Best Buy gives up, drops pricier iPhone X models

The retailer initially offered an unactivated version of Apple's newest phone for a $100 premium -- something that caused outrage and confusion.

Shara Tibken Former managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Shara Tibken
3 min read

Apple's iPhone X is available in stores Friday. 


Best Buy has stopped selling the iPhone X at higher prices than Apple.

When preorders began last week for the newest iPhone, Best Buy offered an "unactivated" version that cost $100 more than Apple's pricing. The 64GB iPhone X model cost $1,099 from Best Buy versus $999 at Apple, while the 256GB model was $1,249 versus Apple's $1,149 rate. 

The unactivated version meant buyers didn't have to log in to a wireless account to purchase the device. Unlike an unlocked device, though, once the iPhone was set up at a carrier, it was tied to that carrier's network. 

All customers saw, though, was Best Buy's higher price tag, something that caused outrage. 

"Although there was clearly demand for the unactivated iPhone X, selling it that way cost more money, causing some confusion with our customers and noise in the media," Best Buy said in a statement. "That's why we decided a few days ago to only sell the phone the traditional way, through installment billing plans."

Best Buy will continue selling iPhones that are tied to carrier accounts. Those models are priced at the same level as Apple's rate. 

Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Watch this: iPhone X: Our first day with Apple's biggest phone ever

An unactivated phone is attractive for people who have broken a phone or aren't eligible for an upgrade on their wireless account but still want to buy a new device outright. It's also appealing to people who have corporate phone accounts but who are responsible for buying their own devices. Because they don't own the phone number, they're not able to buy the device from Apple or another retailer without authorization from their company. 

When Best Buy sells an iPhone tied to a wireless carrier, it gets money from that carrier. When it sells an unactivated phone, it doesn't get anything, it said Tuesday in blog post. That's why it charged more for the unactivated version. 

"It looked like we were simply charging more money for an iPhone X, for no reason," Best Buy said. "Naturally, because we care about how the consumer perceives us, we've stopped selling it that way."

iPhone X: Up close and personal with Apple's new phone

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The company added that it may try selling unactivated phones again at some point. For now buyers can only get the device from Best Buy on the traditional carrier installment billing plans. 

The news comes only a few days before the iPhone X is due to hit stores. The new device, arriving a decade after the first iPhone, marks the first major phone redesign by Apple in years. It ditches the home button in favor of Face ID and sports a flashy OLED display that stretches across the entire front of the phone.

The newly designed iPhone can't come soon enough. More than two-thirds of Apple's sales come from its popular smartphone, but iPhone sales dropped for the first time last year. The overall smartphone market also has been slowing down. Still, the iPhone X could be one of Apple's most popular -- and toughest to get -- smartphones ever. Less than an hour after preorders began Oct. 27, shipping times were already at five to six weeks. 

Bloomberg earlier reported about the Best Buy sales. 

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