AT&T Next vs Apple iPhone Upgrade Program

I wanted to check and see if anyone had experience with either or both programs and why I’d should look at one vs the other. As a baseline,

I don’t want to leave AT&T
I will get apple care regardless of where I go

Looking at both, it looks like AT&T may be cheaper, but, to be honest, I trust apple more then any one carrier.



I used AT&T Next for a past upgrade but all subsequent upgrades have been via Apple’s program.

If I recall, the prices were similar. The biggest thing for me was that phones sold directly by Apple - even if an AT&T phone - are not carrier locked from the outset whereas phones sold by AT&T are locked to AT&T.

Once an AT&T locked phone reaches 18-24 months (time may vary by plan), the subscriber can request the phone be unlocked. My experience has been that AT&T has been good about that when I have requested unlocks for old work phones. The annoyance is that the phone needs to be factory reset in order to get the benefits of being unlocked.

With the new phones supporting dual SIM (1x physical + 1x eSIM), having both locked to AT&T for the upgrade period would be useless for when I travel overseas so having an unlocked phone from Apple is my preference. Plus, for those with an Apple Card, there is the cash back on the monthly payment which would be higher for the Apple IUP vs AT&T Next.

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If you don’t intend to leave ATT it really matter much if the phone is locked, but if you want to use the phone outside the USA you’ll need to ask ATT to unlock.

Overall I’d choose Apple just because they seem more inclined to offer fast support, including replacing hardware. (I know Apple Geniuses at Retail are encouraged to periodically ‘surprise and delight’ customers when they can.)

This past holiday my mom bought into the AUP, paying for an iPhone 11 with her Apple Card for 3% back each month, while also trading in her iPhone 7. There was some snag that ended up taking a couple of hours to process the order at her Apple Store, but she’s overall happy with how everything turned out.

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Always go trough the Apple store. Keep your freedom to move to an other carrier. It will keep them on their toes to keep you happy. Rather then you being locked into them…

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I used the AT&T Next program for several years but didn’t like that the phones were carrier locked until fully paid - 2 years or forever if you continue to upgrade. AT&T gouge on international plans and locking prevents you from getting a temporary foreign sim when traveling. Secondly, I like to upgrade by walking into a store and typically had to wait until December for the AT&T stores to have stock of the model I wanted. So I switched to the Apple plan this year.
That being said, there is a huge difference between what you get for trading in a phone and what you would pay to buy the same phone second hand, and that gap seems to grow every year. The trade in price doesn’t account for higher spec models with more storage.

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I switched from AT&T Next to Apple a while back. The prices were identical, but when you do Apple’s program you’re required to pay for Applecare, (whereas you don’t have to on AT&T).

I made the switch because we were going to do Apple Care anyway, and it made pre-ordering new iPhones each year far easier than it was with AT&T.

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Thanks everyone. I went with the apple upgrade program - I’d questioned it because it was an extra step in the process for me; I had a number I wanted to use that I’d ported to Google Voice years ago, and I had to have it ported back to a SIM via AT&T, then once it was up and active on an old iPhone 5s, enroll in the AUP via Apple, because Apple can’t set up new lines. In the end, I realized:

  1. The unlocked phone is a nice to have
  2. I’d rather deal with Apple then any carrier - I saw a quote “if you wouldn’t buy a laptop from your cable company, consider why you’ll be a phone from your carrier?
  3. Apple lets you upgrade at 12 months vs 15 - either way, I wouldn’t get a 12 on day 1, but it’s nice to have the shorter window
  4. It now looks like a better deal when I run the numbers
  • Both plans amortize the cost of the phone over time (24 months for Apple, 30 for AT&T)
  • However, AT&T charges an additional $5 a month for the ability to upgrade the phone often 15 months - so at least $75 and up to $150 extra if you keep the phone and don’t use the upgrade
  • The AppleCare also works out similarly - Apple is taking 200 and splitting it up by 24, whereas for AT&T you have to pay 200 up front, or 10 a month. I’m showing that either way, I’d have spent more for AppleCare when/if I do the early upgrade - either I paid 200 but only used 15 months of the 24, or I paid 150 vs 100 at trade in time at Apple.

I may have missed something and your circumstances may vary, but that’s where I landed. Thanks again to everyone who weighed in.


I’ve used the Apple program since it started, no issues. Works well.

I only wish they added one additional perk, members get a couple hour window early to order new phones in September. I bet a ton of people would sign up.