The iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C are expected to be announced on September 10, with a rumored launch date of September 20. Tons of wireless subscribers will no doubt be waiting in line to get their brand new iPhone come launch day, but before you head out to stake your place in line, it’s a good idea to see when you’re eligible for an upgrade (if you’re on a contract, that is), just to make sure you can actually get one without any problems from your carrier.
Many retail stores that sell mobile devices usually have their own upgrade eligibility checker, where you choose your carrier and enter in your phone number and other details, along with the last four digits of your social security number or other identification number of some kind. This is probably the most convenient way to check, and places like Best Buy, Target, Walmart, RadioShack and Newegg have this tool available.
However, if you’d rather get your upgrade eligibility information directly from the source, here’s how you do that for each of the major US carriers.
Verizon has a similar handy tool that allows customers to check the status of their upgrade eligibility without logging into their Verizon Wireless account, although you’ll have to enter in your password anyway, but it’s a bit quicker in general. Just enter in your mobile phone number, email address, last four digits of your social security number, and your password. Then click “Confirm” and you’ll be given a date of when you can upgrade that junker of yours.
Perhaps the easiest way to check your Verizon upgrade eligibility is to dial #874. You’ll then be sent a text message giving you the exact date that you can upgrade your phone to a new one. However, watch out for that $30 upgrade fee.
Just like with Verizon, you can dial a number to get a quick text message with upgrade eligibility information. The number for AT&T is *639#. As with Verizon, there is a $36 upgrade fee for AT&T customers. Other than that, you can log into AT&T’s website and check out your account page to see when you’re eligible for an upgrade.
However, AT&T seems to be doing something special for those wanting to upgrade to the iPhone 5S that are in the middle of their contract. Essentially, if you don’t qualify for a subsidized upgrade when the iPhone 5S is released, AT&T will give you the opportunity to buy the phone at a discounted retail price, meaning that they’ll take the full retail price of the iPhone 5S and mark it down $250 (just a bit more than the price of a subsidized flagship iPhone), so you’d only be paying $400 for the phone, assuming that the full retail price will be $650.
Sprint customers can also use their phone to check on upgrade eligibility by texting “upgrade” to 1311. You’ll get a reply with information on when you can upgrade your device. Otherwise, you can log into your Sprint account online to check on the status of an upgrade. If you’d rather listen to information about your upgrade eligibility on Sprint, you can dial *2 on your phone, then press 1 followed by your mobile phone number, and then press 1 again to confirm.
If you’re on T-Mobile, you’re one of the lucky ones, as the carrier doesn’t offer contracts anymore, so upgrading to a new phone is no problem, and you don’t have to wait for a certain date to roll around in order to get a new device. However, the carrier’s new Jump plans will cost you more in the end, and you won’t be able to keep your old phone when you upgrade to a new one, but you’ll be able to upgrade your phone more often than if you were on a contract, which may be worth the extra money to some customers.
Considering the Early Termination Fee
What if you just can’t wait for your upgrade date to roll around? Well, you have a couple options, and one of them is thinking long and hard about whether or not you want to stay at your current carrier, or switch over to a new one; if you’re going to get a new phone and sign a new contract, you may as well decide whether or not you want to find a new carrier to join if you’re sick of your current one.
However, switching carriers in the middle of a contract can be pricey; most of the major carriers charge up to $350, minus a certain amount for each month of service that you stay on, so the longer that you’ve stayed on your contract, the less you’ll have to pay. If you’re just a couple months away from your contract expiring, it’s definitely a good idea to just wait it out before you upgrade phones and switch carriers. However, if you want to stay on your current carrier, but want to upgrade early, there’s another option.
Paying Full Retail Price
No carrier is forcing you to keep using your old phone in the middle of your contract. All carriers will happily let you upgrade to any new phone at any time during your contract, but there’s a catch: you’ll have to pay full retail price for that new phone. Currently, the iPhone 5 starts at $649 for the unlocked and contract-free 16GB version. Seeing as how Apple likes to stay consistent, we’re guessing the full retail price of the iPhone 5S will cost the same $649 off-contract. As for the budget-friendly iPhone 5C, the latest that we’ve heard is $300 off-contract, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed about that, since it’s merely just rumored for now.