This holiday season, iPhone price cuts abound. What gives?

There’s quite a steady flow of iPhone discounts this holiday season. Yesterday I posted about Walmart(s wmt). And today I received word of sales at Best Buy(s bby) and Sam’s Club. It got me thinking: When was the last holiday season the iPhone went on sale in so many different places, if at all?

And after thinking kicking it around for a while, I started to realize: The iPhone never really did go on sale quite like this before. Historically, Apple’s smartphones have remained relatively steadfast in their price: $199.99 for the current year’s model on-contract, $99.99 for the model before that, and a free phone at least two years old.  This year, though, Apple did something a little different when it introduced two new iPhones – the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 5c – and did away with last year’s iPhone 5 completely.

It’s not such a radical shift. The iPhone 5c basically takes over the role the iPhone 5 would’ve provided, and you can still pick up the older iPhone 4s for free. But in changing the pattern in which it introduces its phones, it appears that Apple changed the way that retailers can sell them as well.

Some people have speculated that discounts for the iPhone 5c are due to weak sales. But that doesn’t explain why the iPhone 5s, which broke sales records, is seeing a similar discount now as well. I don’t think popularity (or lack thereof) is driving these sales. Instead, I think Apple is finally letting retailers decide if they want to earn a smaller profit margin in order to drive traffic to the rest of the store. I know this tactic works on me. Once I start doing my holiday shopping at one place, I try to get as much done as possible, if only for the free shipping.

Since the iPhone 5c was not the cheaper iPhone that many were expecting, perhaps this is Apple’s way of getting a cheaper iPhone out there without cutting into its own profit margins? Either way, no matter who takes the loss, the consumer ultimately wins with a less expensive device.

Best Buy iPhone sale

Oh, and about those sales at Best Buy and Sam’s Club? Best Buy is offering $75 off of all iPhone 5s models, in every storage capacity and color on AT&T(s t), Sprint(s s) and Verizon(s vz). The iPhone 5c, meanwhile, is getting a $50 discount. The deal lasts through December 24.

And over at Sam’s Club you can pick up a new iPhone 5s for $119 on all four major carriers through January, which might just be the cheapest price out there right now. And if you’re not a member, you can still shop there this weekend when the retailer hosts an open house.