When Apple came out with the iPhone 5s and 5c, my husband and I were tempted to upgrade our iPhone 4 and iPhone 5. We found out how to upgrade to a new iPhone free and even make money on the deal. Read on to benefit from our research.
AT&T, our cell phone provider, sells the Apple iPhone 5c for a ridiculous $549.99 and the 5s for an equally ridiculous $649.99. By using AT&T to upgrade (way cheaper than an outright purchase) and Amazon to trade in, we found we could get two new iPhones free or even make money by upgrading our iPhones.
Here’s how it works:
Break-Even iPhone Trade-in Plan: How to Get Two iPhones Free
The Amazon trade-in* values for our existing phones:
- Apple iPhone 4s 32GB (Black) from AT&T – up to $187
- Apple iPhone 5 32GB (Black) from AT&T – up to $245
We qualified for $409.25 total from Amazon, slightly less per phone since ours were “good condition” rather than “like new.”
- Apple iPhone 4s 32GB (Black) from AT&T – $168.25
- Apple iPhone 5 32GB (Black) from AT&T – $231.00
- Total trade in received: $409.25
By signing a two-year contract (to get the lowest price from AT&T for new iPhones), we qualified for new iPhones for a more reasonable amount of:
- iPhone 5c 16GB (Pink) – $ 99.99
- iPhone 5s (Space Gray) – $199.99
- Cost of new iPhones $299.98
We added the rest of the costs:
- AT&T upgrade fee $ 72.00 ($36 each – yes, very annoying)
- Sales Tax $ 30.68
- Total upgrade cost: $402.66
We could get two shiny new iPhones and make $6.59 – pretty much breaking even.
Money-Making iPhone Trade-in Plan: How to Get Paid for Upgrading an iPhone
You may have figured out where this one is going. If we both got the iPhone 5c, rather than one getting the more expensive 5s, we could make money on the deal. Here’s how the numbers work.
- Amazon trade-in is the same $409.25
- iPhone 5c 16GB (Pink) $99.99 with 2 year contract
- iPhone 5c 16GB (Blue) $99.99 with 2 year contract
- Total cost of both new iPhones $199.98
Add the rest of the upgrade cost:
- AT&T upgrade fee $ 72.00 ($36 each – yes, still very annoying)
- Sales Tax $ 16.50
- Total upgrade cost: $288.48
$409.25 trade-in less $288.48 cost = $120.77 to put in our pocket along with two new iPhones.
The differences between the iPhone 5c and 5s were negligible to us. We also opted for 16GB rather than the 32GB we traded in since we learned from experience that neither of use needed 32GB of storage on a cell phone.
The Two Major Differences between the iPhone 5c and 5s
The iPhone 5s has a slightly better camera, including burst mode and improved in-camera stabilization. This is cool, but we both have “real” DSLR cameras so the camera feature isn’t a selling point to us.
The biggest difference is the processor – the iPhone 5s has the 64-bit A7 processor, while the iPhone 5c has the same A6 processor that the now discontinued iPhone 5 has. We aren’t big iPhone gamers so we don’t need the extra processing power.
Not All AT&T Stores Are Equal
We learned a few years ago about the importance of picking the right kind of AT&T store when we are ready to buy. Make sure to buy from a corporate store, not an authorized reseller. The corporate stores are authorized to give better deals and know a lot more about iPhones.
Which Plan Did We Follow?
Neither. We left the AT&T store with our existing phones. The iPhone 5c is very cheap-looking plastic and the iPhone 5s doesn’t have any notable new features. Sure, we could have made some money or at least broken even, we suspect that Apple will release an iPhone within the next two years that has new features we do care about.
This latest upgrade wasn’t very exciting and if we buy new phones just to have that latest new iPhone now, or to make $120 now, we stand to lose that gain down the road when don’t qualify for an upgrade to the iPhone 6 or 7 of whatever iPhone Apple pushes out that has some meaningful new or substantially improved features. The option to have a phone that comes in several colors just doesn’t do it for us, especially when we always buy a protective case that would cover the color anyway.
While this story is about upgrading to an iPhone 5s or 5c, the theory behind it should work for future iPhone releases.
* Amazon gives Amazon gift cards rather than cash.