How To Get an iPhone Every Year for Free

Update: New Upgrade-Every-Year plans make this less likely to work. At&T is really pressing customers toward those plans, and away from the 2 year contracts.

Warning: This only works if you have two phones on your account and don’t care what kind of phone you have on the other number. It’s not truly free, because you are locked into a contract, but you can upgrade every year without spending extra money.

This is a pretty simple plan, which I have used and will use again, but some people may not realize it’s possible so I thought I would post it up. We are with AT&T, but this may work with Verizon as well. With the announcement of the iPhone 5S and 5C the other day, many people locked in a 2 year contract may be thinking of trying to upgrade early.

It’s nice to have the latest hardware from Apple. I like the iPhone and my apps. I want to take advantage of every new advance in capability. But I don’t want to pay $600 for an iPhone with no contract. What if I am only one year into my contract but I still want a new phone? I don’t even want to pay the early upgrade fee.

Here’s how I do it. My wife and I are on my AT&T account. AT&T allows people on the same account to switch phones for an $18 charge. So I could give her mine, and get hers for a whopping $36. Not something you want to do every day, but it’s a lot cheaper than $600.

She does not care what phone she has. That is a crucial part of this working out. If the person who uses the second phone on your account wants more than a basic handset, this will be more expensive.

Your goal is to get one of your numbers’s contracts ending one year, and then the next one ending the next year. So that every year you have one number up for a new contract. Once that happens the rest is easy.

To get this going you have to either pay full retail for a basic handset, or elect to keep the phone on your second number after the contract runs out. So, next time your second account is up for renewal, don’t do the contract. Either keep your phone or get a cheap one. Purchase a pay-as-you-go phone for your carrier. In the case of AT&T, that’s a Go Phone. The cheapest Go Phone costs about $15 at most stores. Nicer ones go up in price as you add features. You can easily get a phone for under $50.

For instance, this year my wife’s account is up for renewal. I will get the new iPhone on her account, and then swap it to my account. She will be in a new contract, but I won’t. I will be using the new hardware with only one year left on my contract. This will cost an additional $36.

Now, if it’s time for her to get a new phone as well I need to spend about $15 on to replace her cheap one. As long as the used market for iPhones remains high, this won’t cost me anything.

Using eBay (or something similar), you can fund this entire process where the end result is very little out of pocket. Currently a used 32GB iPhone 5 is selling for $400+ all day long.

So, after you have your account set to go, visit your local AT&T store. Purchase the new iPhone on your second number (the one up for renewal) with a contract and then have them switch the new iPhone to your primary number. This removes the old iPhone off your primary account and leaves the other basic handset on your second account. You could upgrade that phone if you wish during this process. With AT&T Go Phones, it’s as easy as swapping Sim Cards.

At this point you have paid $335 plus taxes and such if you get the 32GB 5S model. You now have the new iPhone on your phone number with about one year left on your contract and your second phone has a basic handset with two years left. Next year you can buy the new iPhone on your primary account. Add about $15 to the $335 of you replaced the base handset.

Then, wipe everything off your old iPhone. Make sure you go into the settings and use “Erase all Content and Settings” to make sure all of your personal information is gone. Then list your old iPhone on your favorite auction site. After your fees you will likely clear about $330-350. (Selling fees are ridiculous! 10% to eBay and then you pay Paypal another 3%. Then shipping and insurance.) If you decided to buy the new base phone, you probably broke even for a new iPhone. Not bad. If you didn’t replace the basic handset this time, you may end up with enough to buy a new case.

So that’s it. If you need help, the folks at the store can help you through it. The trick is to get your contract terms up for renewal on alternating years. And be OK with staying in a contract with your carrier.

A word about selling your iPhone: Be careful. I’ve used eBay to sell a lot of stuff. Nothing brings out the scammers like selling an iPhone. Follow eBay rules. Only ship to confirmed addresses, with tracking and insurance.


New iPad Speculation

It’s a rainy MLK day, and I’m home. What better time to speculate on what the next iPad version will be? Last year about this time a lot of people were wondering about the new tablet device Apple was about to unveil. Many thought it would be a real tablet computer running OSX, but a few thought it would be something else. There were plenty of different reactions after the announcement, but it didn’t take long to see that the iPad was going to be a huge success.

