updated 03:04 pm EDT, Fri June 6, 2014
Could increase traffic at smaller carriers
Apple's US stores are preparing to do in-store sign-ups for people wanting to put an iPhone on a prepaid or monthly plan, a source says. At the moment, people can buy an unlocked phone at an Apple Store, but they have to use their own SIM or go to a carrier outlet if they don't want to sign up for a contract. Initially Apple is said to be partnering with AT&T and T-Mobile; in the case of the former, stores will reportedly be stocking up on GoPhone activation kits and SIM cards. T-Mobile subscribers will only need the SIM cards already available through Apple.
Training for the new sign-ups is expected to start in the next few weeks. Sales clerks will allegedly focus on a $60 plan from AT&T that includes 2.5GB of data, and $50 and $70 plans from T-Mobile that include 1GB and 5GB, respectively. Apple will only help with activations at the time of purchase, and people won't be able to bring phones back for refunds.
While contract-free phones are popular or even legally mandated in most of the countries where Apple does business, the US smartphone market is still based heavily on two-year terms. That situation has shifted as high-end smartphones -- including iPhones and Android devices -- have become cheaper and/or more widely available at carriers like T-Mobile, Cricket, and Virgin Mobile. The high upfront price of an unlocked smartphone can sometimes be offset by cheaper subscription fees and a lack of early termination penalties.