Good news for Apple and consumers: The 5G iPhone is reigniting the carrier subsidy wars

Apple and consumers are in the driver’s seat as the wireless industry, with the launch of Apple’s iPhone 12 family, offers its most aggressive launch-day smartphone subsidies in at least five years, but the steep discounts may wind up hurting the carriers.

Apple's all-new iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro Max, and iPhone 12 mini (left to right)
Apple’s all-new iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro Max, and iPhone 12 mini (left to right)

Emily Bary for MarketWatch:

Analysts have been upbeat that Apple newly announced iPhone 12 family, which features 5G connectivity and a wider range of screen sizes, could drive a big wave of upgrades. Wireless carriers, eager to capitalize on the opportunity and avoid getting shown up by their rivals, are heaping on the promotions to both attract new customers and retain existing ones.

The most generous offer so far comes from AT&T Inc., which will give both new and existing customers an $800 credit on a new iPhone if they trade in an iPhone 8 or more recent device, in what the company says is a “limited-time” offer for those activating devices on one of its unlimited plans. The credit will be paid over 30 months and AT&T will give smaller credits to those trading in slightly older models than the iPhone 8.

“If someone is willing to pay you $800 for a phone that’s worth $100, that’s a pretty good deal for a consumer and for Apple, but it will obviously impact the balance sheet for the wireless carrier,” LightShed Partners analyst Walter Piecyk told MarketWatch. The $800 subsidy is the largest he’s seen on an iPhone launch day.

Verizon Communications Inc.’s best deal amounts to an $800 subsidy, Piecyk said, but it’s restricted to new subscribers on unlimited plans. T-Mobile US Inc. is offering half off the iPhone 12 Pro through bill credits, or $500 off any iPhone 12 device, to those who trade in their phones. The company has an offer of $850 off for those who add a line and trade in a phone.

MacDailyNews Take: Aww, everyone take a moment to shed a tear for the carriers, m’kay? 😀



  1. What I really want to see is a picture of the iPhone 12 Mini next to an iPhone SE 2016, my current phone. I need to see the size difference. Don’t like big phones like the iPhone 6 I had. Love the size of my 2016 SE iPhone

  2. Regarding Carriers, my carrier EE do not do Pay As you Go 5G yet, only on contracts. This better change soon otherwise I will change carriers to someone who does do 5G Pay as you go.

  3. Those are pretty decent updates for the iPhone and it seems as though carriers will fight to get customers using the new iPhone as bait. However, investors don’t seem to be impressed, at all. Of course, they could be waiting to hear pre-order numbers (if Apple releases them) or maybe they’re just waiting for the coming quarterly report. It’s hard to know what those big investors are thinking about. I honestly can’t make heads or tails of the stock market on a weekly basis.

  4. $800 spread out over 30 months ($26.6/month) doesn’t sound very generous to me. They’ll make up the difference by nickle and diming (read $10-$25+) you through fees, throttling and higher charges. I’ll never give up my OG, actually unlimited plan through AT&T from 2008 for whatever scam job they’re trying to push now.

    1. Your unlimited plan from 2008 is throttled like a big dog. Try switching to a newer plan and see how much faster your service is. You have been the proverbial frog in the hot water all along and didn’t even realize it.

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