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(Pocket-lint) - Apple's iPhone Upgrade Programme is a monthly-instalment plan that will let you buy a new, unlocked iPhone from Apple and upgrade to the latest model every year. 

So if you bought an iPhone X or iPhone 8/8 Plus on the programme last year, you'd now be able to upgrade right away to the iPhone XR, iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max - and there's even accidental damage cover, too (more on that shortly). 

What is Apple's iPhone Upgrade Programme?

Apple's iPhone Upgrade Programme is similar to the programmes from networks including O2, EE and Verizon in the US where they let you upgrade your flagship phone on a regular basis (usually every year when the successor device launches). 

How does the iPhone upgrade programme differ from a contract?

Normally you tend to pick a carrier, and you directly buy your phone from that carrier.

With this setup, a £999/$999 iPhone drops down to a more manageable price (like £80/$80) but you also sign up to a contract on a service plan that suits you.

By paying an amount per month for two years, you're not only buying an iPhone at its full price - in fact, you're probably paying a bit more for it. You didn't get it for cheap.

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How does the iPhone Upgrade Programme work?

But Apple is now offering its own monthly-instalment plan to customers. It's cutting out the middleman (the carrier). You will, however, have to pay for your SIM-only phone deal separately. 

This means you'll get a new, unlocked iPhone every 12 months covered by an AppleCare+ warranty - and it's for that it's worth doing especially because it allows for two incidents of accidental damage (a small excess fee is due). 

You can actually opt to take off the AppleCare+ cover if you have cover elsewhere, but we'd recommend it - especially if you're getting one of the more fragile all-screen iPhones like the iPhone XS or XS Max. 

So take the total cost of your phone and divide it by 24 to get your cost each month (excluding taxes, if you're in the US). There's no interest due. 

A £898 purchase over 20 monthly payments at zero percent per annum (fixed) would cost £41.45 per month. The upfront payment is £69.

The other advantage to monthly-instalment plans is that you can leave your carrier whenever you want. If you suddenly want EE instead of Vodafone, you aren't locked into a multi-year contract and can just leave.

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When can you get a new iPhone under the iPhone Upgrade Programme?

You're able to trade in your old iPhone after 11 months of monthly payments - just in time for Apple to launch the next model up! 

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When you get a new iPhone you start a new iPhone Upgrade Programme - so your monthly payments will restart. They'll probably be more expensive unless you go for a less expensive iPhone next time (say if you were going from iPhone X to XR). 

Writing by Elyse Betters and Dan Grabham. Originally published on 12 September 2015.