South African iPhone lovers can now upgrade every year

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South Africans will be able to upgrade their iPhones annually, through a new financing option and buy-back plan local iStores are offering in partnership with Standard Bank. The new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus will go on sale locally next Friday, October 16.

Using a Standard Bank-issued credit card, people will be able to buy a new iPhone on a 24-month contract and trade it in after 12 months to settle the outstanding balance. The average trade-in value of an iPhone after a year (assuming it’s been kept in good condition) is roughly half the price of the phone, according to Apple’s South African distributors, the Core Group.

The terms are the same as those offered by Apple internationally, which announced its new iPhone Upgrade Programme in September. The move allows gadget fiends to ensure they have the latest and greatest model each year. However, these upgradeable contracts — both locally and internationally — still require consumers to sign on for an additional 24-months each year to keep monthly repayments down.

With a new contract, consumers will pay R550 a month for an iPhone 6S 16GB over 24 months. If they trade in an iPhone 6 Plus that comes down to R250/month, R275/month for an iPhone 6, and R375/month for an iPhone 5S.

Until now, consumers have either had to buy the phone outright or have had to finance new handsets through 24-month contracts with mobile operators, or via institutions like FNB, which offered them (and other hardware like tablet computers and laptops) at break-even prices or better to spur uptake of its online and mobile app-based banking services. As a result of that success, FNB also launched its own MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) earlier this year, selling SIM cards, airtime and data direct to its customers.

iPhone 6S Pair

Apple is attempting the reverse in the age of prepaid, where mobile devices are being disassociated from network contracts and many consumers are opting to buy them outright or subsidise them via banks, rather than network operators, as in the case of Standard Bank and Core’s new offering.

The new models have had generally positive reviews since they went on sale in select markets like the US last month, aside from reviewers bemoaning the fact that a 16GB version still exists at all and that, being an “s” release, the devices feel incremental, even with the much-lauded 3D touch feature — which allows the display to recognise differing levels of pressure, like the Force Touch found on the Apple Watch and 12″ MacBook — which Apple has touted as one of the primary motivators for choosing the new models over their predecessors or upgrading from them.

Like last year’s models, we expect Apple will sell the new devices hand over fist. The iPhone 6 and larger 6 Plus propelled Apple to its best-ever quarter, generating $18bn income and recording the highest quarter of sales for the company to date. It’s difficult to tell how much of this was due to the company’s devices going on sale in China for the first time — where sales outstripped even those of the company’s home market of the US — to it capitulating to consumers’ desire for larger-screen devices or to the devices themselves.

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