With iPhone 5 on the way, iPhone 4 & 4S deals spring up

Best Buy slashes iPhone 4 price to $50, Apple matching many offers

With Apple's iPhone 5 likely on the way next month, Apple and its partners can't get rid of iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S models fast enough.

The latest bargain: Best Buy is offering an 8GB iPhone 4 for $50 with a new two-year carrier contract activation from AT&T, Sprint or Verizon. Best Buy offers a no-contract version for $600, or a no-contract Virgin Mobile edition for $550.

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Apple, which reported a 28% increase in iPhone sales (26 million units) in Q3 from the year before, offers the 8GB iPhone 4 for $99 with a carrier plan, or $550 unlocked. Though reports have surfaced that Apple Store employees have been authorized by the company to match deals such as that from Best Buy. Apple is also in the midst of its annual back-to-school sales, which include $100 gift cards for Mac buyers and $50 gift cards for iPad buyers who qualify as college students or parents buying for students or faculty/staff.

(Or if you want to get really retro, an iPhone 4 32GB prototype has surfaced on eBay, though be warned that the bidding had risen to $4,500 as of midday on Aug. 22.)

As for the newer iPhone 4S, prices have also been plummeting. Among the deals: Sprint whacked $50 off its price, to make the 16GB 4S available for $150 with a service contract. What's more Sprint is offering a $100 AmEx gift card through Aug. 26. Walmart has also slashed the price of the 16GB 4S from $188 to $148, with service contract.

There should also be an overflow of used iPhone 4 and 4S devices on the market soon, as retailers have begun offering trade-in deals for existing owners, who can salvage as much as $500 for a 4S return

Apple is widely expected to introduce the iPhone 5, or whatever its next-generation iPhone is called, on Sept. 12, and the latest rumors point to Apple releasing it on Sept. 21. Much has been made this week of reports that Verizon is ordering workers not to take vacation Sept. 21-30 so that they can deal with expected customer demand.

So while it might seem like a good time to take advantage of the iPhone 4 and 4S sales now, it might make even more sense to wait a few weeks and see if Apple and its partners lower the prices any more once the next iPhone is out. Then again, it's hard to image the prices coming down that much more anytime soon.

Bob Brown tracks network research in his Alpha Doggs blog and Facebook page, as well on Twitter and Google +.

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