iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro deals: The best discounts on Apple’s latest iPhones

It’s been a long time since you could only get an iPhone directly from Apple or from AT&T. Today, it’s offered by all major carriers and big retailers, and many of them want to entice you to buy with them by offering special deals. Of course, you can always buy from Apple directly, either in-store or online.

If you haven’t yet put in your order for an iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Pro, here’s a summary of some of the deals and promotions offered by different retailers to help you make up your mind. For each, we’ll tell you about any current special deals, when you should consider buying there, and when you shouldn’t.

Apple Store

Best deals

Buying direct from Apple is one of the few ways to buy an unlocked, SIM-free iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Pro, and it’s the go-to place to join the iPhone Upgrade Program. Apple will let you trade in your old iPhone (in good condition) as credit toward a new purchase, too.

This year, Apple is partnering with carriers to offer discounts on the iPhone 12 mini (which isn’t available until November) and iPhone 12. Instead of paying $729/$829 you get a $30 discount if you buy a phone activated on AT&T, Verizon, or T-Mobile/Sprint.

Both AT&T and Verizon have discounted trade-in plans that you can purchase through Apple (you will trade your phone in directly to the carrier, not Apple). With AT&T, you can get the iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 mini for $0 a month over 30 months if you trade in at least an iPhone 8 in good condition.

On Verizon, you’ll pay or $11.95 a month for the iPhone 12 mini or $14.95 a month for the iPhone 12 over 24 months with the trade-in of an iPhone X or newer.

For the iPhone 12 Pro, AT&T’s trade-in deal will cost you $6.64 per month for 30 months, while Verizon will be $23.29 for 24 months, again with the same trade-in requirements. For the iPhone 12 Pro Max (available in November) those rates go up to $13.30 and $27.45, respectively.

Note that these deals require you to be on a monthly payment plan with AT&T or Verizon and to subscribe to an eligible Unlimited data plan. You’ll get the cost of your phone reduced in monthly bill credits.

Read more about these requirements here.

T-Mobile’s deal through Apple is a little different. When you trade in an iPhone 8 or newer to Apple, T-Mobile will give you an additional $150 trade-in credit in the form of a virtual prepaid Mastercard. The same goes for Sprint, which is really T-Mobile now.

Why you should buy here

Apple

This is the first time in a long time you can get carrier trade-in deals when buying direct from Apple. This may have something to do with promoting carriers that want to push the iPhone 12 to get customers on their 5G networks, and it may have something to do with COVID-19 precautions making in-store shopping less common.

As usual, those carrier deals come with a lot of caveats and lock-ins, but they can definitely get you into an iPhone 12 with little to no up-front cost. T-Mobile/Sprint’s deal is somewhat unique in that it only requires phone activation; you don’t have to be on any particular plan for any specific length of time.

If you want to buy your phone with the iPhone Upgrade Program, you’ll have to do it at the Apple Store or in the Apple Store iOS app.

When buying directly from Apple with an Apple Card, you get 3 percent cash back. What’s more, Apple will now let you pay for a new iPhone with your Apple Card in 24 monthly installments, interest-free.

If you always want the latest iPhone every year, the iPhone Upgrade Program is a pretty good deal. You pay off your iPhone in 24 monthly installments, but can swap it in for a new iPhone after 12 months (thus renewing the 24-month contract). You get Apple Care+ included, too.

It’s also one of the few places you can get your iPhone 12 or 12 Pro SIM-free and unlocked.

Why you shouldn’t buy here

If you plan to switch to a different carrier or open a new line, buying directly from the carrier can be a better bargain—many carriers offer nice incentives to switch over or activate new lines. From time to time, carriers may offer deals (“buy one get one free” or other rebates), though those usually require some sort of long-term commitment. The best carrier deals tend to be for new line activations and transfers, though.

Apple offers trade-in value for your old iPhone, but it’s often not as much as a carrier (with the caveat that carriers want to lock you into a long-term payment plan).

Amazon

Best deals

The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro do not appear to be available from Amazon as of this writing.

Why you should buy here

Amazon rarely has deals on the latest iPhone models, but it can be a good place to score a deal on an older certified refurbished model.

Why you shouldn’t buy here

You’re almost never buying directly from Amazon, but rather through a reseller. And most of the iPhones you’ll find on Amazon are certified refurbished, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not the place to go if you’re looking for a brand new model.

AT&T

Best deals

AT&T is offering an iPhone 12 for free, where “free” means up to $800 in bill credits when you trade in an old phone and finance the new one over 30 months. You can get a more expensive phone (an iPhone 12 Pro, or more storage) and reduce the cost by $800 this way, too.

There are gotchas, of course. You’ll need to:

  • Purchase an eligible smartphone on a qualifying installment agreement, including taxes on full retail price (up front) and $30 activation/upgrade fee.
  • Add a new line of service or upgrade an existing line.
  • Activate postpaid unlimited wireless service (min. $75 per month for new unlimited customers before discounts).
  • Trade-in an eligible Smartphone in good working condition with a minimum trade-in value of $95 for $800 credit ($35 for $350 credit) within 30 days of activation.

If you meet all those conditions, you get an iPhone 12 “free” because they’ll give you bill credits enough to cover the monthly installments for it. If you want more storage or an iPhone 12 Pro, you get up to $800 worth of bill credits.

Why you should buy here

att sf IDG

If you’re already a happy AT&T customer, or if you don’t mind being saddled to the company for a few years, you might as well buy directly from the carrier. Just know that the deals are typically designed to get you really attached to the carrier. They want you paying monthly installments for years, so deals are designed to save you money on a second phone in exchange for locking you in to the carrier for a long time.

