Best Buy will now only sell the iPhone X and iPhone 8 through monthly carrier payment plans and has stopped offering customers the option of buying Apple’s latest smartphones outright in one lump sum. The move, reported by Bloomberg, comes after the retailer took criticism for charging an extra $100 on top of the already-expensive $999 iPhone X starting price listed by Apple and wireless carriers. The iPhone 8 was marked up in a similar way.
"Although there was clearly demand for the unactivated iPhone X, selling it that way cost more money, causing some confusion with our customers and noise in the media," a spokesperson told Bloomberg. "That’s why we decided a few days ago to only sell the phone the traditional way, through installment billing plans."
Most consumers do indeed take advantage of monthly installment billing when buying flagship phones nowadays. But even so, Best Buy seemed oddly defensive in responding to the initial complaints. The company’s earlier explanation was that buying a device outright “sometimes has a cost.” The $100 premium only applied to buying the iPhone X at full price; monthly carrier installment plans were unaffected from the beginning.
The retailer hasn’t gone into detail about exactly how or why selling an unactivated iPhone “costs more money.” But the decision removes one popular avenue for purchasing Apple’s new smartphone for people who don’t want to sign up for months of recurring payments. Apple isn’t yet selling an unlocked version of the iPhone X, so even buying direct from the company at full price will require an existing account with a mobile carrier.
This is by no means the first time that Best Buy has tacked on an added premium for customers trying to buy new smartphones at full retail cost. I’ve noticed it plenty in the past — for Android devices, too. The company clearly wants to steer shoppers toward the monthly plans, which is also evidenced by its approach to offering phones at a discount. When Best Buy promotes $100-, $200-, or $300-off sales, that pricing usually only applies if you purchase through monthly financing. The retailer presumably gets kickbacks from carriers when making those sales, and that bonus doesn’t apply to customers who just walk in and buy a phone outright.
So to sum this up, rather than bring the full price down to match that of other stores, Best Buy is instead saying “You know what? Screw it” and going all in on monthly payments. Sometimes complaining about a thing doesn’t have the result you expect.