Apple’s Botched $100 Apple Watch Rebate Program Is a Confusing Mess

Apple Watch Series 7 Credit: charnsitr / Shutterstock
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When Apple opened pre-orders for the Apple Watch Series 7 last month, it promised that anybody picking up a cellular version of the wearable on certain carriers would be able to take advantage of a $100 rebate upon activation.

It seemed like a nice bonus for those who were buying a cellular Apple Watch anyway, and it may have even been enough to push some who were on the fence into considering the cellular model, since the rebate would basically cover the price difference.

Unfortunately, it seems that like for many rebate offers, there was a devil in the details, with the key point being that only an Apple Watch activated on a new Verizon or T-Mobile plan was eligible.

Apple did make this clear in the terms and conditions on its website, although of course, it’s easy to miss the word “new” if you’re not paying attention.

In either case, the Apple Watch had to be purchased directly from Apple — either upfront or with Apple Card Monthly Installments — and then activated on either “a new Paired DIGITS plan” on T-Mobile or “a new smartwatch data plan” on Verizon (emphasis ours).

Customers also had to complete the appropriate “promotional application” on their carrier’s website, after which they could expect to receive a $100 virtual prepaid Mastercard (T-Mobile) or a $100 Verizon Gift Card (Verizon) within eight weeks.

‘Designed to Not Pay Out’

Although the above terms are limited to new activations, it still sounds like it should be fairly simple to claim the rebate as long as you meet the criteria – but sadly, it seems like the carriers are more confused than ever about this one, and customers are having a hard time taking advantage of it.

In fact, after numerous complaints on Twitter, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has gone so far as to basically call Apple out on creating a deal that was never designed to pay out in the first place.

Even if it’s the carriers who are muddying the waters, Gurman is laying the blame for this squarely at Apple’s feet, since it’s culpable for advertising the offer in the first place. Apple needs to hold its carrier partners to their commitments.

T-Mobile has told several customers, including Gurman, that the promotion doesn’t even exist, while others have said that customers need to talk to Apple because it’s not a T-Mobile promotion.

Verizon’s customers got similar answers from their carrier, although one reported that a support rep was able to find the information after nearly an hour of digging through the company’s systems.

However, after going through the process of submitting the application together, the customer received an email a few days later saying that their device was ineligible for the rebate.

While some customers understandably missed the requirement for a new activation, which is partly on Apple for not making that much clearer, the carriers didn’t help, with customers getting different answers depending on who they spoke to.

The labyrinth of requirements also only adds to the confusion. For example, here are Verizon’s requirements, as shared by a customer on Twitter:

  1. Select Unlocked Apple Watches Only.
  2. New Line Required.
  3. Consumer Accounts Only.
  4. Apple Retail Location or Purchases Only.
  5. Activations Only.

Basically, this means that the Apple Watch Series 7 must have been purchased directly from Apple, and it must be activated online with Verizon (not in-store) on an entirely new line, and on an “eligible Verizon postpaid plan.”

However, even customers who have seemingly met all these requirements are finding their applications declared ineligible, with no clear explanation as to why.

The “eligible Verizon postpaid plan” requirement is also somewhat murky, as it’s possible that the carrier only has specific plans in mind. It’s not telling users what those are, which makes the entire process confusing and unfair.

While T-Mobile customers have had their share of challenges claiming this rebate, the carrier has at least made it clear that the Apple Watch needs to be specifically activated on a “Paired DIGITS plan.”

While the problem doesn’t seem to be affecting everybody, as some have reported that they’ve already successfully received their rebates, it still appears to be widespread, and it’s not even the first time this has happened with an Apple promotion either.

Several folks on Twitter responded to Gurman’s comments noting that they had similar difficulties claiming rebates on the cellular iPad mini 6 and even the iPhone 13.

Customer service representatives for both T-Mobile and Verizon have been chiming in and offering help on Twitter, undoubtedly as a result of the attention that Gurman has brought to bear on this issue.

Hopefully, these issues will be sorted out for those affected, but it doesn’t change the underlying issue that Apple and its carrier partners need to be more transparent about the requirements for these rebates, and Apple should really ensure that carriers have all the necessary systems in place and working smoothly before it announces them.

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