iPhones sold through Apple make up only a quarter of total US sales

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A new report from CIRP says only about 24 percent of recent iPhones purchased in the US have been sold directly by Apple. Instead, the most popular way to buy a new iPhone was through a mobile carrier, which accounted for 67 percent of sales. That’s certainly a perception shift from when there were lines around the Apple Store on launch day, but it’s not at all surprising considering how aggressively AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile now promote iPhone giveaways each fall.

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CIRP (Consumer Intelligence Research Partners) surveys iPhone buyers to find out which models they buy and where they shop – information that Apple does not disclose. Outside of carriers and Apple retail, CIRP attributes 4 percent of iPhone sales to Best Buy and 5 percent to “other,” including Target and Walmart. Those are just small pieces of the pie compared to the gigantic piece that wireless carriers eat up.

None of this is entirely surprising. Particularly in the US, carriers have many advantages when it comes to telephone sales. For starters, there’s a wireless store on every street corner in this country, while Apple stores are much less easy to find. It’s also likely that many people are used to buying phones from their carrier, so that’s where most people start when it comes time for a new iPhone – not Apple’s website. So while Apple and Best Buy offer heavily discounted iPhones with carrier activation, they’re struggling to overcome the inertia that carriers have built up.

Taking their carrier’s free phone deal seems to be the path of least resistance for most of us in the US. And who can blame someone for taking a free phone when a loaf of bread costs about half your salary? If you give your carrier an aggressive upgrade offer, remember to read the terms carefully, find out how long the refund plan is, and make sure you’re happy to stay with that wireless company for the duration.

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