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Giving the gift of an iPhone

Joel Mathis | Dec. 22, 2011
It’s a scenario Brian Causey faces often this time of year. Customers walk into the Cherry Hill, N.J., Best Buy where he works and want to buy an iPhone as a holiday gift. They want it to be a surprise. And they want the phone to work right after it’s unwrapped—or at least, they want it working as quickly as possible.

If jumping through the contractual hoops seems too complicated, you can always give up and give your loved one an iPhone gift card from Apple. You can give the card in any amount, starting at $25; on the order page, Apple helpfully supplies the prices for its assorted iPhone 4S and 4 models. Recipients can use the card to pay for their phone; they’re responsible for picking up the phone and handling the administrative tasks.

You can also opt for an unlocked iPhone that comes without any contracts or commitments. But you’ll have to pay up for the privilege. An unlocked 8GB iPhone 4 will set you back $600. An unlocked iPhone 4S is even more expensive, ranging in price for $649 to $849, depending on capacity.

If you opt for a phone with a contract, note that there are some differences between the carriers. Recipients of an AT&T phone will have to activate its SIM card—something they can do online, or by taking their phone into an AT&T store. Sprint and Verizon phones can be activated over the air.

With the latter phones, though, there can be a problem: If the new iPhone is an upgrade for the recipient’s phone number, activating the new phone can result in the deactivation of the user’s existing phone. Done ahead of time, that can ruin the surprise.

Best Buy’s Causey, though, says that hasn’t been a problem. He said customers contact the gift recipient with advice on how to reactivate their old phone and defeat a non-existent “bug” that shut it down—preserving the surprise of the Christmas morning gift.

“We’ve never had anybody come across where we’ve ruined the surprise,” Causey said. “We can find ways around it.”


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