How to “steal” an upgrade from someone else on your wireless plan

By , Sep 18, 2012

Many of you have likely ran into this conundrum: Someone on your wireless plan is eligible for an upgrade, but couldn’t care less about upgrading their phone. With this in mind, you’d like to use their upgrade to upgrade your phone.

I actually encountered this issue myself, but I wasn’t quite sure how to proceed with it. If I upgraded my wife’s phone, but planned to take her upgrade to use for myself, how would I get a Nano SIM card containing my information, and not hers?

This wouldn’t be much of an issue if the iPhone 5 used the same Micro SIM as the iPhone 4S, otherwise, I’d just swap out my Micro SIM into the iPhone 5. But since the iPhone 5 uses a brand new SIM card, this obviously presents a problem.

How do you go about handling the issue? As it turns out, if you’re an AT&T customer, it’s probably a lot easier than you might have expected…

As our reader Chris brings out, AT&T must be used to getting this question all of the time, as they’ve created a support page just for this dilemma.

On its support page, AT&T highlights the steps end users need to take to “steal” an upgrade from someone on the same calling plan:

However, if the number you used to order your device is NOT the number you intend to use with your iPhone, follow these simple steps when your device arrives and an AT&T representative will help you activate.

Step 1: Charge your device if needed
Step 2: Contact AT&T at 1-800-331-0500 or 611 from a different wireless device. At the prompt, enter the wireless number that you used to place your iPhone order.
Step 3: At the next prompt, choose option #2 to activate your phone on a different mobile number, and an AT&T representative will help you from there.
Step 4: After speaking with an AT&T representative, turn on your iPhone, follow the on screen instructions and choose a Wi-Fi network. If Wi-Fi is not available, connect your iPhone to your Mac or PC with iTunes (www.itunes.com) and follow the on-screen instructions.

I think its interesting that AT&T actually outlines how to do this on its website, considering it’s kind a a loophole to get out of paying full price for an iPhone when your line in particular isn’t eligible for an upgrade. In the mobile world, this is apparently known as “cross upgrading.”

This cross upgrading probably works with other carriers as well, just be sure to give them a call before taking any steps when receiving your phone.

I just wish I would have known this before I ordered my iPhone. It would have made the process a bit less stressful, don’t you think?

Thanks, Chris!

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  • Guest

    Really hope the other 3 people on my plan don’t read this. I’m the only one ready for an upgrade, and those sneaky bastards would definitely do some weird shit to get their hands on that sexy iPhone 5.

    • Nicolas Loots

      Then you shouldn’t have posted here in the first place.

      • Greg Hao

        Or be on the same plan as people who seem to be dicks.

    • kcus kcid

      joke fail

  • Andy

    I’ve been doing this for years, AT&T has always encouraged it. No one else in my family cares about new phones and such so I get an upgrade every year.

    • http://www.youtube.com/myjailbreakmovies/ Jeff Benjamin

      Interesting, that’s good to know. Hmmm….

      • cruzcontrol1001

        Hey Jeff did you know that you can check the status of your iPhone shipment by doing a reference check in track my shipment on ups using the phone number that you used to place your order as your apple ID I see my iPhone is in Louisville,Ky since 12:07 am this morning.

      • http://twitter.com/e420kush e420Kush

        This is completely off topic but i was wondering the same thing and sure enough, Awesome! I just went to UPS.com and searched by reference # too and my iPhone 5 is in Kentucky and Apple.com’s website is showing Still PROCESSING. http://blog.chron.com/techblog/2012/09/your-iphone-5-may-already-have-shipped-heres-how-to-tell/

      • http://www.facebook.com/krystal.campbell.73 Krystal Campbell

        Hi I just tried to look at the tracking info for my phone and I cant… I put my number in and says they have nothing matching it….? Help?

      • cruzcontrol1001

        Try all the numbers that are tied to your apple ID account one of them should work

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001581901956 Patrick Everett

      Same here. Been doing this since the iPhone 3G when I “gifted” the original iPhone to my wife.

  • http://twitter.com/johnranalli John Ranalli

    This article would have been awesome a week ago.

    • Martin

      You should have known about this years ago.

  • Coreydtn

    Thats how im going to be able to keep my unlimited data plan with verizon im going to use my sisters upgrade.I actually call them and asked if there was anyway i could keep it and they said i could use her upgrade.So im getting new iphone and im giving her my 4s to my sister

  • nftnft

    I did something like this last year to get my 4s with Sprint. I pretty much used my brothers upgrade since he wasn’t upgrading and I ended up giving him my EVO 3D.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasontylerborden Jason Tyler Borden

    Its highly encouraged. I worked for AT&T in a retail store up until mid June and they actually made it even easier for Sales reps to do this by introducing an easy flow format called “cross upgrade sell”.

    • http://www.youtube.com/myjailbreakmovies/ Jeff Benjamin

      I wonder how AT&T benefits from this? I guess locking up another 2 years is never a bad thing…

  • Greg Hao

    How exactly is this “stealing” or a “loophole”? After all, it’s not as if you’re not using upgrades that wasn’t available to people on the plan. it’s not as if you’re somehow gaining an advantage.

    What business is it to T what you do with devices that they have sold you?

    • http://twitter.com/Barack0drama Yo mama

      HAHAHA! This is the same company that tells you how you can use the data they sold you as well.

    • Michael

      Exactly

  • http://www.facebook.com/jesse.alexander.gonzalez Jesse Gonzalez

    Did this myself for the iPhone 5. My wife is totally fine with my 4S since she is upgrading from her 4 and I will be getting her upgrade for the 5 =)

  • Johnny manidis

    This is how I got mine. I was prepared to snatch an upgrade and cut and sand my micro sd, but an AT&T assistant told me I could “steal” an upgrade. Great stuff!

