Apple's iPhone 5: A preorder buying guide

Courtesy Flickr user petrr
Courtesy Flickr user petrr

If you're interested in acquiring a new iPhone 5 directly from Apple on September 21, it looks like you're going to have to line up outside your local Apple Store next week. As of 8 a.m. Eastern Friday, Apple's online store was quoting a two-week ship time for preorders of the new iPhone. The iPhone maker typically provides a limited stock of devices during the preorder period that will ship on September 21, the official launch day for the iPhone 5. Apple's ship slip comes just hours after the company put the iPhone 5 up for sale online just after midnight Pacific time on Friday morning.

Notably, Apple and the carrier websites seemed to handle the increased load during the midnight preordering frenzy fairly well, with fewer complaints online than we’ve seen in years past.

The good news, however, is that Apple's online retail front isn't the only place to grab an iPhone 5 in time for launch day. Here's a quick rundown of where you can still get an iPhone 5 without dealing with long lines at the Apple Store.

Walmart

Walmart will start taking in-store preorders for the new iPhone starting at 8 a.m. local time Friday at store locations across the U.S. You'll even save yourself $10 since Walmart will sell the iPhone 5 for $190 and you'll get a $5 credit for Walmart's online movie streaming service, Vudu.

The downside is that Walmart's preorder process is a little convoluted and will still require you to line-up for your device on September 21. First, you have to get a reservation card in the wireless/connection center at your local Walmart. Then you pay a $25 deposit that gets credited towards your iPhone 5 purchase. Next Friday you bring your reservation card and receipt back to the same store, fork over the rest of your $200 minus the $25 deposit, and then you'll get your brand new iPhone 5 and the Vudu credit.

Carriers

You can also try your luck with your preferred iPhone carrier, whether it's AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon. As of 8 a.m. ET, all three carriers were advertising September 21 ship dates for iPhone 5 preorders. But that could change at any time.

Current Verizon customers holding on to their old unlimited data plans and hoping to upgrade to an

iPhone 5 should also consider paying full price for the handset. If you don't pay full price for your

next handset, you will lose your current data plan and be moved to one of Verizon's new multi-device shared, tiered data offerings. This will be the case even if your current two-year contract is up.

The only way to avoid losing your unlimited plan with Verizon is to pay full price for the new iPhone 5, or any new smartphone for that matter. Verizon customers who currently have an unlimited plan and plan to upgrade to a new device will have to switch to the company’s Share Everything or tiered data plans unless they pay the full, unsubsidized price for their next phone, Verizon told PCWorld in May.

Verizon is selling the new iPhone 5 for $650 (16GB), $750 (32GB), and $850 (64GB). The carrier sells the iPhone 4S at the same pricing as the iPhone 5 so you won't find any deals there, but you can pick up the 8GB iPhone 4 for $550.

AT&T says current customers upgrading to new smartphones will not be required to adopt the new shared data plans. That means you can keep your current plan. However, AT&T says if you want to use your iPhone's FaceTime video service over its cellular data network you will be required to have a shared data plan.

Sprint doesn't offer tiered data plans and is the only one of the three major carriers offering the iPhone still selling unlimited data plans.

Crickets Chirping

If you do end up buying your iPhone 5 from Apple that means you will be waiting until around September 28 to get your new phone. Keep in mind that Cricket Wireless will start offering Apple's latest smartphone on that very same day, contract-free in select areas across the U.S. The trade off with Cricket, however, is that you will pay full or nearly full price for your new iPhone.

The newly announced iPhone 5 could be off to a good start in meeting bullish analyst expectations of selling as many as 10 million units by the end of September. Apple didn't let its iPhone 4S preorder ship times slip until almost 24 hours after the device was available for sale, according to MacRumors, suggesting the iPhone 5 preorders could be selling at a faster rate than its predecessor. Apple sold one million iPhone 4S preorders in the first 24 hours the device was available.

Apple's iPhone 5 features a 4-inch display with 1136-by-640 resolution at 326 pixels per inch, an A6 processor that Apple claims is two-times faster than the iPhone 4S' A5 chip, an 8 megapixel camera with 1080p video capture at 30 frames per second, 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, and LTE mobile broadband connectivity.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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