Apple's iPhone 12 costs $30 extra if you're buying it unlocked

The iPhone 12 Mini costs $729 unlocked, while the iPhone 12 costs $829.
Nathan Ingraham
N. Ingraham|10.13.20

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Nathan Ingraham
October 13, 2020 4:19 PM
Apple iPhone 12

Even though Apple has gone big on trade-in discounts lately, they’re usually pretty clear about how much a new iPhone costs. This year, the iPhone 12 Mini is priced at $699, while the standard iPhone 12 comes in at $799. However, things aren’t quite that simple. Apple announced it had a few carrier partnership deals for monthly financing, which made the price much lower if you traded in an old iPhone. But what they didn’t say was that the base, full retail price for the iPhone 12 and 12 Mini is $30 more than what was announced on stage.

If you buy a phone through T-Mobile or Sprint, or buy Apple’s unlocked, SIM-free version, the pricing is $729 for the 12 Mini and $829 for the 12. You only save that $30 if you buy it for AT&T or Verizon (Engadget’s parent company) and activate the phone with one of those carriers. We first saw this on CNET, and going through Apple’s online buy flow confirms the special deal for Verizon or AT&T buyers. Since unlocked, SIM-free pricing is what we usually consider the true price of a phone, without carrier discounts or financing deals, it’s not entirely to say that the 12 and 12 Mini start at the prices Apple claimed — after all, who knows how long those discounts will last?

iPhone 12 Pro buyers don’t need to worry about this — the pricing there appears to be consistent regardless of what carrier you choose to activate with or if you simply buy SIM-free. We’ve reached out to Apple to find out more about this discount, including how long it’ll last for, and will update this story with more details.

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Update, 10/16, 11:45AM ET: Since this story was originally published, the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro have gone up for pre-order. When they did, a T-Mobile deal went live on Apple’s site, and the pricing if you buy from that carrier is also $799, same as Verizon and AT&T. While the iPhone 12 is still $829 if you buy unlocked with no carrier, you can get it for $799 from any of the major US carriers now — if you buy from Apple. The full price for the iPhone 12 at T-Mobile is still $829.

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Apple's iPhone 12 costs $30 extra if you're buying it unlocked