  • hockeyblades12

    My wife’s contract and my contract are both up for renewal during the summer but off by 1 year since she had her phone line before I did. So every fall, I upgrade and pass down my old phone to her (she doesn’t care about having the latest), and then sell her old phone for almost the cost of the upgrade. I got lucky with how that works out.

  • http://twitter.com/spencerordonez Spencer Ordonez

    I’m doing this with my Mother-in-Law’s account which is part of our family plan, she has absolutely no clue how to use a iPhone as it is.

  • http://twitter.com/theACMethod Adam Cohen

    or use your wife’s

  • Aaron

    So I did this last year and just yesterday it came up to bite me in the butt. So, I stole my father’s upgrade in sept. 2010 for my iphone four, and that contract just expired, then he later took mine. Here’s the problem…I want to cancel my line because i’ve moved out of the country and want to port the number over…although I upgraded two years ago, a signed a new contract on HIS line, so i can’t cancel my contract until 2 years after he upgraded his phone. It really blows.

  • http://twitter.com/JFBD Joseph Duffy

    Somehow ATT fucked this up for me last year. I used my brother’s upgrade. I went to the ATT store to activate it, since I needed a new sim card, and they had to de-activate my brother’s phone. It took at least an hour to sort it out, and I had to bring my brother a new sim card.

  • JerseyD

    How is this is a loop hole. Someone is still being locked into a 2 year contract. They know people have reasons for using each others upgrade an they don’t lose anything so why not make it easy

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000218367879 Donato Bearint

    Verizon lets you transfer an upgrade right on their website. Also if you talk to a customer service person they tell you that they will do that for you.

  • voltik

    Can this be done on a family plan with an individual without data plan? I use an iPhone 4S with data but my wife uses her t-mobile Samsung Galaxy S1 without data on AT&T. Would it be possible to buy an iphone with her line then transfer to my data plan?

  • http://twitter.com/DreyDey Andrew

    This sucks I always have been swapping sims but I figured new nano sim I couldn’t so I paid the extra 250 on top of the phones price now I hear about this I called apple and only way I could do it is to cancel order and get a new order then I would have to wait until end of October rather than getting my phone Friday I am so dissapointed

  • http://www.facebook.com/cb.man.75 CB Man

    I’ve done this every year with the newest iPhone. My line and my wife’s line are 9 months apart and she doesn’t really care about getting the newest iPhone. Right now she has my old iPhone 4 and I have the 4s. I’ll upgrade on Friday, give her my 4s(which feels like an upgrade for her anyways), and put the 4 on Craig’s list. Next year she will get my iPhone 5 and I will get the iPhone 5s.

  • http://www.mobile-world.co.cc/ Akshay Shah

    I have a question. I currently own a Samsung Wave, which uses a normal SIM. I have bought the iPhone 5 without upgrading my contract. Is there a way for me to cut the SIM to Nano-SIM size, or do I need to ask my carrier to send me a nano-SIM for the iPhone? Thanks

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnimosityX043 Will Burris

    i did this to get the iphone 4. no one told me anything. i just walked in said hi i have an upgrade on my acct id like to use it. got all the way through then just said put this # here and that on the 4. they said ok and did it

  • MOE

    If they coming up with nano sim how about when they bring factory unlock iPhone how we going to use it?

  • http://twitter.com/Scoober1013 Scott

    does anyone have an extra upgrade? I’ll pay the total cost plus a bit extra

  • http://www.facebook.com/CashMusicNet Cashmusicnet Rivera

    There is another way to get an upgrade also if you want to write/research about. Adding a “Ghost Line” to your plan for an upgrade and then swap numbers accordingly. Technically it’s about 240 overtime (2 years at 9.99 a month for the line) but a way to rid the 250 ON THAT DAY lol

    • http://www.facebook.com/krystal.campbell.73 Krystal Campbell

      It’s true I did it.. Just an extra 9.99 a month.

      • Scott

        How does this work? Don’t you have to sign a contract for 2 years of the $10 extra line along with 2 years of the $30 data? That’s $40 per month plus taxes.

  • Kishan Patel

    I do this every year however, AT&T pushed back my eligibility for some unknown reason on September 4th, in preparation for the launch of the iPhone 5. See you in court AT&T.

  • Emilio

    Do both of them have to be on the same plan? I’d be taking my wife’s upgrade but we are both on different plans with att&t.

  • http://jdremington.com/ J.D. Remington

    It kind of makes sense that AT&T would make a support page and encourage this kind of behavior. It just makes you a customer for another 2 years. If they didn’t have this option, I’m sure many people would buy their new iPhone from a different carrier, as it’s a lot cheaper than buying the new iPhone when you aren’t eligible for an upgrade on your current carrier.

  • Andrew

    Will they lose their 30/month unlimited if I use their upgrade?

  • Andrew

    If I use a family members upgrade for the iPhone 5 will they lose their 30/month unlimited plan?

  • Michael

    Yes you can do this with other carriers. AND you can always go into an Apple store and either do the upgrade with an iPhone you purchase at Apple. If you ordered one on the line you have the upgrade, you can still go into an Apple store, have them activate it and then they will get the number switched.

  • Debb Young

    All i did was order an iphone 5 for adding a new line, the phone arrived yesterday so i took my micro sim from my iphone 4 on my line, cut it to nano size, placed it in the iphone 5 and walah it activated the 5 and im using it now. Ive done this before swapping out iphones in the past. Never had a problem.

    • Debb Young

      Meaning not once did i have to contact an AT&T rep, nor has it been questioned.

  • Platelet

    Exactly the answer I needed! Thank you for the article!