Ina Fried

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Apple Store a Big Source of Cellphone Sales; Best Buy Is Key for Carriers

The carrier stores are still the dominant place for Americans to get their new cellphones, but two other retailers — Apple and Best Buy — have emerged as significant channels.


Apple, of course, sells only iPhones, but accounts for about 11 percent of retail phone sales, according to a survey from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. Best Buy, which sells phones from all major carriers and all the big operating systems, accounts for 13 percent of sales.

“Surprisingly, in light of its recent financial troubles, Best Buy has significant power,” CIRP’s Michael Levin said.

Because they work with all the major operating systems and carriers and the big phone brands, Best Buy has emerged as one of the few places to really see it all.

“So, all major manufacturers and operating system producers, and even the major carriers, need Best Buy,” Levin said, noting the moves by Apple and Samsung to build store-within-a-store outlets inside Best Buy.

Mass merchants such as Target, Walmart and Costco are also worth noting, collectively accounting for 12 percent of sales — that’s about as much as Best Buy and Apple sell individually. According to the survey, Amazon makes up seven percent of sales; eBay, two percent.

Of the carriers, Verizon gets the biggest proportion of sales — 57 percent — from its own stores, while the other three major carriers each get roughly half of their sales from their own stores. Both Verizon and AT&T have been working on plans designed to make their stores even more of a destination.

When it comes to the iPhone itself, Apple accounts for about a quarter of iPhone sales, with AT&T generating 21 percent and Verizon 18 percent. Sales of the iPhone at Best Buy account for 13 percent, while Sprint, Amazon and the mass retailers each account for five percent.

Best Buy breakdown of cell phone sales

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus