Suffice to say that plans vary by wireless carrier and are subject to change. At the time this book was written, ironclad two-year contracts were rapidly becoming far less, well, ironclad. Of course, you're still obligated to pay what you owe your carrier. Indeed, the carriers all are moving away from contracts to installment pricing.
Unlimited data plans are also in a state of flux, but they're also more common than they used to be, thanks to industry competition.
Many "unlimited" plans are subject to data-speed throttling after a customer reaches a certain threshold of data, though such levels are being raised in the consumer's favor.
If you plan on tapping into the faster 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) networks that the iPhone 5 and later models are capable of making nice with, you may end up consuming more data and ultimately paying more.You may also have to fork over extra coin for a plan that includes tethering, or the capability to use your iPhone as a broadband modem for other devices you might carry, such as laptops and netbooks.
iPhones are available also from smaller regional carriers such as C Spire and U.S. Cellular.Three prerequisites for enjoying the iPhone have been in place since the original release and remain — at least for most U.S. customers:
- One, unless you're already in the fold, there's the aforementioned business of becoming an AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, or T-Mobile subscriber or a customer of any other company that subsequently sells the devices.
- Two, you may have to free yourself from any wireless contract that you've already entered into. As we point out, such contractual obligations are getting liberalized and ironclad two-year contracts are disappearing in favor of installment pricing. Heck, your new wireless company may even pay any early termination fees due your old carrier.
A number of retailers will at least give you a credit for your old iPhone that you can use toward a new model. The amount of the credit depends largely on the condition of the device. You must pay off the phone over a set period, again typically two years. But at least you're shifting to the latest models.
Under its own trade-in program, Apple won't give you cash for your old phone but will issue a gift card that you can use in the store. Estimated trade-in values as of this writing range from $35 for an iPhone 5c to $375 for a 7 Plus. Prices vary depending on the condition of the phone you're trading in. Keep in mind that you may get cash or a better trade-in deal elsewhere.
Apple has its own in-store upgrade program, based on a 24-month installment. As this book was going to press, you could get a 64GB iPhone 8 for $34.50 a month, and a 256GB model for $40.75. Pricing for the 8 Plus under the Apple upgrade program is $39.50 and $45.75, respectively. You get to choose your own carrier. AppleCare warranty protection is included.
- Three, make sure you download the freshest version of iTunes software for syncing with your PC or Mac. Apple doesn't supply the software in the box, so head to iTunes if you need to fetch a copy.
The uninitiated might not know that iTunes is the nifty Apple jukebox software that iPod, iPad, PC, and Mac owners use to manage music, videos, and more. iTunes is at the core of the iPhone as well because it has a built-in iPod, under what is called the Music app instead. You employ iTunes to synchronize a bunch of stuff on your computer and iPhone, including photos, podcasts, videos, and (of course) music — that is, unless you eschew your computer directly and manage all this stuff through iCloud.
Although iTunes is no longer required for the initial configuration of your iPhone, we recommend fetching it anyway, even if you don't intend to use it for syncing with a PC or Mac.