Thinking about purchasing an iPhone? Here's a list of the places you can go--online or in person--to make your purchase.
Apple Store: You can start your purchase online, but you'll need to finish it at a retail store. The online store will walk you through the beginning of the purchase process. It asks you a series of questions to set up your account with AT&T--which is a requirement for using an iPhone. (If you're already an AT&T customer looking to upgrade to an iPhone or add an additional line to your account, you can do that here, too.)
After entering your basic information, you'll select a rate plan for your phone. An iPhone data plan is $30 per month for unlimited data; that's the only option available. You do get a choice of text messaging plans, though: For 200 messages, you pay $5 per month. For a detailed explanation of the iPhone's monthly plans, see AT&T's Service Plans for the iPhone 3G.
After reviewing the plan you've chosen, Apple's site presents you with a list of nearby retail stores where you can go in and pick up your phone. If you'd like, you can set up an appointment to pick up your phone at a certain retail store, or you can opt not to be restricted to a certain store and time.
Apple stores offer three iPhone 3G models: A $199 8GB black model, or a $299 16GB model in black or white (when signing a two-year service contract with AT&T). Note that the site does not ask you which model you'd like to purchase. You can select a phone when you get to the store, but the site does warn you that your preferred model and color may not be in stock.
AT&T: Unlike the Apple store, AT&T lets you complete your entire iPhone 3G purchase online. You are limited to purchasing one iPhone online per household, though. At AT&T's site, you can select which iPhone you'd like: the $199 8GB black model, or the $299 16GB model in black or white. (You may also find some refurbished iPhones available at a discount.) You also can select your voice and text messaging plans, plus you'll need to sign up for the required $30-per-month unlimited data plan.
AT&T offers free two-day shipping on iPhone 3G orders; once you've received the phone, you'll need to connect it to a computer that has iTunes installed in order to activate it.
Best Buy: Best Buy does not offer the iPhone 3G online; the phone is available only in Best Buy retail stores that include a Mobile department. You can find a list of Best Buy stores that sell mobile phones at BestBuy.com. The entire purchase process will be handled in the store. Like AT&T, Best Buy offers the $199 8GB black model, or the $299 16GB model in black or white, plus an assortment of refurbished iPhones at a discount. All of these prices require a two-year AT&T service contract.
Walmart: Walmart also sells the iPhone 3G, but don't expect the discount retailer to offer a discount price: Walmart's iPhones are only $2 cheaper than other retailers charge for the same models. That means you'll pay $297 for the 16GB model (white or black) or $197 for the 8GB version (black only). Walmart does not sell the iPhone online; you can only purchase it in stores.
These four retailers are the only authorized sellers of new and refurbished iPhones. They all require that you sign a two-year service contract with AT&T to get these subsidized prices on the phone. You will find a slew of retailers claiming to see unlocked iPhones--those not tied to AT&T--online, but you should be very careful before purchasing such a phone. You'll need to do a bit of work to the phone to get it to make calls and access the Internet, plus the phones can be expensive ($600 or more), and you may be left with little recourse if it doesn't work.