Attention, Wal-Mart Shoppers: iPhone 3GS Clearance Sale in Aisle Nine

Published on May 25, 2010
by John Paczkowski

With two weeks to go before Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference and the presumed debut of the company’s next-generation iPhone, Wal-Mart is dropping the price of the entry-level iPhone 3GS by more than half.

This morning, the retailer cut the price of iPhone 3GS devices with 16 gigabytes of memory from $197 to $97 with a two-year service contract. Wal-Mart claims the reduction is simply part of its “ongoing aggressive savings announcements.” But coming as it does amid speculation about the launch of a new iPhone (and rumors of the discontinuation of the 8GB iPhone 3G), it is being interpreted as a move to clear out inventory before that device arrives at market.

Meanwhile, Apple (AAPL) and AT&T (T) continue to sell the 16GB iPhone 3GS at its original price, though I can’t imagine that this will continue much longer. When Apple introduced the iPhone 3GS in June 2009, AT&T slashed the price of the entry-level 8GB iPhone 3G to $99.

The company is expected to do the same thing this year with the low-end 3GS. And, as it did last year, that price cut will likely spur adoption of the device among the lower tiers of AT&T’s customer base. As BTIG Research analyst Walter Piecyk observed in a note to clients this morning:

We estimate that last years price cut of the iPhone 3G to $99 stimulated more than 3 million phone sales to existing AT&T customers that helped the company further penetrate the family plan with higher ARPU, lower churn customers. We believe the impact could be even larger this year for AT&T given its the broad market acceptance of the iPhone, the halo impact of the iPad and the installed base of iPhones that will need to be upgraded to a 3GS phone in order to benefit from Apple’s latest upgrade to its iPhone OS 4.0.

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