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Friday, June 11, 2010, 12:40 pm PT (03:40 pm ET)

Radio Shack to accept pre-orders for iPhone 4 alongside Apple

In a rare vote of confidence, Apple has authorized third-party iPhone retailer Radio Shack to participate in its iPhone 4 pre-launch which kicks off early next week, AppleInsider has learned.

Radio Shack locations nationwide received a brief on the matter earlier this week, followed by a series of conference calls between Apple, regional Radio Shack managers, and individual store representatives, according to people familiar with the matter.

Those same people say store representatives will soon begin advocating the pre-order option to walk-in customers, who can then schedule an appointment for next Tuesday, June 15th, when they can return to the store and formally reserve one of the new handsets for pickup on June 24th, when device is scheduled to go on sale nationwide.

Several Radio Shack locations, including those which don't currently offer the iPhone, may even open shop a couple of hours early on Tuesday to field pre-order signups.

A spokesperson for the electronics retailer confirmed to AppleInsider that it had been authorized by Apple to participate in the pre-launch but said further details, such as per-store inventory allotments and the precise reservation process, were still being hammered out.

Radio Shack instantly became the second-largest third-party retailer of iPhones in the U.S. by storefronts when it began selling the iPhone 3GS in 3,000 of its 4,500 locations on March 28th. It joined AT&T, Best Buy and Wal-Mart as the only national retail chains authorized to market the device, of which only the latter operates more stores.

Radio Shack had been working towards that milestone since January, expanding sales of the Apple handset to hundreds of new stores each week, following a successful pilot program that began late last year in a handful of locations around Manhattan and its home base of Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas.

Radio Shack locations will also be touting their cell phone Trade-In Program as a means for customers to obtain a new iPhone for a fraction of the cost. Specifically, the program offers customers the option of turning in their old phone in return for a Radio Shack gift card that they could turn around and use towards the purchase of a new iPhone or other product.

For example, a previous-generation 16GB iPhone 3G that appraises "in fairly good condition" could net up to a $185 Radio Shack gift card, if it is tied to an expiring or expired two-year contract, bringing the cost of a new 16GB iPhone 4 down to just $14 before taxes and AT&T's standard $36 new phone activation fee. Similarly, a 16GB iPhone 3GS in good condition could pay up to $256.84 while the 32GB model could net customers as much $329.

In addition to Radio Shack, Best Buy, Wal-Mart and AT&T will also participate in Apple's iPhone 4 rollout on June 24th. For its part, however, Wal-Mart will not be participating in pre-launch reservations, the company said Friday. It remains unclear whether Best Buy and AT&T will offer the pre-order option to its own customers.