The iPhone 5s release date is set for Friday September 20th when the new iPhone 5s will go on sale at 8 AM local time at many retailers, but if you want to snag an iPhone 5s without waiting for the next shipment you’ll likely need to show up much earlier than that.
The biggest question we are hearing from readers, Twitter and first time iPhone buyers is, “What time should I get in line for the iPhone 5s?” or “How early do I need to get in line for the iPhone 5s?”
If you want to avoid waiting in line altogether you can order the iPhone 5s starting tonight at Apple, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. The online iPhone 5s orders start at Midnight Pacific, 3 AM Eastern for users who can’t take off work or school to stand in a line, but don’t expect delivery until next week.
After spending a lot of time waiting in Apple lines for the last several years we are hear to help you figure out when to line up for the iPhone 5s. How early you need to go line up depends on where you live and what type of store you are going to.
Keep in mind, the closer you are to the front, the more likely it is that you will get the iPhone 5s in the color, size and carrier of your choice. The smaller size iPhone 5s capacities typically sell out the fastest.
Waiting in Line at an Apple Store
If you plan to wait in line for the iPhone 5s at an Apple Store you’ll need to get there earlier than if you plan to go to a carrier store. Many Apple Store locations are already filling up with lines in cities large and small.
Line already growing at Apple store Fifth Avenue pic.twitter.com/H78vxeJIci
— Alan Aurmont (@aurmont) September 19, 2013
— ant (@anthonyy_816) September 19, 2013
1st in line @ the leewood apple store. I am crazy. #iphoneevent
— Harold (@haroldvilander) September 19, 2013
— NBC Bay Area (@nbcbayarea) September 19, 2013
Just because there is a line doesn’t mean you need to line up just yet, but it is a sign that you will need to go earlier than you may want.
The best bet for a time to line up for the iPhone 5s is between 8 and 4 hours before the store opens if it is a flagship location with people already lined up. Users may be able to get in line at an Apple Store around 5 or 6 AM and still get an iPhone 5s, but you’ll need to cruise past and take a look at the line and make the decision for yourself.
If you can avoid flagship Apple Stores, expect a better chance and the ability to line up later, but 5 AM local time still feels like the best time to line up for an iPhone 5s at an Apple Store. Look for an Apple Store that is outside as more people will choose to line up at a location inside a mall, if the mall is letting people sit inside.
Waiting in Line at a Carrier Store
If you don’t live near an Apple Store you can get in line at a carrier location to get an iPhone 5s on release day, but there are several very important things to keep in mind.
Make sure you are lining up at a corporate store or at a third-party reseller that has some in stock. Some third-party Verizon sellers may not have any iPhone 5s units for sale on Friday September 20th, and can only order them online for you. If that’s the case, you don’t want to wait overnight.
These carrier locations will open up at 8 AM local time, just like an Apple Store. We stood in line for about two and a half hours for the iPhone 5 at 10 people from the front. Again, cruise by and see if there is a line, or stop in before the store closes today and ask how lines were last year.
The safest bet to wait in line for an iPhone 5s at Verizon, AT&T, Sprint or T-Mobile is to arrive at least an hour and a half before the store opens, but even if you get there by an hour before you have a decent chance. You shouldn’t need to camp out overnight, but if you are worried and very committed to getting an iPhone 5s on Friday, go by 5 AM.
If you are lucky the iPhone 5s stock will hold out and users will be able to walk into a store even after the initial rush and find one, but with analysts suggesting Apple’s supply of iPhone 5s units is low, this is not very likely.