Okay, What’s The Fastest Way to Get Your Hands on an iPhone 3G S? (Which is Not Necessarily the Same Thing as the Smartest Way.)

By  |  Friday, June 12, 2009 at 12:32 pm

iPhone 3GsI’m not saying it’s a good idea to try and buy an iPhone 3G S on next Friday, the day the phone is released. For one thing, the single best thing about the phone is likely to be iPhone OS 3.0, which every iPhone owner will be able to snag as a free download two days before that. For another, many iPhone 3G owners will qualify for larger discounts on the 3G S if they wait a month or two before upgrading.

But what if you absolutely must have a 3G S on the day of launch–and not only on the day of launch, but as early as possible on that day? (Hey, maybe you’re a tech journalist who wants to write about it while it’s still hot, hot, hot.) You’ve got multiple options, and they all have theoretical virtues and potential pitfalls?

Preordering from Apple for shipment. Apple says that iPhone 3G Ss will arrive on June 19th, the day of the phone’s release. It doesn’t say when on that day to expect them, though. And given that shipping is free, I’m thinking that they’re going out by some method that’s cheaper than priority overnight and therefore they may show up in the afternoon.

Preordering from Apple for in-store pickup. I did this at my local Apple Store, and it was kinda confusing–I used a Web-based signup form, and it never asked me for my name or gave me confirmation that I was all set. And it mysteriously talked about me buying a last-generation iPhone 3G even after I specified that I wanted a 32GB white iPhone 3G S. Given that I have no proof that I preordered, I have these visions of showing up and being turned away. In any event, the Apple Store rep I talked to told me that the store would open at 8am, and that both those who preordered and those who didn’t must wait in the same line. That likely means that it’ll make sense to show up really early. 5am, perhaps? No, 4am sounds safer.

Preordering from AT&T for shipment. The AT&T site seems to be dedicated to the notion that every piece of information must be phrases in a way that’s slightly too vague to be useful. Here’s what it says about shipping schedules:

Pre-orders for iPhone 3G S will be shipped with overnight priority and will be processed to arrive as early as June 19, 2009, if submitted by 12 p.m. noon C.T., June 17, 2009.

You might assume that “shipped with overnight priority” means that the phones will be shipped via priority overnight, and will arrive in the morning. But I’m guessing that AT&T really means that it’ll give priority to getting these phones out for arrival the next day. In any event, it’s very clear that it makes no guarantee that they’ll arrive by June 19th. I’m not sure whether that’s because it’s less confident about supplying demand than Apple is, or whether it’s simply covering itself by promising nothing.

Preordering from AT&T at a local store. AT&T stores are opening at 7am on the 19th–an hour before Apple Stores–and only for folks who preordered. Which makes preordering for local pickup from an AT&T outlet sound like the most efficient wayt to get a 3G S early. But when I tried to order one at my local AT&T shop, the rep told me that I might not get my phone until the 20th.

Thinking all this over makes my brain hurt. But here are some apparent facts:

  • AT&T isn’t promising anyone an iPhone 3G S on the 19th.
  • Apple does seem to be promising phones to those who preorder, and chances are high that you can walk out of an Apple Store that morning with one if you’re willing to wait in a potentially long line. Especially if you preorder, but probably even if you don’t. (With both the first-generation iPhone and the iPhone 3G, I had a phone in my hands within 45 minutes or so of the store’s opening on day one of the launch.)
  • I think it’s possible that the lines for this iPhone will be less insaaaaaane than those for the first two models, but it’s hard to know. The conservative move would still be to show up before dawn.
  • Preordering from Apple for shipment sounds like a reasonably safe way to get a phone on the 19th, but it might not show up until the afternoon.

Given all that, if I were trying to be among the very first people to buy an iPhone 3G S, I’d preorder from an Apple Store and wake up at the crack of dawn on Friday. I’m not saying I’m going to do this. But if I do, you’ll be the first to know…


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4 Comments For This Post

  1. Shawn Roberts Says:


    If I canceled my att online order and placed one with Apple today, do you think I would actually be losing ground because I would be behind all the people who already ordered from Apple?



  2. Dave Zatz Says:

    There’s no reason to wait for OS 3.0, Harry. Get it installed already. 🙂

    I’d probably go to a random AT&T or Apple Store when they opern. Doubt there’s going to be a crush this time.

  3. Backlin Says:

    You forgot the method I would to use, punch someone in the face and when they let go of their iPhone in reaction, snatch it and run away! Aim for the eyes!

    Anyway, if I get the iPhone 3G S (and that’s a big if), I have the luxury of not being a tech blog writer and not being a previous iPhone purchaser. I would definitely wait for all of the crowds and hype to go away and calmly walk into an AT&T store to purchase one.

  4. John Ball Says:

    Thanks for the tips, Harry. If you’re going to the SF-Stockton store, I guess I’ll see you in line there Friday morning!

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  1. iLine Report #3: First in Line, First With an iPhone 3G S | Technologizer Says:

    […] weighing all my options, I decided that preordering from an Apple Store and picking up the phone in person was likely to be the safest strategy for getting a phone early. And it worked. They let the first […]