Now, a year later, the rest of the computing world is trying to develop the iPad “killer, and more rumors swirl about the next iteration of the iPad. How will it change?

The Outside:
For a while now people have been speculating on the new enclosure. There have been cases and mock ups that show a larger hole for a speaker. That would address one complaint about the current iPad, the speaker is just OK. It’s not bad, just OK. Many say flatter thinner case. Some have said that the bezel may be thinner, but I’m not sold on that. It all depends on the size f the new display and how the rest of the stuff inside has to fit together. Either way, it’s probable that your old iPad case won’t fit the new one.

The Inside:
There will be a higher resolution display for the new iPad. It probably won’t be as dense as the retina display on the iPhone, but several sources are reporting that it should double the current resolution: 2048×1536, 260 DPI. This would likely require a new graphics package that would have a bonus effect; 1080p HD output capability. There will probaby also be a ne version of the A4 chip, which would then filter out to all iOS devices.

I think it’s a safe bet that the new iPad will at least have a front facing camera. The more devices that Apple can add Facetime to, the better for them. I still don’t think a rear camera (like the iPhone or even the lesser one on the iPod Touch) would be used very much. It’s just not the right size device for a rear camera.

iOS 4.3 is rumored to have some very nice touches. The ability to turn your 3G iOS device into a mobile hotspot (depending on carrier implementation, of course) as well as a more open AirPlay function. Third party developers should now be able to take advantage of streaming video via AirPlay. Just in time for the boxee app!

I said last year, and I will continue to say, the key to the iPad’s success is the apps that are developed for it. One year in, the hardware upgrades will be nice, but they still need apps developed to take full advantage of the potential.

Don’t Buy a Verizon iPhone… Yet

I know some of you have been chomping at the bit to get your hands on a Verizon iPhone. The much lamented AT&T network has many hoping to change, and the much liked iPhone has many Verizon subscribers ready to buy a new phone.

But don’t do it. Not yet, anyway.

Assuming the announcement from Verizon tomorrow is the new iPhone, there will be a lot of people who will purchase and pre order. Even if you want one, unless you are willing to stand in line or pre order and wait, it will be a while before you can walk into a store and buy one.

And that may work to your advantage. The world should know by the end of the month if Apple is going to roll out a new iPhone version along with the rumored iPad 2. It will be a shame when all of the new Verizon customers realize just a few short weeks into owning an iPhone 4 that there is already a new version available for pre order. It won’t likely be available until early Summer, but when you lock into a 2 year contract, isn’t it nicer to have the newest phone for a little while?

It is not definite that Apple will update the iPhone 4. There are mild rumors, but nothing like the major leaks last year. From the rumors, it looks like the new iPhone would just be a slight bump, and not a major re vamp of the device. Still, if it can take advantage of a faster than 3G network, or even just has the antenna issue addressed, the new version is worth the wait.

Exercise patience, eager Verizon customers. Wait just a few weeks to see if the new iPhone does indeed come out this year.

Is a New iPhone on the Way?

If this year is like every other year, yes. Every year since its introduction, Apple has released an upgrade to their popular handset. Last year that release was leaked and reported all over. This year, there are hints but the major reports are that AT&T’s exclusive deal will end, and Verizon will also sell the iPhone. That along with speculation on a new iPad (almost a certainty, i would think) has been most of what is circulating about the new year at Apple.

This week a video of “replacement’ parts for the iPhone was posted and then taken down. It showed a slightly different design of the hardware. Was it a fake? And is the claim that it was removed over a copyright claim with Apple a fake?

Today AT&T offers the 3GS for $50 with contract, a 50% price cut. That seems to hint that an announcement is coming, and they are clearing stock.

This is all speculation, and will be until Apple says one thing or the other. I am intimately involved, in that I am due for an upgrade, and want to switch to the latest version of the iPhone from my 3GS. if that remains the iPhone 4, great. but if there is a new iPhone 5 coming, I will wait.