According to a new CIRP survey, only 24 percent of recent iPhones purchased in the United States were sold directly by Apple. Instead, a wireless carrier was the most popular way to buy a new iPhone, accounting for 67 percent of transactions. It's a significant change from the days of long lines at the Apple Store on launch day, but it's not surprising given how aggressively AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile now market free iPhones every fall.
CIRP (Consumer Intelligence Research Partners) surveys iPhone users to determine which models they are buying and where they are shopping – information that Apple does not disclose. CIRP credits 4% of iPhone sales to Best Buy and 5% to "other," which includes carriers outside of Apple retail, Target, and Walmart. Compared to the larger slice of the pie that cell phone providers are eating, they're tiny.
None of this is entirely unexpected. When it comes to phone sales, carriers have a lot of advantages, especially in the United States. To begin with, there is a Wi-Fi store on every street corner in this country, while Apple outlets are quite difficult to find. It's also possible that many consumers are simply used to buying phones from their carriers, and that's where most people start their search for a new iPhone — not Apple's website. As a result, although Apple and Best Buy offer significantly discounted iPhones with carrier activation, they fail to overcome carriers' inertia.
Taking their carrier's free phone package seems like the path of least resistance for most of us in the United States. And who can blame someone for accepting a free phone when a loaf of bread costs almost half your monthly salary? If you accept your carrier's aggressive upgrade offer, remember to read the terms carefully, understand how long the payment plan is, and make sure you're with this wireless carrier for the long haul. Be at ease.