England COVID lockdown blocks iPhone Upgrade Program

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Under Apple's UK financial agreements, new and returning members of the iPhone Upgrade Program must go to an Apple Store — and all ones in England are now closed because of the new coronavirus lockdown.

Despite previous reports that UK Apple Stores might remain open in a limited capacity during the country's new coronavirus lockdown, all of the stores in England closed today as the new lockdown began.

Stores in Scotland, and Wales, remain open with the same coronavirus precautions as before. Apple Stores in England are now announcing that they will reopen for click-and-collect, "including returns," from November 6.

However, it is confirmed that the version of the iPhone Upgrade Program in England is temporarily unavailable and will remain so until Stores in the region reopen.

This is because while the UK's iPhone Upgrade Program operates in the same way as the US one, it has different financial conditions. Users must physically go to a store to have a credit check done, whether as they join the program, or at each point when they are eligible to upgrade, and choose to do so.

Consequently while US customers have already been able to apply for pre-approval on the program in advance of the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max pre-orders on November 6, UK customers have not. For the time being, therefore, no UK can get the iPhone 12 mini or iPhone 12 Pro Max on the iPhone Upgrade Program.

An Apple customer email seen by AppleInsider says that the program is now delayed. "In the UK, the iPhone Upgrade Programme is only available from an Apple Store," it says. "Unfortunately, due to the new government restrictions, we cannot currently operate a full service in England and are therefore unable to invite you to the store at this time to upgrade your iPhone."

The email is presumed to have been sent to customers already on the program and based in England. It continues with a suggestion that, "if you would like to know more about your options for upgrading, please contact 0800 048 0408 where our teams will gladly assist you."

However, while that implies that alternative arrangements may be possible, they are not. That UK toll-free telephone number reaches an automated system that explains going to a store, with Government-issued ID, is mandatory.

"And of course, if you would rather wait until the restrictions are lifted," concludes the email, "we would be delighted to help you with the upgrade in our stores then."

Customers in England can't get the new iPhones, or any iPhones, on the Upgrade Program until the lockdown is over
Customers in England can't get the new iPhones, or any iPhones, on the Upgrade Program until the lockdown is over

The same situation will have applied during the country's original lockdown period, which began in March 2020. However, it's likely that the majority of people on the program are on it in order to upgrade as each new iPhone is released.

Consequently, a November lockdown following the iPhone 12 launch is much more significant.

England's new lockdown began today, November 5, and is expected to continue until December 2. In Wales, a separate lockdown is due to conclude on November 9.

Scotland does not have a lockdown, though one may be introduced shortly. Currently, Apple Stores in Scotland are showing as being open for online order pickup, and users can book appointments with sales staff or Genius Bar.