Each year, Apple’s new smartphone generation hits the channel with wide impact swiftly after launch, propelled by the weight of its popularity and the efforts of major national carriers Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. Every retailer with a postpaid smartphone assortment moves quickly to adopt Apple’s latest iPhone generation in order to present shoppers with these in-demand items, and this speed of adoption is again expected for the vendor’s new launch. A complete spectrum of retailers ranging from electronics chains and mass merchants to warehouse club stores integrate the latest iPhone models as quickly as Apple delivers them, giving a wide variety of buying options to consumers.
Like past generations, iPhone SKUs attached to Verizon and AT&T are expected to be the most common sights across in-store and online channels, followed by Sprint and T-Mobile variants, the latter of which is slightly behind its rivals due to a slimmer distribution that favors the un-carrier’s own storefronts over national outlets. Following an initial availability at Apple stores, unlocked variants of the latest iPhones are expected to expand into the online assortments of national chains roughly one month after launch to appease a wider audience of adopters who are not fans of carrier-commitment. Apple then uses retailers’ holiday-season refresh cycles to introduce prepaid versions of its latest iPhones into the channel, which in the past has been led by Walmart’s Straight Talk Wireless MVNO by offering the most aggressive hardware price tags (10-13 percent lower than channel averages). Prepaid activity has played a greater role within the first six months of the past two iPhone cycles, with the segment representing 7 percent of the iPhone 7 generation’s overall presence at this junction, up from the 3 percent of the iPhone 6s generation that were prepaid SKUs.
Even with Apple’s increased involvement in the traditionally budget-aligned prepaid realm, the iPhone 7 generation was able to maintain a premium over the pricing trend of the iPhone 6s, a strategy that Apple is employing again with its new launch. Since the iPhone 7 generation’s debut, the average price of the iPhone 7 has fallen from $775 to $704, compared to the iPhone 6s’ decline from $757 to $714 over its initial 10 months. Similarly, the iPhone 7 Plus kept its premium over the first portion of its life, with an average price decline from $908 to $849, versus the iPhone 6s Plus’s trend from $851 to $825 during its early stages. Only after the debut of the iPhone 7 models did pricing for the iPhone 6s generation take a more rapid descent. This is again expected for the iPhone 7 generation in the wake of Apple’s new debuts, with average pricing likely dropping by $100 in the weeks immediately following the launch.