A new report from CIRP says that only about 24 percent of recent iPhones purchased in the US were sold directly by Apple. Instead, the most popular way to buy a new iPhone was through a wireless carrier, which accounted for 67 percent of sales. That’s certainly a perception shift from the time of lines around the block at the Apple store on launch day, but it’s not at all surprising given how aggressively AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile now promote iPhone giveaways every fall.
CIRP (Consumer Intelligence Research Partners) surveys iPhone buyers to find out which models they’re buying and where they’re shopping — information Apple doesn’t disclose. Outside of carriers and Apple retail, CIRP attributes 4 percent of iPhone sales to Best Buy and 5 percent to “other,” which includes Target and Walmart. Those are just tiny slivers of the pie compared to the gigantic piece wireless carriers are eating.
None of this is entirely surprising. In the US in particular, carriers have a lot of advantages when it comes to phone sales. For starters, there’s a wireless store on every street corner in this country, while Apple stores are far less easy to come by. It’s also likely that many people are just used to buying phones from their carriers, so that’s where most people start when it’s time for a new iPhone — not Apple’s website. So even though Apple and Best Buy offer deeply discounted iPhones with carrier activation, they struggle to overcome the inertia that carriers have accumulated.
Taking the free phone deal from their carrier seems to be the path of least resistance for most of us in the US. And who’s to blame anyone for taking a free phone when a loaf of bread costs roughly half your paycheck? If you do take your carrier up on an aggressive upgrade offer, just remember to read the terms carefully, know how long the repayment plan is, and be sure you’re happy sticking with that wireless company for the duration.