has started selling contract-free iPhone 3Gs through its retail stores, although not advertising the move at all. Apple is said to have embraced the contract-free model so iPhones can be offered as gifts without forcing the recipient to pay two years of AT&T services in order to make the “gift” operable. Still, those getting a contract-free Apple handset are still locked to AT&T. The only difference is that the owner can choose to activate on their own terms.
“The Apple retail stores are now selling iPhones without a contract that requires a two-year commitment, a change recently spotted at AT&T’s retail stores, and which observers believe is linked to an inventory clear-out in advance of a new iPhone handset introduction within the next few months,” ifoAppleStore reports
. AT&T recently started selling contract-free iPhones
stores country-wide but quantity is limited, according to the operator. Apple, however, has no quantity limits on its no-contract offer.
The source dealing exclusively with news and information about Apple's retail stores cites people who have recently shopped at the stores as saying that “the no-contract deal is not being advertised or otherwise displayed within the stores.” Moreover, ifo reports, “the store sales staff is not offering the no-contract deal unless the customer’s circumstance specifically meet certain buying criteria, including that the iPhone is being purchased as a gift (in which case the gift receiver might not want to be locked into two years of monthly payments).” In simpler terms, the site says, “the no-contract purchase still requires that the customer sign up for AT&T service before leaving the store.” Also, users can now terminate their cellular service at any time. Devices cost $599 or $699 depending on storage capacity.
As noted by ifoAppleStore, Apple is widely expected to introduce a new iPhone model
this summer, along with the public release of iPhone OS 3.0. The contract-free move seems like an attempt to clear out the stock in favor of a new device.