Apple iPhone 3GS Selling for $97 at Wal-Mart

The 16GB version of Apple's iPhone 3GS now retails for $97 at Wal-Mart stores, representing a substantial price reduction in the weeks before the rumored unveiling of the next-generation iPhone at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference. The deal does not extend to the 32GB version of the iPhone 3GS, which still retails for $297. The next iPhone is expected to include a higher-resolution screen and larger battery. Apple CEO Steve Jobs plans to give the June 7 keynote address at WWDC, an indicator to many that a big product announcement is in the works.

Apple's 16GB iPhone 3GS now retails for $97 at Wal-Mart stores with a two-year contract, a massive price reduction in the weeks before a next-generation iPhone is expected to make its official debut at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference. The deal, which does not extend to the 32GB version of the popular smartphone, is available only in stores and not online.

The question is whether this current deal is one of Wal-Mart's regular price cuts, or if it somehow reflects on the rumored unveiling of an iPhone 4G.

"Probably a combination of both," NPD Group analyst Stephen Baker told eWEEK in a May 25 e-mail. "Wal-Mart loves to advertise new low-price-type deals, regardless of where in the life cycle the product is. They are more likely than most to jump on an opportunity to reduce the price on the 3GS even with the fact that most people know something new is likely available soon. Their customer, and their general philosophy, is focused on looking for that type of deal."

Apple CEO Steve Jobs will give the June 7 keynote address at WWDC, leading to speculation that he will use the platform to introduce the next iPhone. WWDC, which runs June 7 to 11 at San Francisco's Moscone West, provides technical sessions and labs for developers seeking to create programs for the iPhone, iPad and Mac platforms.

Jobs traditionally hosts his company's more high-profile unveilings, most recently the bestselling iPad. Although Apple has not officially confirmed that a new iPhone is on the way, two prototype devices reportedly belonging to Apple have appeared in the wild over the past few months, one of which was dissected by tech blog Gizmodo in April. In addition, the past few summers have seen regular iPhone hardware refreshes.

Apple already unveiled the iPhone OS 4, the latest version of its smartphone operating system, during an April 8 presentation at its Cupertino, Calif., headquarters. Besides multitasking, a feature previously missing from the iPhone, the new platform includes iAd, which allows the delivery of mobile advertisements within applications.

According to a May 17 report in Digitimes, Apple could ship as many as 24 million next-generation iPhones in 2010. "Foxconn will ship 4.5 million units in the first half and 19.5 million units for the rest of 2010," the Digitimes report said, citing unnamed sources within Apple's component manufacturers. The new devices will supposedly have larger batteries and FFS technology for clearer screen visibility in sunlight and a wider viewing angle.