You won't believe how few people buy iPhones from Apple

iPhone 14 Pro in an Apple Store
(Image credit: Apple)

You might be surprised how few people actually buy their brand new iPhones from the Apple Store, despite how busy those retail outlets can actually get.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that anyone looking to pick up Apple's best iPhones would make a beeline for their local glowing Apple logo. But new research suggests that isn't the case at all. In fact, the biggest sellers of iPhones are companies many of us don't actually like all that much.

That's right. Most people buy their iPhones from their cellular carriers, not Apple.

From who now?

New research by CIRP (Consumer Intelligence Retail Partners) reported by 9to5Mac shows that a whopping 67% of the iPhones sold are actually bought through U.S. carriers like Verizon and AT&T. By contrast, anyone buying an iPhone 14 is only likely to do so from Apple 25% of the time.

The research shows that if people don't buy their iPhones from Apple or a carrier, they most likely turn to Best Buy which has 4% of the sales. Another 4% is made up by everyone else.

It's a different story in the Mac and iPad worlds, although perhaps not quite to the extent some might anticipate. 29% of iPads come from Apple while 39% of Macs are bought direct from the manufacturer. After that, Best Buy, Amazon, and other retailers pick up the slack.

All of this is particularly interesting given Apple's love-hate relationship with carriers. Apple famously doesn't allow carriers to install their bloatware on iPhones, whereas Android phones are often full of it, for example. But it's clear that Apple does in fact need carriers, no matter how much it might not want to admit it. Customers' affinity for carriers is also likely driven by the fact that the best iPhone 14 deals are all carrier-based, given Apple almost never offers discounts on its iPhones. 

However, Apple Stores are often about more than sales. They give customers the chance to try devices before they buy them — even if that happens to be elsewhere in the end.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.