What is the best place to get an iPhone?

When it comes to getting your hands on Apple’s iconic iPhone, you have several options to choose from. With new models released every year, deciding where to buy your iPhone can be a challenge. Getting the best deal on an iPhone involves understanding carrier offers, Apple retail stores, big box retailers, and online options. This comprehensive guide examines the pros and cons of various iPhone purchasing avenues, so you can feel confident you are making the right choice.

Carrier Stores

One of the most popular options for buying an iPhone is at carrier stores like Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile/Sprint, and other regional carriers. When you purchase through your cell phone service provider, the iPhone price is often lower because it is bundled with a wireless service plan. Carriers subsidize the cost of the device to incentivize customers to join or renew their contracts. However, carrier deals usually require you to commit to a 12-24 month wireless contract, so you’ll be locked into that carrier’s service for the duration. Make sure to calculate the total long-term cost when considering a subsidized iPhone from a carrier. It may end up being more expensive in the end.

The benefit of buying from a carrier is convenience. You can purchase the phone and set up service all in one place. Carriers also sometimes offer perks like free streaming subscriptions or gift cards for choosing them. If you already intend on using one of the major providers for your cell phone plan, buying your iPhone through them can allow you to get it at a lower upfront cost through installments added to your monthly bill.

Downsides of carrier stores include longer wait times, less personalized service, and pushy upselling. Since demand is high, especially right after a new iPhone release, carrier stores tend to be busy. You may have to wait awhile for help from a sales rep. They also tend to promote you upgrading devices and service plans frequently. Their motivation is to sell you more rather than find the best fit.

Pros of Carrier Stores

  • Lower upfront cost when bundled with service plan
  • Convenience of purchasing phone and setting up service simultaneously
  • Sometimes offer additional perks like gift cards or streaming service subscriptions

Cons of Carrier Stores

  • Longer wait times, especially after new releases
  • Require contract for 12-24 months to get best price
  • More motivation to upsell you on service upgrades

Apple Retail Stores

For the ultimate Apple experience, you can choose to purchase your iPhone straight from the source. Apple operates over 500 retail stores worldwide, which all sell the full range of Apple products including iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, and more. You’ll pay full price without any carrier subsidies at Apple stores. However, you can often find deals like gift cards with purchase. Your phone will not be locked to any specific carrier.

Opting to buy from the Apple store means you’ll get premium service and support. Their staff is trained specifically in Apple products, so they can provide expert recommendations. You’ll also have access to Apple’s extended warranty called AppleCare+ and can sign up for workshops on using your new iPhone. Purchasing right from the manufacturer means your device setup will go smoother and you’ll have help on hand if any issues emerge.

Of course, the downside of buying straight from Apple is the high price tag. Without a carrier discount, you’ll pay $699 and up depending on the iPhone model. Apple does offer monthly payment plans to help ease the burden. You’ll also likely deal with long waits right after new iPhone releases, as Apple stores tend to draw big crowds during launch periods.

Pros of Apple Retail Stores

  • Get the best guidance and tech support from Apple experts
  • Option to add AppleCare+ extended warranty
  • Can sign up for Today at Apple workshops and sessions

Cons of Apple Retail Stores

  • Pay full price without carrier discounts
  • Very long wait times right after new iPhone releases
  • Limited retail locations compared to carriers and big box

Big Box Retailers

Major electronics sellers like Best Buy, Walmart, and Target also offer a wide selection of iPhones. Prices are similar to those from Apple and carriers. Big box retailers sometimes have iPhone deals and bundles that come with free accessories. You can also finance your phone through their credit cards, like the My Best Buy Card, to pay over time interest-free.

The benefit of big box retailers is you can walk out same day with your new iPhone, with no pre-ordering. They are convenient places to buy electronics and have a wide product selection under one roof. Big box stores also price match competitors frequently, so you can sometimes get them to beat other retailers’ prices.

The service at big box stores is not on par with what you’ll get from Apple or carrier stores though. Their employees are not trained specifically in Apple products, so guidance is limited. It can also be difficult to find staff available to assist when stores are busy. You’ll have a less personalized and knowledgeable experience shopping at mass retailers compared to other options.

Pros of Big Box Retailers

  • Frequently run deals and bundles with free accessories
  • Convenience of buying phone and setting up service simultaneously
  • Sometimes offer additional perks like gift cards or streaming service subscriptions

Cons of Big Box Retailers

  • Employees lack specialized training in Apple products
  • More difficult to find help when stores are busy
  • Less personalized service and support than Apple store

Online Stores

From Apple and carriers to Amazon and mass retailers, you can buy the iPhone model of your choice online and have it conveniently shipped to your door. Online shopping sites frequently offer discounts and deals that aren’t available in stores. For example, you can save up to $400 on a new iPhone when trading in an eligible older model through Apple’s website.

Buying online means you can take your time and do research to find the best iPhone deal across multiple sellers. Online stores also provide easy price comparisons. You can buy your iPhone on Amazon or mass retailer websites to take advantage of discounted prices, then select a carrier and plan separately. However, make sure to buy from authorized retailers selling new devices to get a valid warranty.

While buying online can save money and effort, you do lose out on being able to see the iPhone and complete setup in person. There is also wait time for shipping, so you won’t have the gratification of walking out with your product. Returns and exchanges can be a hassle with online purchases too. Make sure to check return policies before purchasing.

Pros of Online Stores

  • Frequently discounted prices and special deals
  • Convenient shipping direct to you
  • Quick and easy price comparisons

Cons of Online Stores

  • No option to see product in person first
  • Wait time for shipping
  • Returns and exchanges can be difficult

Compare iPhone Purchase Options

To summarize the key pros and cons of where to buy your iPhone:

Store Pros Cons
Carrier Lower upfront cost, convenience Long wait times, contracts
Apple Expert guidance, warranty options High prices, long waits for new models
Big Box Deals and bundles, price match guarantees Limited guidance, hard to find help
Online Discounted pricing, convenient home delivery No in-person support, shipping delays


With various purchasing options from Apple, carriers, big box retailers, and online stores, choosing where to buy your new iPhone ultimately depends on your priorities. If you want the lowest upfront price, carriers subsidize iPhones with service contracts. Apple retail stores offer the best guidance and support. Big box stores can have deals but lack personalized service. Online shopping means convenient home delivery but no in-person help. Weigh the pros and cons of each against your needs to decide the best place to get the perfect iPhone for you.

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