iPhone upgrade update: I did it, with the help of my wife

One man's tale of how he got his iPhone 3GS for the price Apple promised (and how it helps to have a spouse).

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
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  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
2 min read
I have joined the Dark 3GSide. ThereIsNoBox.ca

A few weeks ago, I was at wit's end. I couldn't upgrade to an iPhone 3GS, and apparently neither could many other people who bought their 2008 3G in the window that AT&T had promised would net "most customers" a 2009 3GS subsidy.

AT&T was never really forthcoming about what, exactly, would trigger being qualified for an update versus not. I gave up, and then had an idea: my wife was eligible for an upgrade to her 2G iPhone, but didn't want to pay $15 more for a 3G data service. In an incredibly generous move, she allowed me to use her upgrade eligibility for an experiment.

We went to the Apple Store at Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, bought an iPhone 3GS, and then headed home. I swapped my SIM out of my 3G and into the 3GS, and synced with my home MacBook. In seconds, it seemed like a fluid swap had occurred.

Then I took my wife's new 3GS SIM and put it in her old iPhone. The iPhone 2G displayed a "plug into iTunes" screen and emergency call display when I restarted, but plugging back into her Vaio brought up an iTunes page that required reauthorization before an AT&T activation. After entering her social digits and billing zip, a funny thing happened: iTunes itself recommended to me that I downgrade my wife's newly-minted 3G data plan back to 2G, to match the phone detected. I agreed, and moments later, her first-gen iPhone was up and running once again.

Even better, we signed up for a lower-cost family plan the next day, saving even more money. Her eligibility for an upgrade is now March 2011. Mine is 1/31/2010. Next year, if she wants an upgrade, I'll give her mine. Upgrade swapping...isn't this what true love was made for?

(We recommend backing up your iPhones before engaging in a similar experiment.)

Oh, and how's the iPhone 3GS? I like the video recording a whole lot, especially for quick-capture of baby moments, and the compass+map location is a nice touch. The speed injection amounts to the iPhone finally working the way I'd always wanted it to: lag-free. Oh, and then there's the extra 16 gigs of storage space. It's worth it--for the subsidized price, that is. If you tune into the Digital City live show on Friday, I'll be sure to talk about it/show it off at least once or five times.

That was my July 4th weekend. How was yours?