Wal-Mart to Offer iPhones December 28

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Mega-retailer Wal-Mart has confirmed the rumors: as of Sunday, December 28, the company will be selling Apple’s iPhone 3G…although the retailer hasn’t been able to finagle a substantially discounted price on the handsets. Wal-Mart plans to offer the black 8 GB edition of the iPhone 3G for $197 and the 16 GB edition (in black or white) for $297, with each price representing a mere $2 discount over retail prices from Apple, AT&T, and (the only other retailer currently offering the iPhone) Best Buy. Best Buy is currently discounting the iPhone; Wal-Mart says it will match any local competitor’s advertised price on the same item within the same promotional period.

“We are delighted to bring customers this ground-breaking mobile technology,” said Wal-marts senior VP for entertainment Gary Severson, in a statement. “Our electronics associates have been preparing for many weeks for the arrival of iPhone 3G. We are excited to now help new customers learn more about the features and services that make the iPhone unique.”

iPhones sold through Wal-Mart will required a new two-year service agreement from AT&T or a qualified upgrade from an existing service plan.

Wal-Mart is the world’s largest retailer, and has earned its position by offering goods at a substantial discount, increasing its appeal to budget-conscious and lower-income consumers. Apple merchandize may not be a good fit with Wal-Mart’s demographic—Apple computers and iPods have traditionally occupied the upper pricing echelons of their categories, and Apple has repeatedly asserted it would rather produce hig-quality products than cheap products. Nonetheless, offering the iPhone through Wal-Mart gives the Cupertino company a powerful way to reach new customers…and the wildly popular iPhone has certainly sparked consumer interest.

For the moment, the announcement puts an end to rumors that Apple would offer a special 4 GB edition of the iPhone available only through Wal-Mart at a price significantly lower than the existing 8 GB iPhone.

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