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Saturday, September 20, 2008, 12:00 pm PT (03:00 pm ET)

Evidence points toward iPhone 3G home activation

Multiple sources inside Apple Retail have reported evidence pointing toward a contract free, home activation option for future iPhone 3G sales.

Home activation

Update: new information has corrected this report.

When the iPhone 3G debuted, Apple's original and pioneering home activation process, handled by the user themselves using iTunes on their home computer, was put on hold. The primary reason appeared to be the new phone's much lower price, which required tying the new purchase to an in-store contract activation.

However, the in-store contract process not only takes time, but also doesn't work for foreign buyers who want to purchase an iPhone in the US for use overseas. Apple executives have hinted earlier at the possibility for selling the iPhone 3G without a contract in the US; it's already sold unlocked at full price in other countries that demand this option by law.

Supporting this is the fact that Apple Store retail employees have reported a new option appearing on their EasyPay systems when making an iPhone 3G sale: Home. Previously, the only options presented were:

1. Upgrade/Swap existing Phone
2.  New to AT&T starting a single line
3.  New to AT&T starting a family line
4.  Add a line to existing account

The new fifth option for home activation isn't yet working; clicking it will reportedly result in an EasyPay crash.

Product lineup refresh

The introduction of home activation and a new unlocked unit price may come with a product refresh. Last year, Apple dropped the 4GB entry level iPhone model in September and then added a new 16GB model in February 2008.

Retail sources are now reporting inventory shortages of the entry level 8GB iPhone 3G, which might signal its cancelation and even the possible introduction of a 32GB model to match the iPod touch. Readers should also be aware of other possibilities, however, including a shift of resources to serve Best Buy as well as unexpected shifts in demand.