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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Apple fibs about iPhone 12 pricing to promote wireless carriers

(Update: As of pre-order time on Friday, Oct. 16, Sprint and T-Mobile have been added to the $30 discount deal on Apple’s site. If you want to use an alternative carrier or buy a phone SIM-free, you’ll still pay a $30 penalty.)

Here’s one of the weirdest aspects of Tuesday’s iPhone launch event: Apple has been less than forthright about the real prices of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini.

At the event, Apple referred to these products as starting at $699 (iPhone 12 mini) and $799 (iPhone 12), but those prices are not actually accurate unless you slap a big asterisk on there. (As Apple does on its marketing pages, because it must.)

Here’s what’s actually happening, at least in the U.S.: Apple has cut deals with AT&T and Verizon that give existing customers of those carriers $30 off their purchases. The actual prices of the two models are $729 and $829, and that’s what you’ll pay if you’re a U.S. subscriber to Sprint, T-Mobile, any smaller pay-as-you-go carriers, or if you want to buy a SIM-free model with no carrier connection at all. (The 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max are the same price on all carriers.)

It’s embarrassing that Apple is hiding the real price of the iPhone 12. More troubling is the suggestion that Apple is now happy to join forces with its carrier partners to play marketing games—not just with the price of the iPhone 12 and 12 mini, but with the embarrassing amount of screen time Apple gave to Verizon’s CEO on Tuesday so he could flog his company’s 5G network.

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