I bought Apple's Upgrade Program but I'm still saying 'no' to the iPhone 7

The iPhone 7 may be the new hotness, but is it enough to make an iPhone 6s Plus owner upgrade, even for free? David Gewirtz says "no". Here's why.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor
Image: David Gewirtz

It's true. The iPhone 7 simply is not compelling enough to justify a three hour round trip drive to Orlando, plus whatever hell the Apple Store would want to put me through this year. Not gonna do it. No way.

Last year, my wife and I bought our then-new iPhone 6s Plus phones using the Apple Upgrade Program. The offer was compelling.

The Apple Upgrade Program allowed us to decouple our phone purchase from our wireless service. It allowed us to get an interest free loan for the purchase of the phones. But - and here was the kicker - once we owned the phones for a year (which, for us, is today), we'd be allowed to turn in the phones and upgrade to the newest model, without any cost or penalty.

Having been stuck with phones that started to feel old about six months into ownership for many two-year cycles, this seemed like a heck of a deal. Of course we were going to want the new iPhone 7 when it came out. It was a tick (meaning, a major upgrade) on Apple's normal tick-tock release update pattern.

The iPhone 7 is a bit of a big deal. It's got that extra zoom lens camera on the back of the phone. Apple's new portrait feature is in beta, but it's still an interesting expansion of a smartphone camera system. Also, the A10 fusion processor is a nice jump in speed.

Plus, of course, the opportunity to lose the incredibly useful and well-entrenched headphone jack helps new iPhone 7 owners feel like they get to live in the future.

I can't make myself care.

I'm a bit uncomfortable about losing the headphone jack, even if they have included an adapter, because I use it every week for recording my workshop project videos. While the adapter seems to work, you never know exactly what effect that might have on sound quality. Plus, it just annoys me.

The more salient fact, however, is that our iPhone 6s Plus phones are actually very darned good. We bought the 128GB models, which means we still have a good amount of capacity. I shoot 4K videos each week. They can each consume 64GB or so. But if I move them off the phone between shoots, it has plenty of room to grow.

The phones are fast enough. We haven't had any performance complaints. We have the Plus models, so it's not like we're hankering for a bigger screen. The iOS 10 upgrade went well. We're not seeing any performance degradation because of the upgrade.

While the new camera is interesting, it's not a DSLR. In fact, I just purchased a Canon T6i DSLR as part of an upgrade to my workshop shooting environment. In my opinion, this is preferable to settling for the not-yet-fully-baked DSLR-like camera features on the iPhone 7. I'll have a new DSLR in my hands tomorrow (yay, Prime!) to replace my ancient Digital Rebel. You can buy a brand new, decent DSLR for far less than the price of the iPhone 7.

There are two other factors, which I don't want to minimize, that made me decide to keep the iPhone 6s Plus. The Apple Store transaction was a hell day experience. There's nothing compelling enough in the new phone to justify what could be four or more hours of hassle.

I decided to research whether or not I could upgrade online. You'll love this. When I called Apple to ask how, an Apple rep told me it probably was possible to upgrade online. The rep then suggested that I go to the store, so that one of the in-store reps could walk me through the online ordering process. So, go to the store to order online to avoid going to the store. Okay, then.

Be that as it may, if we don't exercise our upgrade option now, when we finish the two years of payments on these phones, we get to keep them. By contrast, if we chose to upgrade, we'd have to turn these devices in for the new iPhone 7s.

That's okay, but these are sweet pieces of kit. If we stick it out for the year, we'll have them available to be used for whatever we want. That includes having a spare 4K camera or two, using them as mini iPad minis, and more. I've always liked keeping my out-of-service phones for their smart PDA/pocket computer capabilities. These will make nice additions to the spare gear family when their time on Verizon comes to an end.

So there you go. Even though we made a big deal about getting the iPhone Upgrade Program, we're not upgrading. To be fair, the program is still a good deal (except for the in-store hassle). It's flexible enough that if we do change our minds, we can still upgrade. Upgrading will still be no more expensive than purchasing the phones outright, or through a carrier contract.

Honestly, if you're buying an iPhone (whether you're planning on upgrading after a year or not), if you don't mind going through the hassle of signing up, and you can get approved, I recommend using the iPhone Upgrade Program. It's a win-win, best of both worlds, leave your options open kind of program. I'm still glad we signed up for it.

Have you upgraded your phones? Let me know in the TalkBacks below.

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