By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
July 13, 2009

The sticker price on Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone — once an formidable barrier to widespread adoption — is falling faster than Sarah Palin’s approval ratings.

  • When it first hit the market two years ago, the 8GB iPhone cost $599.
  • Two months later, to the dismay of early adopters, it dropped to $399.
  • Last July, an iPhone 3G with 8GB sold for $199.
  • In June, with the launch if the 3GS, Apple dropped that price to $99.
  • Now AT&T (T) will sell you a refurbished 3G for $79 — which is, as Edible Apple points out, 87% off the price of the original 8GB iPhone.

Of course, most cellphones eventually sell for $0.00, fated to become loss leaders for carriers that make their real money locking users into long-term contracts.

Indeed, the price cuts on the iPhone have helped shift the focus from the (heavily subsidized) sticker price to the real cost of ownership: the two-year AT&T contract that starts at $74 a month for unlimited data and 200 text messages.

At that rate, a $79 iPhone will cost you a minimum of $1,885, before taxes and surcharges.

Refurbished iPhones, according to AT&T, “are previously owned devices that have been unused or lightly used and returned during the 30-day trial period.” They come with a 90 day warranty.

If you’re still interested, check out AT&T’s offer here.

UPDATE: Reader CdnPhoto from Toronto points out that Canada’s Fido is offering a “refreshed” 8GB iPhone 3G for $49 Canadian (about $42 US). The catch: it comes with a 3-year contract. Here’s the link: http://fido.ca/web/page/portal/Fido/iphone.

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