WSJ: Carrier incentives are driving Apple’s iPhone sales

From Tim Higgins’ “Secret to Apple’s iPhone Sales Boom: Big 5G Deals From Wireless Carriers” in Monday’s Wall Street Journal:

5G wasn’t a factor for Justin Jacob, a 25-year-old copywriter in suburban Detroit. Instead, he said, his interest was piqued by updates to the phone’s cameras, and he was ultimately convinced to ditch his iPhone XS for the iPhone 12 Pro, which starts at $999, because of a deal offered by Verizon last fall.

Mr. Jacob said the carrier offered him around $500 for his old phone and a monthly payment of $21 over 18 months for the new one while his previous carrier offered $245 for a trade-in and wanted money up front for the next device. “It was just the best deal I’ve ever had,” he said. “And my wife did the same thing.”

My take: Rinse and repeat for the iPhone 13.

Also in today’s Journal, the Editorial Board has reached a verdict on Epic vs. Apple: “An Antitrust Victory for Apple.”


  1. Robert Varipapa said:
    I switched my whole family from Verizon to ATT last year, got $800 off of 7 iPhone 12’s plus double the ‘unlimited’ data. ATT also accepted my employer’s discount program (they have one with Verizon too but it doesn’t apply any longer.)

    September 13, 2021
    • Robert Varipapa said:
      PS: That was $800 x 7 = $5600!

      September 13, 2021
  2. Peter Kropf said:
    I switched my family’s 4 iPhones from Verizon to TMobile 2 years ago and received $3086 in inducements.

    (1) Xs Max
    (1) Xs
    (2) 6Ss

    TMobile gave me
    $1400 = 2 x $700 towards buying an 11 Pro Max and an 11Pro on trade in
    $600 = 2 x XRs on BOGO – buy 1 and get 1 free on trade in
    $686 = Paying off the balance of what I owed on the Xs Max and Xs to Verizon
    $400 = towards bringing over the two accts on the Xs Max and Xs
    $3086 in toto for a 4 phone trade in!

    This trade-in/move qualifies as my all time Personal Best, ever! I will be trading my current 4 phones later in the year, but I can’t imagine getting as good a deal, as this one.

    September 13, 2021
    • Robert Varipapa said:
      How has your service been with T-Mobile?

      September 13, 2021
      • David Emery said:
        We switched to T-Mobile about the same time I got my new iPhone 12. Their signal is better in our neighborhood than ATT and they’re cheaper for a similar plan.

        But I can’t say my customer experience has been all that good. It took them -months- to un- their systems to where I could create an on-line account. The various people I talked to on the phone kept on telling me “we know about this problem and it should be fixed next week.”

        Using the phones in Europe was painless (we actually got a trip to France in July, the brief window when things were opening up….)

        September 13, 2021
  3. Jerry Doyle said:
    “…. My take: Rinse and repeat for the iPhone 13.”

    Little doubt carriers’ incentive plans are driving phone upgrades. The question I ask is will carriers continue these incentive plans going forward?

    One reason many folk stopped upgrading every two years is because carriers years ago ended these incentive plans. Then folk held on to their phones, discovering that their phones could last longer than what they realized. iPhones are of premium build and can last easily five years or longer. If carriers remove these incentives, then we go back to consumers delaying upgrades.

    Carriers instituted the incentives this time to drive 5G, but as we see 5G isn’t the driver for upgrading as much as cost savings incentive plans for upgrading. If carriers desire to avoid churn and to retain their customer base, then I suspect we may see these carrier plan incentives continue. That means there could be a continuous super cycle going forward with folk upgrading every two years.

    September 13, 2021
  4. Fred Stein said:
    And all those trade-in phones become upgrade buyers in a year to two.

    Trade-ins and buybacks – Gifts that keep on giving.

    September 13, 2021
  5. Greg Lippert said:
    I’ve had all carriers and had similar performance.

    Now on T-Mobile and they are by far the best value. In my neck of the woods (suburbia Connecticut), their coverage used to be great BUT the 5G transition has caused all sorts of headaches. Phone jumps from 5G to LTE all the time and service (voice & data) is spotty and inconsistent – my watch almost has no cell reception. Thinking of turning it off.

    Their customer service and $$$ credits have been great to compensate.

    A store manager told me that the Sprint merger is causing issues as they merge equipment and will hopefully be resolved by end of 21. We shall see.

    September 13, 2021
  6. Steven Philips said:
    IF Verizon gives enough of an incentive I may step outside Apple’s border this year. I really don’t like the idea of dealing with the telco, but – to me, Apple’s yearly upgrade process was just too much of a hassle to continue. And, IF I’m going to effectively pay a premium for the service I should automatically be first in line! Not go through the whole order process.

    September 13, 2021
  7. Peter Kropf said:
    My experience with TMobile has been good this year. I can’t vouch for comparative voice and data performance – that’s hard to discern unless I’m a NYT reviewer testing identical handsets against the 3 telecoms.

    However, I can say TMobile succeeds in having expanded comparable coverage whereas, in the past, TMobile was woefully inadequate in coverage.

    One thing where TMobile is years ahead of the others is that their monthly bills make sense (!), are simple AND they even round down to the nearest dollar! (Yes, rounding down is a gimmick, but it’s also a surprisingly appreciated UI enhancement! – My bill, every month for 4 Unlimited phones is always exactly $175.00 – no bullshit.)

    September 14, 2021

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