The launch of the iPhone X on Tuesday presents the wireless carriers with a bezel-free, button-free bludgeon to beat each other with as promotional campaigns kick off in the second half of the year.
Promotional discounts on the iPhone X, which starts at $999, will be welcome. Shoppers could always go down market for the less expensive iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus, which cost $699 and $799, respectively. If history is a guide, T-Mobile (TMUS) , Sprint (S) , Verizon (VZ) and possibly AT&T (T) will offer deals after the launch and make another round of offers as the Black Friday shopping weekend approaches.
Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure tweeted that the carrier will give a 50% discount on an iPhone 8 if consumers trade in an iPhone 7.
Meanwhile, T-Mobile's CEO offered a $300 discount on any new iPhone with a trade in. T-Mobile already ratcheted up competition last week by offering free subscriptions to Netflix (NFLX) , which cost $9.99 per month, to customers of its family plan with at least two phones.
Sprint fell 0.44% to $7.86 at midday on Wednesday, while T-Mobile was down 0.24% to $62.83. AT&T gained 0.57% to $36.47, and Verizon rose 0.37% to $46.97.
After the iPhone 7 launch the carriers offered trade-ins of variants of the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6, Jeff Moore of mobile analysis group Wave7 Research said.
"T-Mobile and Sprint instigated the heavy competition by announcing such offers on September 8 and Verizon and AT&T followed up with comparable offers," he said, noting that the free iPhone offers generally expired in early October.
T-Mobile USA reignited competition by offering two free lines the Friday before Black Friday last year, potentially establishing a new battleground day for mobile deals. Moore said he'll be looking for new promos a week ahead of the Black Friday surge this year.
When Thanksgiving weekend came, T-Mobile launched another round of deals that included an iPhone trade in offer. Sprint and Verizon changed their plans in response, though AT&T did not make a Black Friday iPhone offer.
"T-Mobile sort of upended everything by launching a very aggressive array of promotions," Moore said.
So far this year, unlimited wireless service has been the competitive focus for the carriers, but Jefferies analyst Mike McCormack suggested in an August report that the new iPhone will trigger a shift in tactics.
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