Upgrading Is Not an Option

October 31, 2011

Over the past two days I have been trying unsuccessfully to give Apple and Verizon some of my money. You see I want an iPhone 4S, but I am not willing to pay full retail price for one.

As I understand things, your cell phone carrier (Verizon in my case) determines your upgrade eligibility based on a couple of factors: the timeliness in which you pay your bill and the size of your bill. If you have the minimum package and pay late every month you aren't viewed favorably and likely won't get any early upgrade option. If you always pay your bill on time, but don't have the most expensive plan, you'll get an early upgrade option, but it will only shave a few months off your two-year contract. Four months in my case. Presumably, if you always pay on time and have all the bells and whistles on your plan, then you get an even earlier upgrade date.

February 9th is only 101 days away, which isn't terribly long in the greater scheme of things, but it would be nice to have a new toy now and avoid the wait.

Yesterday, while on a support call due to a hiccup in my phone's idea of the correct time, I asked the representative if I could get an early upgrade date. He told me that I would have to go to the store, that they might be able to move me up 30, or even 60 days. 100 plus days isn't 60, but I thought it was worth a shot. I drove over to the Verizon store in the afternoon to see what they would do for me.

Nothing, as it turns out. According to the sales guy I spoke with, only the store manager can authorize an early upgrade. The store manager only works Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. Phooey. So this afternoon I left work a few minutes early and returned to the store, this time to see what the manager could do for me.

Nothing, as it turns out. The manager explained the the stores haven't been able to authorize early upgrades for at least two years. When I tried to explain what I had been told on the phone, he said he doesn't know why they tell people to go to the store; he isn't able to give early upgrades.

So I call Verizon back and asked again about an early upgrade. I explained all that I had been through to the representative and he did some quick research at his end. He said that they could do an early upgrade to any of their other phones, but not to the Apple iPhones.

Huh.

He said that Apple "won't let them". At first I wanted to believe this was convenient finger pointing, away from Verizon and toward Apple. However, after thinking about it for a few minutes, I think I can understand why. When you are selling hotcakes faster than you can make them, you don't sell them for $450 off.

All of which means, the only upgrade option available to me is to purchase an iPhone for full retail price, or $649. Spending an extra $450 for 100 days early access is pricy - $4.50 per day. I can wait. Probably not happily, but I can wait.

In the end it is hard for me to stay mad at either Apple or Verizon. They are making a product that I don't need. I can live without an iPhone. In truth, I could live without a cell phone. That I am willing, along with millions of other people, to shell out $200 or $300 (or more) for a smartphone purchase and sign a two-year contract of $75 or more dollars per month, speaks volumes about the power of marketing and the ability of manufactures to generate desire and demand for their products.

In the meantime, I'll count the days until February 9th, and at 12:01 am that day I'll poke the purchase button on Apple's site and order an iPhone 4S.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.