iPhone Upgrade Shock: Apple’s Price Changes Explained

Apple fans are going to love 2020. On the back of successful Mac, MacBook and iPhone refreshes, we know 2020 will be dominated by up to seven new iPhones and some of the most ambitious upgrades the company has offered in years. That said, millions of users may also have to pay more than they expect to upgrade and now we know why.

Apple iPhone 12: Everything We Know So Far [Updated]

Following news last week that Apple had slashed trade-in prices for iPhone upgraders by as much as 17% mid-cycle, I asked Apple for an explanation. The company acknowledged the sudden cuts but failed to provide a reason for them. Now, I’ve been contacted anonymously (and independently) by two Apple employees who (on condition of anonymity) were happy to explain why. Their answers won’t get you more money, but it may make you more sympathetic to Apple’s reductions.

In short, Apple is just the face of its official trade-in scheme:

“Apple buys those phones on behalf of a third party company. Apple does not set those prices…   Apple ships the collected phones at the end of each day to two different companies, one who purchases higher-end and another lower-end generally split at the 2017 [manufacturing] mark.”

Interestingly, this was validated by a second employee and Apple support is actually briefed to disclose this information if a customer asks. Arguably more interesting, however, is the primary reason behind the drops: “people repeatedly turning in phones with third party parts that cut the value.”

“Apple has no control of the pricing or when it changes and those prices can drop on us when customers bring in phones that have had original Apple parts harvested and replaced with lesser third party parts to our buyers’ dismay.”

Which third party parts are likely to be responsible for this? Replacement screens have long been an easy way for third party repairers to reduce costs, while the company’s high profile battery replacement program and battery health monitors in iOS have made iPhone owners far more aware of their degeneration and the impact on performance.

Apple’s battery replacement prices are actually reasonable, but they will always be undercut. On the flipside, screen replacements are absurd for anyone not prepared to pay up to $249 for Apple’s AppleCare+ insurance plan.

Of course, none of this will be much consolation to iPhone owners who play it buy the book and always have their phones repaired at Apple stores or by official partners. But seems to be a case of a minority spoiling it for the majority. Apple has made its disdain for third party parts clear with iOS warnings now delivered for both third party displays and batteries in iOS 13.

Note: I contacted Apple ahead of publication with this information and copies of the quotes and it has acknowledged them. I will update this article if it decides to issue a statement. 

The Good News

Other than the fact you can shop around and trade-in your iPhones elsewhere, the good news is upgraders to Apple’s 2020 iPhones may be in for a pleasant surprise. While prices are set to increase with the addition of 5G, it is understood that the rises will be small – especially in comparison to the huge price hikes demanded by rivals for the 5G variants of their phones.

In addition to this, when looking at the so-called iPhone 12, 5G is far from the only thing to be excited about. The new iPhone will bring a number of Apple firsts, including the iPhone’s first long-range 3D camera, first 120Hz iPhone ProMotion display and first in-display Touch ID fingerprint reader. Remarkably, it may also have as much raw performance as a Macbook Pro.

If all these features only serve to make your credit card groan, however, be aware that there are some superb deals available right now on the full iPhone 11 range. These are my top picks:

Gordon’s Top Apple Daily Deals:

  • iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max – Get up to $700 on these Apple devices with port-in to a new line activation on an eligible Unlimited plan – Target – shop deals now
  • iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max – Up to $300 gift card with qualified activation on Verizon and AT&T – Walmart – shop deal now
  • AirPods with Charging Case – (typically $159.99) – Amazon: $129 / Walmart: $129
  • AirPods with Wireless Charging Case – (typically $199.99) – Amazon: $169 / Walmart: $169


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