Ahead of the announcement that Wal-Mart will soon sell the iPhone, I’m already wondering how this will play out. Will AT&T or Apple staff the discount stores? Will there be seperate kiosks or stations set up to handle the sale, activation and tutoring of new customers? And how will Apple’s other retail partners react if the rumored lower selling prices at Wal-Mart turn out to be true?
First things first. It’s very unlikely that Apple will allow the iPhone to be sold at a discount. The company is militant about maintaining price premiums and there’s next to no chance that policy will change for Wal-Mart. And while competitors such as Best Buy will be bummed, they pretty much always sell the exact same products. No one is getting exclusives anymore, at least not for long.
The real problems will arise at the point of purchase and activation. It took a salesperson at the AT&T store a solid hour to switch my number, upload my contacts and get the contract in order. If each transaction takes even half that time, how will Wal-Mart handle it and what will a bungled transaction do to the Apple brand?