Apple's iPhone XR isn't selling? I went to Best Buy to find out

The rumors are flying. So I tried to get some objective information.

Consumer's dilemma: iPhone XS or iPhone XR? Those wanting to upgrade their iPhones currently have an interesting quandary. And Apple store employees are very aware of it.

It's Apple's most popular phone each and every day, says Apple.

It's not selling very well, say people other than Apple.

What if both are true? What if neither is true?

Also: iPhone XS/iPhone XS Max/iPhone XR: Here's everything you need to know (in pictures)

As an iPhone XR owner, I needed to find out whether the phone I'd bought would turn me into a pariah of ignorance, or whether I was suddenly with a large, wise cabal that had invested in the right stock.

After all, if Apple really is offering supremely generous trade-ins on the XR, wasn't this a sign of nerves?

I'd previously asked an Apple store salesman whether the rumors were true. He'd only say that the XR and the XS were selling equally well.

It was time, therefore, to seek objectivity. Where else to go but to Best Buy, that repository of Geek Squadders and MacBook smashers, to find out.

screenshot-2018-09-12-at-2-37-49-pm.png
Not selling? Or is Apple not telling? (Image: ZDNet)

The iPhone Isn't a Computer.

At Best Buy, there's a separate Apple section, where the phones are placed on tables near the MacBooks.

So, I wandered over, clutched an XR and an XS, and tried to compare the two. I did, however, only have one question to ask the salesman who quickly came over.

Also: Apple to iPhone owners: Up to $100 more for your old phone if you buy XS, XR

Holding up the XR higher, I asked: "Are you guys going to be discounting these soon?"

"Which one is that?" he replied.

You mean you can't tell the difference between the XR in my right hand and the XS in my left? Perhaps that's why neither might not be selling too well.

"This is the computer department," he explained. "I don't really know about phones. We just keep the iPhones here. Let me direct you to an expert."

He led me over to the phones expert, who seemed to be surrounded by Samsung devices, but otherwise remarkably relaxed.

XS-ive? XR-bitant?

I tried to relax, too, but I was there for only one reason. I was determined to get an answer.

"Are you going to be discounting the XR soon?" I asked. "I hear they haven't been selling so well."

He pulled a face that wasn't quite I have my third hemorrhoid, but wasn't too far from I just put my hand in a bowl of custard.

"Neither of them have been selling so well," he said.

So, the Apple store salesman had told me the truth, but it wasn't a happy truth? It was certainly true that on XR launch day, there was no one in line at the Apple store I went to. But the XS isn't selling well, either?

"So, is it true that Apple is going to offer discounts?" I ventured.

"That's what I saw on Reddit," he said."But I don't know."

Wait, Reddit?

"You've not been told that, say, after the holidays, you're going to be cutting the price?" I persisted.

"No. Apple doesn't like to admit defeat, but they should just make cheaper phones. The XR is a better value for sure. No one's going to notice the XS has a better camera. And the XR is bigger."

I couldn't deny that this was an objective view. He didn't even try to push me on to a Samsung phone, which has happened to me before at Best Buy and elsewhere.

Even though this Best Buy phone expert believed that the XS and XR were too expensive, he admitted there's one Apple phone that is selling well: the iPhone XS Max.


Must read


When mentioning it, he almost made a face like Someone just swiped right on me on Tinder.

"Who's buying those?" I asked

"Older people," he said. "They want the bigger screens and they want to stay with iPhones."

Hedging His XRumor Bet.

Ultimately, he didn't entirely discount the possibility of a post-Christmas XR price-cut, but he didn't think it likely. He did, though, suggest I wait, just in case.

It's always reassuring when a salesman doesn't try to sell you something.

There are those who think all this negative rumor-mongering is nonsense. They say the slightly more generous trade-in offers are merely Apple's way of getting a larger cut of the second-hand phone business.

Also: One month with the Apple iPhone XR

At heart, you see, Apple's just interested in joys like margin and profit. It doesn't matter where they comes from or how many rumors must be tolerated along the way.

The Reddit-reading Best Buy phone expert didn't seem excited either way.

"Sooner or later, iPhone people buy iPhones," he said. "Samsung people buy Samsungs."

He didn't mention the Pixel 3 at all.

Previous and related coverage:

'iPhone XR from $449*': Apple ramps up iPhone sales push

Apple's marketers start playing with the fine print and prices after new $100 extra trade-in promotion.

Apple iPhone XR review: Lower cost comes with camera, reception compromises

Apple switched up release strategies a bit in 2018 with the two high end $1,000+ models released initially, followed by one priced $250 to $350 less. The iPhone XR arrives in six color options and honestly it may be the best option for the masses.

iPhone XS and iPhone XR cheat sheets

Since Apple didn't give you a manual listing the gesture changes you have to get used to when you switch to the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, or iPhone XR, use these cheat sheets to familiarise yourself with what you need to know.