With a multi-country international roll-out of the flagship iPhone 4S starting just after midnight Pacific Time, you’re probably wondering if you should pre-order the device, wait til launch date, or where to get the device from, whether it’s your carrier (AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon), and we’ve got you covered with the best place(s) to get your iPhone.
Take a read at our article comparing Sprint’s, AT&T’s, and Verizon’s iPhone 4S.
First, you definitely should pre-order the iPhone 4S if you know you want the device. If you’re new to iPhone fray or have an iPhone 3GS or older and want to get in on a newer device, you already know what the iPhone 4S feels like–heck the iPhone 4 has been on the market for over a year already, and you’ve pretty much have had 16 months to think about this upgrade, which this time around comes with improved specs including a faster dual-core processor, improved 8-megapixel camera, 1080p HD video recording, and also increased storage if you’re the type that hoards your digital content including apps. Now is the time to make the move.
1. Inventory Moves Quick, Go to Apple for Best Chances
As I’ve mentioned, multi-country roll-outs, high demand, and the Apple marketing hype will make the iPhone 4S sell out faster than you’d imagine. The best place for the most inventory will be your Apple website or Apple retail store. Apple usually sends out more limited inventory to retail partners, like carrier stores and big box retailers including Best Buy, Radio Shack, and Target to name a few. What that means is that if you hope to score an iPhone, Apple’s probably going to be your best bet, though lines will be long on launch day so plan ahead and if you already know what you want, pre-ordering is the best thing.
If you do pre-order either from Apple, act fast. When the iPhone 4 launched last summer, both AT&T and Apple had sold out of their pre-order inventory within hours despite initial website woes.
You can probably expect Apple’s site to be down intermittently during the pre-order phase as there will be an overload of traffic. Be prepared to keep hitting refresh if that occurs this year.
2. Carrier Stores as a Second Option
Carrier stores will be a good place as well, as well as through websites for Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon. However, do keep in mind that carriers will have more limited inventory–Apple usually reserves the bulk of the inventory for their channels. That said, carriers will probably have their own method of fulfillment of orders, dealing with both walk-ins on launch date as well as pre-orders.
In the past, my experience with AT&T is that they will slowly ship out pre-orders while still trying to fulfill in-store purchases, which divides up the already limited inventory. I am not sure if that will change or has changed, and this may vary from store to store. Verizon and Sprint may have their own policies for dealing with high demand and more limited supplies.
In addition to carrier stores, Best Buy, Radio Shack, Target and other retail partners will also be offering the iPhone 4S as well. Again, pre-ordering would be the best way to go there if there is a system for that as the limited inventory will move quick on launch day if you didn’t reserve one in advance.
3. Waiting for Launch Day as an Option of Last Resort
This should be the option that’s your last resort. Crowds, limited inventory, and not being guaranteed an iPhone 4S of your choosing will make this sound like a lose-fest. There are 3 models of iPhone 4S to choose from–16, 32, and 64 GB–in two different color options–black and white–and there’s no way to ensure you’ll get the capacity or color you want on launch day if you didn’t pre-order. Add to that the time it takes to wait in line, which could exceed 8 hours–ouch!
Last year, I had a post office box as my billing address for AT&T, and as AT&T does not ship to PO boxes for iPhone 4 orders, I had pre-ordered and reserved a device so I was guaranteed a device on launch day at an Apple store. All in all, having to still deal with the lines in just the pre-order queue took over 6 hours. I would have much rather had Apple ship me the iPhone 4, but that was not an option given my shipping situation. Word of warning–don’t wait in line.
Taking the Next Steps
So now that you’re ready, what do you need to do to pre-order? Go to your carrier website or Apple.com and ensure that you qualify for an upgrade, new line, or new add-on. Make sure to have your social security information–credit checks are most often required for new lines and activations–and if you’re an existing customer, know your account information and log-in for your online account at whatever carrier you have. Ensure that your shipping address is not a PO box, as I found out the hard way last year, and hopefully the websites will be able to handle the influx of heavy traffic on launch day. Last year, on the summer launch date of the iPhone 4, AT&T’s and Apple’s websites crashed and could not handle the additional traffic. Have lots of patience and be prepared.
Your carrier will have its own return policy–check with them–and Apple does provide it’s own return policy for the iPhone 4S. There will be no penalty to return within the specified time frame.