iPhone 3G at Best Buy: Apple ads a flat-out lie

  • Opinion – Apple’s iPhone 3G made its official debut at Best Buy stores nationwide today. Just as at the phone’s launch in late July, people were standing in line. But there was one distinct difference: Best Buy is advertising the iPhone 3G with its “regular price” and “instant savings”, interestingly highlighting Apple’s misleading advertising for the iPhone 3G.


    There is a lot you can do on a sunny September Sunday morning in the Chicago area. You can enjoy what may be one of the last warm weekend days of the year, go for a bike ride, spend time with your family or friends on the shores of Lake Michigan or take your convertible for a spin. Or you can wait in line for an iPhone 3G.

    That is what about 20 or so people did in front of a suburban Best Buy, waiting hours before the store would open in a line. These lines are a phenomenon in itself. Ok, admitted, Best Buy promoted these lines a bit, telling people to “hurry in” since “quantities are limited.” But really, those people willing to spend hours in line for the permission to pay $2000 or more for a cellphone and service need a reality check. Seriously.

    So, you may wonder, why would I know that there was a line hours before Best Buy opened? Simple, I get up early (we have a new born) and was shopping at a store next to our local Best Buy. So there is nothing suspicious here. But later, when I came home and went through our weekend ads, it was nearly impossible to see why there that line: A big Best Buy ad that was advertising the phone.

    Reading that ad reminded me of an article I wrote some time ago, indicating that Apple engages in false advertising practices. Best Buy is brave enough to advertise the iPhone 3G 8 GB for $199.99, but a regular, non-activated price of $599.99 and the 16 GB version for $299.99 or a regular, non-activated price of $699.99. The foot notes leave lots of room for interpretation, stating that the “instant rebate” requires a 2-year service contract agreement, without a clear-cut explanation whether the phone is available without a contract as well.

    So, if I am comparing apples to apples, then the previous (out of the store non-activated) 8 GB iPhone for $399 compares to the new 8 GB iPhone 3G for $599.99. And how exactly does that correspond to Apple’s claim that the iPhone 3G is half the price of the original iPhone?

    The half-the-price claim would be correct if the $199 subsidized phone would compare to the $399 non-subsidized phone. But even if it did, this new $199 phone is also more expensive over the contract period of two years that an activated $399 phone.

    While I believe that the iPhone is a great device that may be a bit ahead of its time, but generally shows a scenario how we may be using pocket computers in the future, I also believe that Apple’s marketing team may have drifted away into a fantasy land without rules. Apple clearly seems to be above the law these days, if flat-out lies can be published on its homepage (the Best Buy ad does not show the “half the price” claim).

    Every successful technology company displays pride and self-confidence, sometimes in rather strange ways. But Apple’s pride has turned into an ugly arrogance that is beyond my comfort level.