Apple's trade-in program seems kind of a mess


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9 to 5 Mac:

Following complaints regarding iPhone 7 availability through Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program, Apple has started informing customers that it's making more reservations times available to pick-up the device at Apple Stores this Friday. Additionally, 9to5Mac has learned that most Apple Stores will have limited or no stock of iPhone 7 units for walk-in customers on launch day.

Apple's trade-in program offers a path to get a new iPhone every year, but in its second year, it doesn't seem for people who want to easily get the new iPhone anywhere near its launch date. The program offers interest-free financing with the option to trade in your device to cover the financed balance after 12 months of payments have been made.

Great idea, except it requires you to go into an Apple Store to make it happen. That alone is a big disadvantage to just having the latest iPhone delivered to your door. This year being the first year of offering an upgrade on the program, stocks of in-store phones were either very low to non-existent less than 5 minutes after going on sale. This means there was no option to trade in your device other than to wait until the dust settles on or after launch day. Your best bet is probably to get in line and roll the dice on getting the phone of your choosing (other than the highly promoted Jet Black, apparently, which is another whole mess).

Now, there are worse things in life than not getting an iPhone on launch weekend. If, however, Apple wants to boost lagging iPhones sales, it should have a process that makes it easy for its best customers to get a phone every year.

It seems to me, it doesn't need to be this complicated. When you're ready to trade in your phone, you should simply have the option to order it online and purchase it on your existing installment loan. If you have decent credit, the line of credit on a trade-in installment loan should be set high enough to allow for this. This would be preferred anyway to opening a new line of credit every year.

Then when you check out, you should have the option to have Apple ship you a box to return your old phone with a pre-paid label. If you don't send in your old device, you're simply obligated to continue making payments or pay the balance if you choose to sell it on your own. If there is damage on the device, it's already covered under Apple Care, so you would only be on the hook for the Apple Care repair fee. The repair fee could come off of the credit card you have on file with Apple or just off the credit to your trade-in loan.