The iPhone is a popular smartphone produced by Apple. Since the first-generation iPhone was released in 2007, the line of phones has continued to improve and maintain its status as one of the best selling smartphones in the world.
There are a variety of places where consumers can purchase an iPhone today. Some of the major retailer options include Apple Stores, carrier stores, big box retailers, and online retailers. Each has its own pros and cons in factors like price, availability, return policy, and customer service.
Buying an iPhone directly from an Apple store has several advantages. According to this Lowyat forum discussion, purchasing from an official Apple retail store means you are getting a brand new, factory unlocked device covered by Apple’s standard 1 year limited warranty. You also get 14 days to return or exchange the iPhone if you are unsatisfied.
Additionally, Apple store employees can assist you in setting up and personalizing your new iPhone. Their expertise in Apple products and services means you get helpful advice and technical support right away. Apple stores also frequently run special deals and offers that could potentially save you money on your new iPhone purchase.
The main downsides are availability and convenience. Apple stores receive limited stock, so popular models may be out of stock. You also need to visit an Apple retail location in person, which is less convenient than buying online and may require driving significant distances depending on your location.
Purchasing an iPhone directly from a carrier store like Verizon or AT&T has some advantages and disadvantages compared to buying directly from Apple.
Some of the pros of buying from a carrier store include:
- Carriers often offer promotions, discounts, or trade-in deals that are not available when buying directly from Apple. This can make the iPhone more affordable upfront.
- If you need help transferring data from an old device or setting up service, carrier store employees can assist.
- Buying and activating with one company may be more convenient than purchasing separately.
However, there are also some downsides to be aware of when buying from carriers:
- Carriers typically lock the iPhone to their network initially, restricting switching service providers freely (Consumer Reports).
- Insurance and warranty options may be more limited or expensive than Apple’s own plans.
- Carrier deals often require a service contract, early termination fees, or other strings attached.
- The selection of models and colors may be more limited than buying directly from Apple.
Overall, carrier stores can make it more affordable to get an iPhone initially, but may limit flexibility down the road. Customers should weigh the pros and cons to decide what works best for their needs.
Big Box Retailers
Some of the major big box retailers that sell iPhones include Best Buy, Target, Walmart, and Costco. There are a few pros and cons to consider when buying an iPhone from a big box retailer.
Some of the key pros include:
- Wide availability – Big box stores have locations across the country, making it easy to find and buy an iPhone locally. They often have plenty of inventory.
- Price matching – Stores like Best Buy and Target will price match Apple and carrier deals. This allows you to take advantage of promotions without having to go to multiple stores.
- Rewards programs – Many big box retailers have rewards programs that can earn you points or discounts on future purchases when you buy an iPhone.
However, there are also some downsides:
- Limited selections – The iPhone options may be narrower than what Apple and carriers offer directly. Only flagship models are usually available.
- Fewer accessories – Accessory options like cases are often limited compared to Apple and carrier stores.
- No unlocked iPhones – Big box retailers usually only sell iPhones tied to carrier installment plans, not unlocked.
Ultimately, big box stores can be a convenient option for buying a new iPhone model at launch. But selection and accessories are narrower. Unlocked and older models need to be purchased elsewhere.
Buying an iPhone from an online retailer like Amazon or eBay can have advantages and disadvantages compared to buying directly from Apple or a carrier store.
Some pros of buying online include:
- Often cheaper prices, especially on older or refurbished models
- Wider selection of colors, capacities, and conditions
- Ability to easily compare prices across multiple sellers
However, there are also some potential downsides:
- Possibility of getting a used/refurbished phone when expecting new
- No ability to see or test the device in person before buying
- Potentially sketchy third party sellers with no returns
- No tech support or customer service from Apple
Overall, buying online can save money but involves more risk than buying directly through Apple. It’s important to vet seller ratings carefully and confirm return policies before purchasing an iPhone from an online marketplace.
When shopping for a new iPhone, comparing prices across retailers is crucial to finding the best deal. Overall, Apple Stores and carrier stores typically offer the highest iPhone prices. Conversely, big box retailers like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy tend to have slightly lower prices. However, the cheapest iPhone prices are usually found online at retailers like Amazon, eBay, and Gazelle.
