Q: I bought my iPhone 4 back in July last year with a two-year contract for AT&T. Since Apple didn’t announce the iPhone 5/4S last month, what are my options to get the next iPhone? Would I have to cancel my current contract, or what?
A: Regardless of when Apple chooses to release the next iPhone, your options are going to be dictated by your carrier—in this case, AT&T. The iPhone launch date doesn’t really have any bearing on this if you’re still under contract, and it will be up to your carrier whether or not they want to make any deals for existing contract users. Last year, when the iPhone 4 was released, AT&T offered early upgrade eligibility for users who were close to the end of their contract, but it’s impossible to know for certain whether this would be an option again, since the company is of course under no obligation to do this.
Basically, you’re going to have to wait and see what your carrier is willing to offer you when the next iPhone comes out. You may have the option of paying a slightly higher price to upgrade it on the same contract or you may have to wait until your contract is over before getting the best upgrade price. You can of course also simply choose to purchase the iPHone at full price, which has always been an option. As an added incentive to that, Apple is now selling unlocked iPhone 4 models in the U.S. suggesting that the same option may be available for the next model as well.
Note that cancelling your contract outright is rarely a viable option since the cost and inconvenience of doing so often ends up being comparable to the full price of a non-contract iPhone anyway. In situations where you have only a few months left on your contract, the early cancellation fees may be smaller, but in this case it’s also generally possible to work out a deal with your carrier, assuming they’re not already offering a promotional deal anyway.