updated 11:34 pm EDT, Thu September 13, 2012
All three making deals to lure customers in
While the major (and smaller) official carriers of the iPhone 5 in the US have already announced that pre-orders will begin at 3:01AM ET (12:01AM PT) on Friday, September 14, several resellers are angling to get customers into their stores on the iPhone's official debut of September 21. In AT&T's case, it is making an offer to some customers who are just outside the upgrade window so they can -- for a price -- get an iPhone 5. Walmart is (slightly) discounting the contract price, and RadioShack offers a discount based on the trade-in of buyers' previous phones.
In an interview with Electronista, AT&T representatives confirmed that some customers are receiving offers that allow them to upgrade ahead of the normal "six months or less" remaining on their contracts. The offer allows those just outside the discounted upgrade window to "buy out" the remainder of their contract for $250 and then be qualified to get a new iPhone 5 at the normal contract rate, contingent on signing a new agreement. It's not known if Verizon or Sprint are making similar offers to their own customers, but typically existing users are not eligible for a fully-subsidized new iPhone model until their contract is within six months of completion.
Walmart has opted to take pre-orders on the iPhone 5 for the first time ever, beginning at 8AM local time on Friday. As it has done in the past, it is slightly discounting the cost of the iPhone 5 on contract, selling the 16GB entry model at $189.97 ($9.03 savings) on a two-year agreement. It has likewise discounted the price of the iPhone 4S ($89.97) on contract. The retail giant expects to have iPhones available for pick-up or purchase on the official launch day, September 21 beginning at 8AM local time.
RadioShack will not take pre-orders for the iPhone 5, but may end up saving buyers more money by taking trade-ins of previous iPhone models in exchange for credits that can be used on an iPhone 5. The electronics merchant will start sales on September 21 as normal but offer at least $220 off for a working iPhone 4S, and at least $120 off in exchange for a working iPhone 4. The program will run through September and continue at reduced rates for used iPhones after that. The company also recently launched its own pay-as-you-go network, but the iPhone is not yet offered on that plan.
The credit can be used towards a new iPhone 5 on contract or to buy AppleCare+ for the iPhone, or used for credit on iPhone accessories. Radio Shack-sold iPhones come with their own free phone and online chat support, and is one of the few non-Apple retailers offering AppleCare+ for iPhones.