June 7, 2010 | by Andrew Kameka
Friday was a busy day for me. I visited several Sprint, Radio Shack, and Best Buy stores in my area to talk up Androinica and gauge excitement for the HTC EVO. I also overheard a great deal of grief from customers frustrated by being unable to buy the EVO for full-price. Hate to break it to you folks, but there will always be this kind of grief on launch day.
At one Sprint store I visited, a man drove 20 miles to purchase an EVO at full price so he wouldn’t have to extend his contract, but he was told that he would have to wait a week. “I have to save these phones for new customers or people upgrading,” the sales rep said. “I can put you on a waiting list for Monday…maybe next Friday.”
Before you fire off that angry letter to Sprint, please know that this is a standard practice. The same issue plagued our own staff writer Chris Smith when he attempted to purchase a Droid Incredible on launch day, only to be turned away by Verizon. Some AT&T stores have given preference to new customers and upgrades for the iPhone, and T-Mobile did the same to people at my local store when the G1 launched.
Carriers sometimes limit availability to new customers and upgrades because that is viewed as the most profitable move. There’s no money in the actual phone sale; the profit comes from attracting people willing to pay $80 a month for two years. That’s why phones are sold at a subsidy, and that’s also why priority is given to the more profitable customers in the first wave of a big-ticket launch.
It all boils down to limited numbers. Imagine there are only 20,000 phones available in a given city, and there are an estimated 25,000 people willing to purchase that device. Carriers would rather hold off selling the phone at full-price to make sure that the 5,000 people left out in the cold aren’t new customers or people eligible to extend their contract for another two years.
If you’re someone looking to purchase a new phone without extending service, be prepared to wait a few days or weeks after launch – if any are left at that point.