For example, an unlocked 64GB iPhone 14 currently costs $799 at Apple, $799 at AT&T, $779 at Target, and just $749 at Amazon. Similarly, a used 64GB iPhone 13 in good condition runs around $619 at Apple, $579 at Verizon, $549 at Walmart, and only $519 on Gazelle.
When deciding where to buy an iPhone, it’s worth comparing prices across multiple stores. Purchasing online tends to offer the most savings, but shops like Best Buy frequently run promotions that make their iPhone deals competitive. Ultimately, the cheapest iPhone option involves researching prices across retailers.
When searching for an iPhone, availability can vary greatly depending on where you purchase it from. According to Apple’s website, stock at Apple Stores is updated throughout the day. You can check availability for specific models at your local Apple Store using their Reserve and Pickup service. Inventory fluctuates rapidly, so it’s best to check daily for new stock.
Carrier stores like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile also carry iPhones. Availability at carrier stores can depend on whether you’re purchasing with a contract or prepaid plan. Call ahead to check if they have the model you want in stock before visiting. Carriers sometimes have promotional deals if you switch service plans, so ask about any offers on new iPhones.
Large electronics retailers like Best Buy, Target, and Walmart also sell iPhones. Their selection may be more limited compared to Apple and carrier stores. However, big retailers occasionally offer sales on older models. Check their websites or call customer service to get up-to-date inventory counts at your local store.
Purchasing directly from Apple’s website gives you the widest selection of colors and models. Inventory changes minute-by-minute as Apple fulfills online orders. Shipping times can vary from 1-4 weeks for custom configurations. For the fastest shipping, stick with pre-configured models if buying online.
Return policies are an important consideration when purchasing an iPhone, as you want to make sure you can easily exchange or return the device if needed. Return policies vary across different retailers.
If you purchase an iPhone directly from the Apple Store, you have 14 calendar days to return or exchange it. One benefit of buying directly from Apple is this generous return window, compared to carrier stores which often only allow returns within 1-3 days. Apple also offers free returns by mail or at any Apple store. However, you can only return an Apple product that was purchased directly from Apple. Devices bought from third-party retailers cannot be returned to Apple.
Most carrier stores, like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, tend to have shorter return windows of 1-3 days for iPhones. You’ll need to return the iPhone to the same carrier store where it was purchased. Carriers may charge restocking fees of $25-50 for returns. One advantage of buying from carriers is that if you have an issue later on, they can assist with repairs, replacements or technical support.
Larger electronics retailers like Best Buy and Target allow iPhone returns within 14-30 days, with some charging restocking fees. You can return the iPhone to any location, not just the original purchase store. Buying from big box retailers can make returns convenient, but their inventory may be limited compared to Apple and carrier stores.
When ordering an iPhone online from Apple or retailers like Amazon, returns are usually allowed within 30 days. You’ll need to ship back the iPhone on your own expense. Online retailers often provide free return shipping labels. While convenient, ordering online means you can’t inspect or try out the iPhone prior to purchasing.
When it comes to customer service for iPhones, Apple and the major carriers tend to provide the best support options compared to big box and online retailers. Apple offers 24/7 phone, chat and support through their stores via their Genius Bar. You can even make an appointment ahead of time to get help in person at an Apple Store (How to Contact Us). The major carriers like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint also offer 24/7 support via phone and online chat. They also have retail stores you can visit for in-person support.
Big box retailers like Best Buy, Target and Walmart tend to have more limited support options. They may have phone support during business hours only. You would need to go back to the store for in-person support. Online retailers similarly tend to have email and online chat support primarily, which may not be available 24/7.
When it comes to fixing issues with an iPhone or getting detailed tech support, Apple and the major carriers are likely to provide the best and most responsive customer service given their dedicated support systems (Contact – Official Apple Support). Online and big box retailers have less specialized iPhone support capabilities.
Getting an iPhone from an Apple Store, carrier store, big box retailer, or online retailer each have their pros and cons. Apple Stores offer the best customer service and availability of the latest models, but prices are standard. Carrier stores also have the latest models and offer bundle deals, but have pushy sales tactics. Big box retailers sometimes have sales, but stock can be limited. Online retailers might have the best deals, but you need to be cautious of fakes and scams. There’s no definitive “best” place universally – it depends on your priorities. If you want strong customer service and availability, Apple Stores are best. If you want bundle deals, check carrier stores. If you prioritize price, an authorized online Apple reseller is likely your best bet.