Apple (AAPL) is now offering the iPhone 3G without a contract for $599 at its retail stores. But don’t expect to wait in line behind a bunch of tourists (or exporters) to get your hands on one — the way you might have had to do while buying a first-generation iPhone.
An Apple retail store rep tells us that, like the 2-year-contract iPhone 3G, you’ll need a U.S. government-issued ID to get one. According to the Apple retail rep, foreign government IDs will not qualify.
The idea is that foreigners have to buy iPhones in their countries, locked to Apple’s local carrier partners, the way the no-contract iPhones here are still locked to AT&T (T). We have asked Apple’s media relations department to confirm, and will update if we hear back.
Meanwhile, Fortune‘s Philip Elmer-DeWitt suggests that Apple’s change in pricing policy means they could be clearing out inventory ahead of introducing a next-gen iPhone, which we think they’ll do in June.
That’s plausible. We think they’ll continue selling the iPhone 3G — or perhaps something almost identical — for $149 or $99 after new iPhones are announced. But we’re open to the idea that even its low-end model will have new hardware.
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