Wal-Mart's (WMT) motto, "Save Money, Live Better," may strike a fresh chord with folks who've been lusting after an iPhone for years, but were unwilling to fork over the $200 or more required to buy one. The retailing giant on Tuesday began selling the current model Apple 3GS 16GB iPhones for $97.
Apple (AAPL) is apparently hot to move the sleek smartphones: It has allowed Wal-Mart to drastically undercut the $199 price it's charging on its own Web site. But the company has good reason to want to clear out its iPhone inventory. In less than two weeks, industry watchers anticipate CEO Steve Jobs will announce a new iPhone model at WWDC, the Apple developers conference.
Apple is hardly alone in subscribing to the theory that dramatic price cuts just prior to or shortly after the announcement of a new model are a smart way to move slightly obsolete products. It does help to sell aging inventory that might otherwise gather dust on store shelves, and clears the way for new models that carry top-dollar prices and fatter profit margins, making it a strategy investors can appreciate.
Wal-Mart is also selling the beefier 3GS 32GB iPhone for $297. That model is listed on Apple's site for slightly more at $299. Both the 32GB and 16GB are available in either black or white, and, of course, both come with a requirement for a two-year carrier contract.
When Jobs takes the stage for his WWDC keynote address on June 7, speculation is that the new version of the iPhone he'll unveil will be similar to prototypes that have leaked out recently. The anticipated 4G iPhone is expected to have such features as a video camera on the faceplate and a camera flash, items that tech website Gizmodo noted last month when it got its hands on a prototype that an Apple engineer inadvertently left at a bar.
But folks looking to snap up a $97 iPhone likely don't care about what's coming up at WWDC. Wal-Mart's offer is designed to appeal to the bargain shoppers, not the hardcore enthusiasts.
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