Bloomberg and the San Jose Mercury News seem to have confirmed a rumor that’s been around for a long while now: Wal-Mart is about to start selling the iPhone, joining the Apple Store, AT&T retail locations, and Best Buy. And the Mercury-News found a source willing to say on the record that there were plans for a $99 model. But having read both stories, and I’m still confused:
* The first sentence of Bloomberg’ story, by Connie Guglielmo, says that “two store representatives [say] the world’s largest retailer will carry two models of the Web-surfing handset this month.” The second sentence says “Employees in the cell-phone departments at five California stores, contacted by phone today, said Wal-Mart will offer iPhones by the end of December.” I don’t understand the distinction between the two Wal-Marters mentioned in sentence #1 and the five mentioned in sentence #2. (Not surprisingly, Wal-Mart declined official comment.)
* Guglielmo’s Wal-Mart sources provided at least three different statements about when it would launch in their stores: “around Dec. 15,” “between Christmas and the New Year,” and “Dec. 28.” Presumably it’ll launch everywhere at the same time. And launching the hottest cell phone on the planet shortly after Christmas would be peculiar timing.
* The Mercury-News story, by Troy Wolverton, quotes another Wal-Mart staffer as saying “Originally they were going to release it before Christmas, but they can’t get them that fast to us,” which might explain the timing decision. Except that Wolverton found another store employee who said that her location was supposed to be getting phones two days before Christmas: “They’re trying to push it before Christmas because they know how people will want it for Christmas.”
* The Wal-Mart staffer who told Wolverton that her location would be getting phones two days before Christmas also told him that she’d been told it would be getting a 4GB model–presumably the fabled $99 iPhone. But other Wal-Marters told Wolverton there’d be no $99 model, and a leaked image of a Wal-Mart ad mentions no sub-$100 phone. (It does mention a low everyday price of $197. Two bucks less than Apple and AT&T’s price.)
Ultimately, I’d say that:
* iPhones at Wal-Mart in December appear highly likely;
* We don’t know if they’ll show up a bit before Christmas, or a bit after;
* Apple may be struggling to crank out enough iPhones to stock all those Wal-Marts. (There are 4,100 of them in the U.S., versus around 200 Apple Stores and 900 Best Buys. I’m checking on how many AT&T Stores there are. AT&T has 2200 company-owned stores.)
* The prospect of a $99 iPhone still seems unlikely. At least a $99 iPhone available imminently and sold only through Wal-Mart.
More updates as breaking news warants…