Should I upgrade my iPhone or can I upgrade my iPhone?

The Complete Guide to Upgrading Your Current iPhone

can I upgrade to an iPhones 6 and what's my current iPhone worth?

I love technology and though I don’t talk about it much on my blog, a few of my friends have ask me about upgrading their iPhones. I thought I’d put together the mother of all iPhone upgrade guides. Hope this helps!

FYI, makes sure you read the My Biggest Point section at the bottom. It will blow your mind!

*UPDATE 9-24-14 7:58AM GMT: My brother-in-law text me after this went live and shared that he may be able to get current T-Mobile users up to $100 in credit with any phone activated. This is on top of possible trade-in credit. He also said he can talk with anyone looking to get out of their current contract with another carrier and switch them to T-Mobile. Email him, joe.france1@t-mobile.com if you’d like to learn more. I do not get anything out of this and Joe sent me the message after I published the article. 

Should I Upgrade to a New iPhone

If you’re looking to upgrade to a new iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus you’ve probably asked the question, “Should I upgrade to a new phone and what can I get for my current phone?”

Because everyone’s circumstances are different (contract length, carrier, account standing, phone condition) there is no single answer that is applicable across the board. However, there are a few overall principles that can help you make the decision of whether or not to sell your current device and upgrade to a new phone.

I have an iPhone 5s

The iPhone 5s came out on September 20, 2013. Because carriers had not yet debuted their new continuous upgrade programs (AT&T Next, Verizon EDGE, etc.) most users upgraded by signing traditional one or two-year contracts. If you signed a contract for a discount on an iPhone 5s chances are you are still under contract. Technically you can sell your phone and upgrade, however, you may have issues getting the phone off of your account and onto someone else’s.

Let me teach you how to use Twitter on your iPhone

Because carriers are interested in moving away from contracts, many of them will allow you to upgrade to a new device under their new leasing plans (the aforementioned AT&T Next and Verizon EDGE) and you may be able to trade in your current iPhone 5s to get a new one. While this may get you an upgrade immediately you will not get the max value for your phone.

If you are looking for maximum value for your current iPhone 5s I do not recommend upgrading to either version of the 6. Your phone is worth much more than the phone companies will give you in credit and it is worth holding out until the phone is out of contract.

When it’s out of contract you can sell it on Craigslist or Ebay. Anytime between now and the end of 2015. Even a year from now you’ll still get a good return on the phone. Right now you’ll get a minimal return.

If you were to search Ebay right now you’ll find that iPhone 5s 16GB models are going for anywhere from $300 – $460. It all depends on the contract status, carrier, unlocked status, condition and included accessories/packaging

I have an iPhone 5c

The iPhone 5c came out on September 20, 2013. The 5c is a colorful version of the iPhone 5 which came out the year prior. Because of the affordable nature of the 5c along with the dated hardware it is not going to fetch much if it is currently in contract and tied to a carrier (locked).

If you were to look at Ebay for estimates of your iPhone 5c’s current value you would find that they are selling for anywhere from $200 – $350. Again, it all depends on the contact status, carrier, unlocked status, condition and included accessories/packaging.

I have an iPhone 5

Good news, if you have an iPhone 5, chances are you are either out of contract or will be approaching your end of contract date in the coming months.

WAIT UNTIL YOU’RE OUT OF CONTRACT.

If you are an AT&T customer you’re in luck! AT&T will unlock iPhones that are out of contract and also meet several stipulations which they list very clearly on their unlocking web page. When you unlock your iPhone 5 you immediately increase it’s value.

Unlocking any iPhone model allows it to be used on any compatible network. This means that no matter what carrier a potential buyer uses, if it’s compatible with GSM or CDMA they can use the iPhone you are selling. This is a huge selling point. Unlocked phones go for anywhere from 20-40% more on Ebay.

I am not aware of the Verizon unlocking procedures but I am sure a call to their customer service line would help clear up any question you may have. (If you have unlocked a phone via Verizon or have any info to offer, email me here and I’ll amend this portion of the post with credit to you).

I advise you wait until your iPhone 5 is out of contract, unlock it and then sell it on Ebay. iPhone 5 16GB models which are unlocked are fetching anywhere between $200 – $300. (You can immediately see the value in waiting to sell your phone when it’s out of contract). 

I have an iPhone 4s

You’ve probably stuck with your iPhone 4s this long because you never saw any point in upgrading. When Apple introduced the iPhone 5 they discontinued the iPhone 4s but kept the iPhone 4 on the market. This means that the iPhone 4s was only available to purchase new between October 14, 2011 and September 12, 2012.

I’m betting you’re out of contract.

The iPhone 4s is the last model which sports the smaller screen size as the iPhone 5 introduced a taller screen which subsequent phones have adopted or added to.

If you’re out of contract you need to decide whether to turn in your phone for a credit from Apple, a carrier or sell it yourself. You will most likely get $200 from a trade program but if you unlock the phone, have all the accessories/packaging AND it’s in excellent condition, you may want to consider looking at Ebay. iPhone 4s 16GB unlocked models are going from anywhere between $150 – $250. Any phones you see for more than $275 are NEW IN BOX.

