagine that someone is going to stay with me in the Apple Store as this happens.) So you need to back up your device and you cannot restore it until you have wi-fi, or until you return home. (The former if you back up your device to iCloud; the latter if you do it to your computer.)
In addition, for people who don’t back up their device to a computer via iTunes, they need to have enough storage available on their iCloud account to make a full backup. What happens to some people is that they have to temporarily up their storage to the next tier to be able to make the backup, restore the device, then downgrade the storage plan. This is clunky and Apple should provide a temporary storage bump when someone buys a new iPhone.
Since this process is a lot smoother in the US, I hope that Apple will extend the same process to other countries where the iPhone Upgrade program is available. As things stand, it’s a lot of work to use the program, and it should be smoother, especially when they are dealing with committed, repeat customers who want to get a new iPhone every year.