Ten Ways to Save on Your Next iPhone

iPhone 12 Pro Max Pacific Blue

Buying an iPhone is a lot more involved today than it used to be—especially if you're on the hunt for a great deal. With more carriers, plenty of new and used options, and a staggering number of features on late models, finding ways to save on your next iPhone can take some work. You could just accept the steep price you'd pay buying a brand-new phone directly from Apple—or you could use these 10 proven tips to get a tailored deal on your next iPhone.

1. Choose Features to Fit Your Budget

Even if you plan to buy one of the latest iPhone releases, choosing a model isn't as simple as it was just a couple of years ago. The sizes, features and prices can vary significantly between phone generations and even within the same model.

To help you pick the phone that's right for your lifestyle and budget, Apple has a convenient comparison tool you can use to directly compare models based on which elements are most important to you—like having an excellent phone camera, or a screen so big you might mistake it for an iPad. More advanced features obviously come with a higher price tag, so if saving money is your top priority, look for models with more basic options.

2. Opt for an Older iPhone Model

If you're not married to getting the latest model, check out older iPhone models too. Given the range of iPhone aesthetic and tech components in recent years, a slightly older model might serve your needs just as well as the latest one.

For some, the iPhone 11 Pro's telephoto capabilities and longer battery life may make it a better buy than a non-Pro iPhone 12. Dedicated photography fans can still enjoy exceptional features even going back an iPhone generation or two. Models like the iPhone SE 2020, for example, pack some of the most advanced photo and processing power into a $399 price tag.

3. Know When to Buy

Apple's pre-holiday iPhone releases are as reliable as the trees changing color—and so are the subsequent price drops on previous iPhone models.

The new Apple products and surplus stock of older ones drive prices down just in time for gifting—but it doesn't have to be about the holidays. Even if you're stuck with a cracked screen or you're excited to switch to a fancier phone camera, you might want to hold off for the opportune purchasing moment.

Apple tends to announce the newest iPhones around September, and sales on older models can follow close behind the release dates (usually by November). Stock can sell out fast, but if you get the timing right and shop around different sellers, you can land some of the best iPhone deals all year.

4. Storage Capacity Is Important—Except When It Isn't

Whether or not the extra storage is essential depends on how you use your phone. If you enjoy keeping lots of photos and apps on your phone, you might want a bigger drive that can hold more. If you store your photos and videos in the cloud, consider yourself an app minimalist or rarely encounter the "storage almost full" alert, it's worth considering the lower-priced options that don't hold as much.

After you've chosen your most desired (and cost-effective) iPhone model, consider storage capacity. The 12-series iPhone models come in 64, 128 and 256 gigabyte variants, with the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max also available with a whopping 512-gigabyte storage capacity (there's no 64 gigabyte iPhone 12 Pro). Opting for a lower memory capacity can cut the price tag by as much as $300.

5. Start at Apple—but Don't Stop There

Whether you go through Apple or your wireless carrier, you'll be able to space out your iPhone purchase payments with monthly interest-free installments. The Apple website includes a page to compare offers so you can see pricing from both Apple and major carriers while you shop.

While Apple makes comparison shopping convenient, be sure to compare offers from different carriers on your own, too, and talk to the provider you already use. Since carriers compete against each other to earn your business, they may offer special promotions, especially around the holiday season, and if you tell them you're leaving for a better deal elsewhere.

Some benefits come in the form of gift cards or billing credits that show up over time. When you're comparing offers, read the fine print to make sure you fully understand the terms (like contract length and any exclusions) before you commit.

6. Choose the Right Credit Card

If you're considering a new credit card, check out introductory 0% APR financing deals that will allow you to purchase your next iPhone without paying interest—while earning a valuable bonus, cash back or other rewards. Just make sure to make on-time payments and pay more than the minimum balance on your card so you can pay off your phone purchase before the intro period ends—otherwise you'll undermine the potential benefits of charging your iPhone purchase.

If you're not sure where to start looking for a new credit card, Experian CreditMatch™ can match you with offers when you sign up for free.

7. Trade In Your Current Phone

Carriers offer a variety of promotions aimed at getting you to smoothly transition from one phone to the next while staying within their services. Holiday promotions might help you get even more value for retiring your old iPhone, so check online for the latest trade-in deals.

You can also sell your old iPhone through dedicated selling and trading sites like Glyde and Gazelle. It may be more convenient to trade in through Apple or your carrier, but you could end up earning significantly more money if you branch out and compare offers.

8. Join an Upgrade Program

You can also enroll in a program to upgrade your iPhone after a period of time, potentially with a decent amount of savings. Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program and carrier offers like AT&T's Next Up plan can allow you to upgrade your phone after paying only a fraction of the device's total price. Apple's program includes AppleCare+ and can be used with all major carriers, but some carrier programs offer lower monthly payments or other perks to reel you in.

9. Consider Changing Carriers

When you're shopping different carriers' offers for the best iPhone deals, check out any promotions that reward you for switching services. Especially for multi-line family plans, these deals can be particularly practical. Some offer discounts or gift cards to switch additional lines to their carrier, like Verizon's offer on a iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Sometimes, lesser-known carriers, such as Visible or Red Pocket Mobile, promote great bargains on a new iPhone—especially if you're willing to sacrifice some of the benefits of a major carrier service.

10. Don't Rule Out a Pre-Owned iPhone

A previously owned iPhone can make the perfect holiday bargain—with the added benefit of environmental friendliness. Proceed with caution and do your homework to make sure you get a quality product.

If you order a pre-owned iPhone directly from Apple, you'll get a "certified" one that's been refurbished with Apple parts. Other sellers may have great prices, but you should still review their terms and inclusions—and look for deals that include warranties, such as the one-year guarantee on pre-owned tech from Back Market.

The Bottom Line

There are plenty of potential iPhone sales competing to earn your business during the holidays, so be sure you know how to get the most out of your purchase. Whether you're looking to pick out the perfect gift or upgrade your own mobile device (we'll call that a gift for yourself), you can enjoy Apple's latest tech this season without breaking the bank.