Apple launches a monthly payment plan for frequent iPhone upgraders

You can pay monthly for an iPhone 6s and then upgrade in a year - at least in the States

Smartphone sales are undergoing a seismic shift in the United States of late: carriers are moving away from subsidised two-year contracts, meaning that appealing $199 price Apple listed for the iPhone 6s won't actually be available in most cases.

It's more like $650. And that's for the 16GB model. To ease the blow, some carriers now offer monthly payment plans, where you'll effectively pay the entire price of the phone across a 24-month period. It's not that much different than signing a contract for pricier service, but it seems more fair. Still, Apple might one-up its own provider partners with the iPhone 6s.

Today, the company revealed the iPhone Upgrade Program, available exclusively through its physical retail stores in the United States (for now, at least). With the plan, you'll pay Apple monthly for your iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus, along with AppleCare+ protection - but there's a welcome twist: you can upgrade to next year's phone after 12 payments are made.

It starts at US$32.41/month for the 16GB iPhone 6s (up to $40.75/month for the 128GB model), while the iPhone 6s Plus is $36.58/month for 16GB (up to $44.91/month for 128GB). And you don't have to upgrade you phone after a year, if you don't want - you can hold onto the device and simply pay out the rest of the 24-month plan.

Whatever you choose, it's an unlocked phone that you can use with any of America's top four carriers - Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint - and switch freely between them as desired.

The biggest downside here may be the lack of online purchasing: you can either sign up for the program by walking into an Apple Store, or reserve an in-store appointment and do it then. But finding your way to the shop might be a small price to pay if you're planning on grabbing the iPhone 7 in a year, since this plan seems like it might save you quite a bit of cash in the process.