I have an iPhone 4

Upgrade! For the love of technology, upgrade!

The iPhone 4 was a great phone when it was released in June of 2010 but it’s time has come and gone. If you are the least bit interested in technology (and you probably are if you’re reading this) you will benefit immediately from any of the current iPhone offerings.

While I recommend you always go with the most recent model to ensure longevity in your ability to use the device through upgrades and updates, any model will be a significant upgrade to your iPhone 4.

AT&T, Apple and several other carriers are offering up to $200 store credit for iPhone 4 models. This is potentially the best monetary return you will receive on your iPhone 4. On Ebay unlocked iPhones are going from anywhere between $120 – $250. Note, the phones going for $250 or more are NEW IN BOX. If your phone is used, the most you can expect to get is right around $210.

I would recommend looking into what credit you can get from your carrier or Apple directly. But get upgraded!

You Said I Shouldn’t Upgrade but I want a new iPhone really badly!

If you really want a new iPhone and you’re not looking to maximize the monetary return of your current hardware, there are several options.

Sell your device even if it’s under contract. You’ll need to confirm from your carrier that it can be added to a different plan before you trade for any cash.

Hand down your current device to another user on your plan and use an eligible line to get a new phone via a carriers many upgrade options. I do this with my wife. She gets my year old phone, we sell her two year old phone (which used to be mine, too) and I get the new phone. This way we always have the two newest phones.

Trade in your phone via a carrier continuous upgrade program. Again, you will not get maximum value for your phone, but if you’re not concerned with that, it is a viable option.

What I Have Done in the Past

For the past four years I have upgraded to the newest iPhone. I upgrade, pass down my one year old model to my wife and we unlock the two year old model (which is out of contract) and sell it on Ebay. We use cases 100% of the time and go to great lengths to protect each iPhone from damage. This allows us to get the greatest value possible.

I always purchase the middle capacity model (iPhone 5s is 32GB) which fetches $50-75 more than the base capacity model when I go to sell it. Every year I have received between $300-350 for the two year old phone on Ebay. Looking at a iPhone 5 32GB on Ebay I will be getting anywhere between $275 – $350 for my iPhone 5 and all that money will go towards the purchase of an iPhone 6. My wife will get my current phone, the iPhone 5s, and one year from now, we will do it all over again.

Bottom Line

Here are a few things to remember.

Carriers do not care about you. No matter what value they claim to give you, every deal they offer is in their best interest 90% of the time. Even that last 10% is still in their best interest but it comes close to a tie in terms of the value you get. Trading in your iPhone 4 for $200 is a good example of this.

Carriers want to move away from contracts, so gone are the days of subsidized phones. You will pay for the full value of your phone one way or another. Any “deals” they offer don’t do much more than shift how you will pay them for the device. Count on spending between $600-1000 for your device over the life of your time with that device. Even if you turn it in after 12 – 18 months using a continuous upgrade program, you lose time with the device and the value that you could have received if you sold it when it was fully paid off.

Determine what iPhone you want/need. You may not want the iPhone 6 or 6 plus because of the larger screens. The iPhone 5s is a GREAT phone. Until September 2014 it was the most amazing phone on the planet. I would advise against an iPhone 5c. You’re getting into two-year old technology which will become increasingly obsolete with the release of every new iOS version. Currently it is compatible with only a few of the major additions to iOS 8.

They’re all amazing phones no matter which one you purchase. The iPhone, no matter what version you get, will almost definitely be an upgrade to whatever phone you are using now. The camera, in my opinion, on any of the current models is superior to any other camera phone on the market. I believe you will be happy with any phone you purchase (except for the iPhone 6 Plus – make sure you hold it in your hand before you commit to purchasing it).

My Biggest Point

Lastly, I cannot overstate this – The only way to get maximum value for your phone is to use it a full two years. Think of it this way: If your phone cost $700 every month you use it you recoup more of that $700 price. Essentially you pay $30 a month for the phone. If you trade it in early to upgrade, you forfeit $30 per month for every month you did not use the phone AND you are on the hook for the full price of a new phone. YOU LOSE LOTS OF MONEY! Just consider this as you weigh your options.

You’ve probably toyed with Twitter, and maybe even installed in on your iPhone. Let me teach you about Twitter and why it’s worth a second look!

I’m Here to Help

If you have any questions, please use the comment section below. I’d love to help you decide in any way that I can what phone is right for you! I LOVE THIS STUFF!!!

4 replies
    • Dave Shrein
      Dave Shrein says:

      Kyle, Assuming you’re out of contract (which is most likely the case in an iPhone 5 and T-Mobile scenario) then yes! HOWEVER – my brother in law just text me that he might be able to help get T-Mobile customers money for the phone, money toward a trade-in and up to $100 in credit just for activating a new device… I don’t get anything and didn’t know he would make that offer until he heard I had posted this article. His name is Joe and his email is joe.france1@t-mobile.com.

      Check with him, see what you can get and then weight that with what you think you can get on Ebay or Craigslist! LMK what happens.

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