In yet another move to get Apple's iPhone into more retail outlets, Best Buy on Tuesday became the first retailer to offer refurbished iPhone 3Gs at stores nationwide.
The news follows two similar moves in December. That's when AT&T began offering refurbished iPhone 3Gs even as Wal-Mart inked a deal with Apple to sell brand-new iPhone 3Gs at a $5 discount at its stores.
"The refreshed iPhone is a great example of the depth of our offering, and clear evidence of why Best Buy is the best place to purchase a mobile phone," said Scott Moore, vice president of marketing for Best Buy Mobile. "Where else can you get everything you need to make sure your phone can be utilized to its fullest?"
Best Buy's Best Service
Best Buy Mobile stores are now selling the 'refreshed' iPhone 3G at $149 for the 8GB model and $249 for the 16G model. Consumers are required to sign a two-year service contract with AT&T. By contrast, new iPhone 3Gs currently retail for $199 for the 8GB model and and $299 for the 16GB model at Best Buy Mobile.
With the purchase of a refurbished iPhone, Best Buy Mobile customers are guaranteed what the retailer calls Complimentary Walk Out Working. Best Buy promises customers won't leave the store without multimedia and smartphone setup and personalization -- such as e-mail and data transfer -- ensuring that the phone is operating as intended.
Even though the phones are in like-new operating condition -- they were returned during a 30-day trial period and refurbished -- Best Buy also offers extra protection. In addition to a full one-year standard warranty on the refurbished iPhone 3G, customers can also purchase a two-year Geek Squad Black Tie Protection service plan.
Apple's Ambitious Goals
"This actually could be problematic for Apple. Part of Apple's cache is the exclusivity of its toys. Apple for many years has played the BMW card in the IT industry," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT Research. "You pay a premium for the products and you are getting a superior user experience and superior styling."
When the iPhone first came to market, it cost $599 at the high end, roughly twice the price of competing smartphones. People lined up in the streets for what was marketed as exclusive technology. But King said the reality of the cell-phone market -- and the economy -- could be changing Apple's tune. Or, he added, it could be that Apple has a larger goal than it does with its desktop computers, where it has just about 10 percent of the market share.
"This may simply reflect the fact that Apple does have very large ambitions in the cell-phone market," King said. "It could be that Apple is not going to be content to be at the high end targeting deep-pocketed consumers, but wants to get the brand out there as widely and deeply into the public consciousness as the iPod is."
Initially the phones will only be available at 350 Best Buy stores nationwide. But the retailing giant said the program will expand to all U.S. Best Buy stores that offer AT&T by the end of January.
Image credit: Product shots by Apple.