T-Mobile offering free or half-price upgrade to iPhone 12 for existing customers

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Yes, you are reading that right, T-Mobile announced yesterday that they will swap your iPhone 11 for an iPhone 12 at no cost apart from taxes and fees. If you have an iPhone 6 through XS or XR you can trade in and get an iPhone 12 at 50% off. Or if you are still using any older iPhone you can upgrade to an iPhone 12 mini for 50% off.

Other deals are available if you want to trade in other devices, such as an upgrade to a Samsung Galaxy A32 5G for trading in any phone, including a flip phone. But since this is an Apple-focused blog I’m just going to look at their iPhone offer.

This is a really great deal that I would suggest all T-Mobile subscribers at least consider if you don’t already have an iPhone 12.

Why are they being so generous? They didn’t say, but my understanding of the situation is that T-Mobile is going all-in on 5G which is far more efficient with radio waves than previous cellular technologies. More customers shifted to 5G means more phones on each tower, faster speeds, better reliability, and lower operating costs for T-Mobile. iPhone 11 customers are likely the heaviest users of LTE and will be for a long time, so it’s particularly valuable for T-Mobile to get those phones switched to a 5G-capable device.

There are a few small caveats but most of these are not huge issues:

  • This offer is only valid from April 18 through May 1, so you only have a two-week window to get this done.
  • You must trade in your current iPhone and it must be in good working order and not have cracked glass.
  • Your current iPhone must be paid off.
  • You will owe sales tax on the new iPhone.
  • You may owe a $20 administrative fee as well as a $10 SIM fee.
  • The new device will be billed on your account in 24 monthly installments, but you will get a monthly bill credit for the same amount cancelling it out, or for 50% if your deal is for half off.
  • The new iPhone will be locked to the T-Mobile network. If you wish to unlock it you will need to pay off the full cost of the new phone. If you do so, your monthly bill credits will still continue. So doing this will cost you the same in the end, you’re just paying up front. You might have to wait a month or two before you can unlock your new iPhone.
  • This offer is good on only up to four devices per account.

Why might you skip this upgrade offer? I can only think of a few reasons:

  • You aren’t sure that you will want to stick with T-Mobile for the next two years.
  • You would really rather have the iPhone 12 Pro or 12 Pro Max. It appears that this is only valid for the iPhone 12 and 12 mini.
  • You just don’t want to spend the time or effort on switching to a new phone.
  • You cannot have locked phone, even for a few months.
  • You subscribe to Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program, though check the math because it could be worth paying off your existing phone and then trading that in.

They aren’t clear on how to take advantage of this offer just yet, but I suspect it will be more clear beginning April 18 when the offer actually starts. You may need to visit a T-Mobile Store or contact customer service, but they may offer this through their website as well.