Pre-orders for the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max opened last night, and if you were hoping to score a new iPhone on launch day…well, let’s just say you should start lining up now. Delivery dates have already slipped to a month after launch for some models, and the trend is likely to keep getting worse.
Part of the cause for the rapid sell-out is that three of the four major wireless carriers are already offering unusually aggressive promotions on the new iPhones. Verizon and AT&T will both give you $700 off a second device if you buy two phones, and T-Mobile just announced that it’s offering the same deal.
Sprint, on the other hand, is offering a completely free 18-month lease with a qualifying trade-in, which means that iPhone 7 users could upgrade to a brand-new iPhone XS without actually spending any money.
The deals from Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile are all nearly identical. In all three cases, you have to buy two new iPhones, namely the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone X, iPhone 8, or iPhone 8 Plus. You can mix and match models, so the first phone can be an iPhone XS and the second an iPhone 8. Both devices have to be bought on 24-month installment plans or leases, and a new line of service has to be added.
In T-Mobile’s case, you also get a free extra line of service after adding one — so, for example, if you already have two lines on T-Mobile, and add a third to qualify for the offer, you’ll get a fourth line for free. T-Mobile only announced its offer this afternoon, well after the other carriers — and after pre-orders went live — making it look like a highly reactionary promotion.
If you don’t want two iPhones, then Sprint’s lease deal will probably be the best. It’s certainly the cheapest way to upgrade from an existing iPhone to an iPhone XS, given that most of the other trade-in offers only get you $300 off the retail price.
Most of all, it’s unusual to see such aggressive promotional pricing before a new iPhone has even hit stores. Demand for iPhones is traditionally so high at launch that people are queuing around the block to pay full price for one, and resellers on Craigslist and eBay are often able to charge a premium for the first few days after launch. Either carriers are estimating that demand will be lower than usual for the iPhone XS, or at least some of the networks are desperate to show some subscriber growth this quarter. Either way, it’s good news for anyone who just wants a new iPhone.