Find Out If You’re Eligible for an iPhone 5 Upgrade
Apple just announced its iPhone 5 and the big question for lots of existing smartphone owners — especially in the U.S. — is “Am I eligible for an iPhone 5 upgrade?”
That’s because upgrade pricing can be the difference between paying $599 for a new 16GB iPhone 5 — or $199.
Each major iPhone carrier — Sprint, AT&T and Verizon — has different rules about upgrades and eligibility date. Fortunately, the carriers make it relatively easy to check to see if you’re eligible for an iPhone 5 upgrade, or when your upgrade will become available.
Apple has a website dedicated to allowing users to check their upgrade eligibility here. You’ll need the last four digits of the account holder’s social security number to check your upgrade.
For AT&T customers, it’s easy to check your upgrade date. Simply dial *639# on your AT&T phone.
You’ll get a text from AT&T letting you know when you’ll be eligible for an iPhone 5 upgrade.
AT&T’s typical iPhone upgrade for existing iPhone owners is about 18 months into a two year contract. This means that if you purchased your iPhone 4S on launch day with AT&T, it’ll be May before you’ll be eligible for a full upgrade with AT&T.
AT&T will allow customers in good standing to upgrade to the iPhone 5 early, but it will cost an additional $250, on top of the standard $36 upgrade fee.
Since there’s only a $50 difference between buying an iPhone outright and an early upgrade price, this isn’t a good value for most users.
If another member of your AT&T family plan is eligible for an upgrade, you can take their upgrade by buying the phone through that line. Then, just have AT&T switch the numbers associated with the accounts.
You can check the details of your upgrade options on AT&T’s website, by logging in here.
Update: Some Verizon customers will be eligible for an upgrade as early as 20 months into their contract. Check with Verizon for your specific account.
Verizon customers will need to wait the full two years between buying their phone in order to get upgrade pricing on the iPhone 5. That means that if you bought an iPhone 4 when it was released on Verizon in February, 2011, you’ll need to wait until February 2013 to get upgrade pricing on the iPhone 5.
To check your upgrade date, call #874 on your Verizon phone. You’ll get a text message with your upgrade date.
You can also log in to your Verizon account to get details on your upgrade date.
Verizon also charges a $30 upgrade fee for new upgrades.
Sprint also has a two-year upgrade requirement. For users who bought an iPhone 4S on Sprint on launch day, they will be eligible to upgrade to the iPhone 5 on October 1, 2013.
You can check your upgrade date at Sprint’s website by logging in here.
Weighing the Costs of an Early Termination Fee
For users that are interested in switching to another carrier for the iPhone 5, it’s important to keep the Early Termination Fee (ETF) in mind for your carrier.
AT&T charges $325 for its ETF, minus $10 for each full month of service. If you bought an iPhone 4S in October 2011, you can shave another $110 off the ETF. That means it will cost $215 to get out of your AT&T contract and move to a different carrier.
$215 + $199 on the phone is still less than the $549 early upgrade price for existing users.
Verizon charges a $350 ETF, minus $10 for every month of your contract completed. That means that if you bought an iPhone 4S in October 2011, you’ll need to a $240 ETF to Verizon.
Sprint charges up to $350 for its ETF. It calculates the ETF by multiplying the months remaining on your contract by $20. That means that if you bought an iPhone 4S in October 2011 and have 13 months remaining on your contract, you’ll owe Sprint $260 to exit your contract.
If you are far enough into your contract and ineligible for regular upgrade pricing, it might be worth switching to another carrier to save some money on the upgrade.
Will You Upgrade or Wait?
Will you upgrade to the new iPhone 5? Let us know your upgrade plans in the comments.