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iPhone Upgrade Program launches at online Apple Store

The program that lets you upgrade your iPhone every year had been available only through Apple's retail outlets.

Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program is now available online.

CNET/James Martin

If you want in on the iPhone Upgrade Program, you no longer have to travel to your local Apple Store.

The program, which launched last September at Apple's retail stores, expanded Monday to the company's online store. Apple's website now shows that you can take advantage of the program to upgrade to the iPhone 6S or iPhone 6S Plus from earlier models.

Through the upgrade program, you pay a monthly installment fee to purchase a new iPhone. After 12 months of payments, you can then upgrade to the latest iPhone by trading in your existing model, starting the same process with the new phone.

It's Apple's way to get in step with the mobile phone industry's move toward monthly payments and away from the older practice of subsidizing customers' phone purchases. With iPhone sales facing tough times, Apple's aim is to lock in customers who want the latest edition from year to year but want to avoid paying the full cost upfront.

The phones are unlocked, and you get to choose your carrier. Verizon, AT&T and Sprint all offer monthly installments. T-Mobile, however, requires you to pay the full price upfront.

The iPhone 6S starts at around $32 a month, while the 6S Plus starts at around $36. Apple also throws in for free its AppleCare+ service, a two-year protection plan that normally costs $99 for the latest iPhones.