Why you shouldn’t buy here

If you just want to buy one phone, or if you want the freedom to hop to different carriers at a whim, buying your iPhone 12 or 12 Pro directly from AT&T is not your best option.

There’s a bunch of fine print to consider on the current deal.

Best Buy

Best deals

Best Buy has multiple carrier upgrade deals that more-or-less match what you get from the carriers themselves.

On Verizon, you get an iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Pro for what amounts to $440 off, divided over 24 monthly bill credits.

On AT&T, you get up to $800 in bill credits over 30 months if you buy an iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Pro, activate it on an unlimited plan, and trade in an iPhone 8 or newer (or similar grade of Android phone).

On Sprint, buy an iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Pro and get up to $850 in bill credits when you trade in an eligible iPhone. That value is only good for an iPhone XS or newer—older phones get you less trade-in value.

Why you should buy here

best buy logo Best Buy / IDG

Best Buy iPhone deals usually to come in two forms: A decent-sized gift card (useful only if you plan to buy more stuff from Best Buy) or a discount on buying a new phone with activation of a new line. It’s not dissimilar to buying from a carrier, and only worthwhile if you don’t mind a long-term commitment.

If you are thinking of purchasing through Best Buy, be sure to compare its discounts with other big-box retailers and the major carriers. The best deal can vary depending on when you look.

Why you shouldn’t buy here

If you want to just pay the full price for an unactivated, unlocked iPhone, you shouldn’t do it here. Best Buy used to be one of the very few retailers who would sell you a SIM-free iPhone, but you now have to sign up with Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint (really T-Mobile).

There are no special deals for AT&T or Verizon customers at Best Buy right now, making it a good place to shop only for Sprint (now T-Mobile) customers.

eBay/Craigslist

Best deals

Buying a phone directly from a fellow consumer (be it a used or new-in-box option) can always be a bit of a risk. But you can also save plenty of money if you’re willing to be patient and negotiate on price.

Just be careful. Only buy from qualified sellers with lots of positive feedback, or from someone local so you can go inspect the phone and make sure it works properly and is in the promised condition before handing over a single penny.

On a just-released phone like the iPhone 12 or 12 Pro, you’re not likely to find a good deal when buying directly from another consumer. In fact, you’ll probably pay more, especially if the model you want is in short supply. But if every store is out of stock and you can’t get one for another three weeks, and you just have to have that particular model right now, this may be your only option.

Why you should buy here

There are two good reasons to buy an iPhone from eBay or Craigslist (or other similar person-to-person markets):

1. You don’t want the newest hottest model and aren’t in a rush to buy, so you can take your time finding a good deal on the phone you want in great condition.

2. You do want the newest hottest model, the one that’s totally out of stock everywhere, and you just have to have it now even if it means paying an inflated price.

Why you shouldn’t buy here

If you want the latest iPhone and it hasn’t been on the market for six months, you’re not likely to find a good deal. You’ll spend a lot of time trying to find one that isn’t scratched, chipped, or cracked. And then, on top of all that, you have to worry about getting ripped off.

Sprint

Sprint is now T-Mobile

Sprint doesn’t really have any iPhone 12 deals for regular consumers, because Sprint all but doesn’t exist for regular consumers anymore. Sprint has been bought by T-Mobile, and all Sprint deals are essentially redirected through them.

If you have Sprint, your new phone purchase deals are delivered through T-Mobile. If you don’t, you can’t even really sign up for Sprint service anymore. Existing customers are grandfathered into their plans, but service is through the “new T-Mobile.”

Swappa

Best deals

As a person-to-person sales market, deals on Swappa vary a lot. Depending on the age and condition of a device, you can pay anything from above retail (on very hard-to-get iPhone models) to hundreds of dollars less. If you missed the early-preorder window and you want a hot new iPhone right away, you can probably buy a new-in-box model direct from another consumer…at a considerable markup.

Don’t expect to find any good deals on the iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Pro in any person-to-person marketplace until the phone has been available for at least a few months.

Why you should buy here

There are lots of person-to-person sales services out there, from eBay to OfferUp to Letgo to Facebook Marketplace, and they all carry their share of risk of the seller trying to rip you off.

We like Swappa because it does more to protect buyers: The company reviews every listing to help ensure that the seller isn’t a scammer. It verifies ESN numbers to weed out any that are not fully paid for, listed as stolen, or unavailable for activation. It makes sure that sellers have reset the device and disabled iCloud so it can be set up as a new user. And it requires verification photos to prove ownership and verify condition.

Is it fool-proof? No, but sellers on Swappa have to jump through just enough hoops to keep most of the scammers at bay. If you’re buying a phone from a random person on the internet, that’s a big deal.

Why you shouldn’t buy here

No matter how diligent Swappa is about eliminating scammers and fraud, you’re still buying a phone directly from another human over the internet using a PayPal account. You can save a lot of money, but there are always things that can go wrong—and you don’t have the same recourse as if you bought from a major retailer or carrier.

T-Mobile

Best deals

Those who want to switch to T-Mobile with their spouse will probably dig this deal. T-Mobile will sell you two iPhone 12 devices: either a regular iPhone 12 or an iPhone 12 Pro together with its Essentials unlimited plan for a total of $100 per month. To get it, you’ll have to trade in two “eligible devices” in good condition.

It breaks down like this: You pay $90 per month for two lines of the Essentials plan and then $5 per month for each iPhone 12, after an $850 bill credit.

Gregory E. Crayton
Gregory E. Crayton has around 5+ years of experience in market research and consulting services for ICT & Semiconductor domain. He holds varied experience in market sizing and forecasting with varied models, competition landscape, consumer behavior analysis, opportunity analysis, product/company benchmarking, data mining, and others.

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