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8/13/2008
10:43 AM
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Best Buy To Sell iPhones, Right Next To BlackBerrys

The big box electronics retailer said it will begin selling the hot Apple device in its retail outlets after Labor Day.

In a development that will pit the iPhone against competitive smartphones in the same setting for the first time, Best Buy said Wednesday it will begin selling the hot Apple device in its retail outlets after Labor Day.

New models of the iPhone have been sold exclusively in the United States in Apple and AT&T stores. Best Buy has been offering a broad range of mobile phone handsets by different providers including Research In Motion's BlackBerry, which is the top smartphone among business users and is considered the chief rival to the iPhone.

"We do believe that broadening our assortment and having iPhone in our stores is certainly going to be very important" as the holiday season approaches, Shawn Score, Best Buy Mobile's president, told the Reuters news service. "It solidifies us as the place to go for the cool stuff. Our customers are looking for this product."

With 970 big box retail stores and 16 Best Buy Mobile Stores, the electronics retail chain will give Apple a big boost towards hitting its goal of selling 10 million iPhones by the end of the year. Apple has changed its strategy by lowering prices and opening up to software applications from outside developers to help push sales.

The iPhone is currently sold in the United States in Apple's 189 stores and in more than 2,000 stores operated by AT&T, which has the exclusive right to provide networking service for the smartphone. Best Buy won't offer the iPhone in regions that aren't served by AT&T's network.

The iPhone is offered at $199 for an 8-GB model and $299 for a 16-GB model; purchase of the phone also requires a two-year service lock-in to AT&T.

Best Buy has been on a tear recently to beef-up its mobile phone offerings. In addition to the iPhone deal, earlier this month Best Buy said its mobile phone offerings have jumped tenfold since it converted its stores to Best Buy Mobile.

"Customers let us know quickly that they dreaded shopping for a mobile phone anywhere in the United States, whether with us or anyone else," Score said at the time. "Where the new experience has been available, our customer satisfaction scores are through the roof." The firm has been training its mobile staff and its Geek Squad tech support personnel in mobile phoning as well.

In recent days Best Buy has announced a plan to offer cell phones and accessories in airport kiosks. The firm also said its deal with England's Carphone Warehouse -- another iPhone exclusive marketer -- is doing well.

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