After Wednesday’s new iPhone announcement I should have thought of posting this before today. If you want an iPhone delivered to your door as soon as possible the pre-order process can be an adventure since millions of other people are trying to do the exact same thing at the exact same time. Besides online stores being down, slow, or showing incorrect information (think DDoS), there is one other factor that can drastically affect when you actually get your phone.
tl;dr – Do not pre-order from a carrier web site. If you did, cancel and use another method.
There are several ways you can get the new iPhone as soon as they are availble: pre-order from Apple.com, pre-order from a carrier’s web site, schedule in-store pick-up through Apple the moment they make it available, or plan to be the first in line at a retail store (Apple, box store, carrier, etc.). Some are easier or more convenient than others based on your situation.
If you can do a pre-order on Apple.com the very first moment the web site lets you, this is the safest and easiest way to go, if you can endure maybe an hour or more of difficulties ordering. You can try ordering through Apple.com or through their Apple Store iOS app. The app can sometimes work better if the web site is not. If you get your order in right away you should get an iPhone at your door on the first day if not a day earlier.
Another good option is to wait for Apple’s web site to allow in-store pick-up orders if you happen to live near an Apple store. Or you can keep calling box and carrier stores to find out when they expect the shipment, then go wait in line at one of these stores or an Apple store before the doors open.
Carriers also allow for pre-ordering on their web site at the same time as Apple. That sounds really handy and maybe you can try their site if Apple.com is not responding, but do not expect your new iPhone to actually be delivered anywhere near what they say the shipping date will be. Even though it sounds and looks the same, it is not even close to the same type of order as pre-ordering direct from Apple, and that is where our story begins.
Let me start by giving you the two open letters sent to Tim Cook during this process.
Sept 16, 2014, over 4 days after pre-ordering started, with first shipments arriving Friday, Sept 19:
I am disappointed in the iPhone 6 pre-order process. I was ready to get in at the front of the line to pre-order two new iPhone 6 Pluses but sat staring at a blank store screen for 20-30m before my wife started poking at the AT&T order page. While she wrestled with their pages I heard the Apple Store app was working for some so I gave that a try. About an hour after first starting this process I was finally able to complete an order with the app. Along with the other erroneous errors received throughout the process I assumed the Oct 1 delivery date was also an error since I was obviously one of the few to finally place an order and you said they would be available Sept 19. Shortly after, my wife finished ordering the second phone through AT&T. The follow-up email says it will ship sometime in November. After spending a lot of time attempting to order these iPhones at the front of the line I am resigning myself to the fact that I actually won’t receive them for at least two more weeks. No one from Apple or AT&T can tell me what went wrong or when I’ll receive anything. Not as grand as you described it. Yet I hold a glimmer of hope they will in fact show up on Friday.
October 13, 2014:
Here I am a month later and still waiting for the AT&T pre-order. Apparently I was the chump in ordering through their site when Apple.com was offline for over 2 hours. No one can tell me anything other than AT&T online orders are last in the queue. Lots of people who ordered the same model direct from Apple well after me have already received it. This process is severely broken. “Pre-order” I guess doesn’t really apply to carriers and so now I’m the idiot for going that route. I can’t even cancel my order since the upgrade is tied to the line and takes time to fall off. No one can expedite that apparently. I have spent hours on the phone with both AT&T and Apple and no one will help. I’m just stuck waiting. I’m guessing I won’t get it until after China’s pre-order shipments arrive on the 17th. So disappointing.
It turns out you can indeed cancel a carrier order on your line and they can release it. You may just need to speak with someone else to work through it. If we had known this earlier in the process we probably would have canceled and gone to the local store.
The iPhone we ordered through the Apple Store app did arrive before the end of September which was not bad, though still not the 19th which was promised and we could not have ordered it any sooner. I’ll chalk that up to high demand, though others agree Apple was unprepared for the record-setting demand for this model.
The problem is assuming a pre-order through the carrier worked the same way. The iPhone ordered through the carrier finally arrived on Oct 23, a week after pre-orders in China arrived for those customers. This is completely backwards.
One other factor that affected our carrier pre-order was that something glitched with our order (probably due to overloaded order systems at that first ordering opportunity) that labeled our order time as 5 hours later than when we placed it, putting us even further back in the queue.
The issue is how iPhone orders are fulfilled. Carrier pre-orders are the very last in the chain. Apple is first, then box and carrier stores, then carrier pre-orders if any are left. Carrier stores get “regular” shipments so there are always new iPhones flowing into the stores, even if only a handful. Your carrier pre-order will be further delayed depending on this store demand. Our carrier pre-order arrived over a month late. Even people who ordered on Apple.com days after us got their shipment before we did.
So, since I’m late in sharing this information, if you pre-ordered from a carrier’s web site, I would cancel the order and either pre-order from Apple.com if the shipping time isn’t too long or schedule a pick-up order at an Apple store, or plan to arrive at a box store or carrier store the moment they expect to have a shipment to get one in person. In smaller markets the store option should be quite successful.
While this affected me two launches ago, I suspect not much has changed with carrier pre-orders and this will probably be useful for as long as the iPhone continues to be extremely popular.