Report: Carrier phone financing will come to Apple Stores this year

Apple(s appl) is in the middle of a larger push to drive iPhone purchases through its stores: Earlier this year, it started selling prepaid plans with unlocked iPhones and now, according to a report from the always-reliable 9to5Mac, you’ll soon be able to pick up an iPhone on carrier programs that amortize the cost of the phone over the life of a two-year contract. Verizon’s(s v) Edge, T-Mobile’s(s tmus) Jump, and AT&T’s(s t) Next programs will all be available from the Apple Store.
Savvy consumers might recognize that these carrier upgrade plans aren’t a great deal. Although they allow consumers to upgrade their device early, after a year, when all the costs are added up, the overall price is similar to purchasing an unlocked phone. When upgrading devices using these programs, the old device — which is often fully paid off — is exchanged for the new one.
For consumers who aren’t price-sensitive and want the latest iPhone, they represent a convenient, carrier-approved way to do so without paying the full upfront price for an unlocked device. Whether the credit checks and carrier doublespeak required to sell these plans will affect the experience of shopping at an Apple Store remains to be seen.
Last year, Tim Cook told a gathering of Apple Store leaders that only 20 percent of iPhones are sold through Apple stores and that it was a goal of the company to see that number rise. One of the ways to do that is to reduce the overall price paid when leaving an Apple Store, and these carrier-driven programs do just that — we’ll see if it’s in place ahead of the expected release of a bigger iPhone this fall.