Will the iPhone XR be even cheaper? I went to phone stores to find out

Readers wondered whether Apple's latest phone will enjoy even more incentives. I was forced to investigate.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer
A money-off message in the Apple Store window? You don't see that every day. (Image: Chris Matyszczyk/ZDNet)

I hadn't expected so many emails.

When I wrote last week about going to Best Buy to get some (hopefully) objective information about the iPhone XR, readers chimed in.

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

Many wondered whether Apple's latest phone -- subject to a quite generous trade-in offer that reduced its price from $750 to $449 -- might get even cheaper.

It's Christmas, you see, and parents are wondering whether to buy their kids phones for Christmas or whether to wait for further incentives. Or, perish the concept, even price reductions.

One dad wrote to me saying wanting to know whether to stick with his hand or to ask for another card:

My daughter wants one and we are on Verizon. I told her to wait until Black Friday, but the sales were weak. I said wait for CyberMonday, but the sales were still weak. I said wait until Xmas, and they will probably go on sale. Still waiting. $150 for her iPhone 6 through Apple isn't much of a deal.

Another reader wrote saying Apple had offered him $250 for his iPhone 6S toward the purchase of an XR.

He said he was torn. He told me:

Apple sort of created their own problem. I only recently updated to iOS 12 from the last version of iOS 10. iOS 12 is really good at least much better than iOS 11 (which I skipped). With a recently installed battery for $40 at an Apple Store, my phone runs almost like new. I compared the iPhone X camera to my 6S Plus camera. Practically no difference. WHY UPGRADE?

Why, indeed. Because you can never be too cool perhaps?

Come to Apple now! Great Deals!

Oh, what could I do but investigate?

As it happens, I'm in South Florida, so I thought I'd go to a local Apple Store and see what they had to say.

Before I went into the store, a surprise. In the window, there was a hastily put-together ad, standing on an easel. "iPhone XR for $449," read the headline. In smaller type at the top, it read "Limited Time."

I wandered in and immediately asked a saleswoman: "How limited is your time?"

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

She looked at me with a tinge of incomprehension -- or was it pity? -- before I offered my follow-up: "Will this trade-in promotion last a long time?"

"I think it's just a Holidays thing," she replied. "But they don't tell us."

"So is the XR not selling?"

"No, it's selling," she said, her enthusiasm not quite convincing.

"So why are you offering this big discount?"

She hit me with a reply I wasn't expecting: "Because it's the newest phone."

I found myself torturing the notion that your newest phone is the one you should discount most strongly.

"There are trade-in deals on the XS, too," she added, as if questioning her logic, too.

She could offer me nothing more. "Really, they don't tell us anything," she said.

T-Mobile Offers a Clue.

I'd already wandered into a Metro PCS store, where they insisted the XR is selling well. An AT&T store, too. Same thing.

No one dared even suggest that Apple would cut the price of the XR or offer even greater incentives.

Also: One month with the Apple iPhone XR

But it was at a T-Mobile store that I was offered the tiniest light.

"If anything, the XR is selling more than the XS because it's cheaper," a salesman told me.

I asked him why Apple was offering relatively generous incentives, then.

"We've got a deal, too," he replied. He made a few calculations on his phone and then said: "If you've got an iPhone 7 to trade in, I can give you an XR for $360.

Indeed, if you trade in an iPhone 7, 7 Plus, 8, 8 Plus, or a Samsung GS8, GS8+ or Note 8, or a Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, Pixel 2XL or an LG V30 or G7, you can get $390 off an iPhone XR.

"They're really looking for iPhone 7's, though." the salesman told me.


He shrugged before adding: "They just want them."

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One plausible notion, advanced by some, is that Apple is merely trying to move as many customer over to the newest technology possible, and the XR is the gateway to that.

I tried, dear readers. Really, I tried. The phone business is simply getting harder, as customers are both happier with their phones and a touch more discerning.

The only more concrete information I can give is that if you live in the very southern regions of the world, perhaps you shouldn't panic.

An Australian Apple reseller wrote to me and said: "We can't get enough of the new XR. Think the $ sales figures when released may be surprising to everybody."

iPhone XS and iPhone XR cheat sheets

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.

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