updated 12:39 am EDT, Thu September 12, 2013
No preorders available for flagship iPhone 5s, hints at supply shortage
The first- and third-largest carriers in the US have confirmed that they will begin accepting preorders on the iPhone 5c, the more colorful and less expensive of the two new iPhone models Apple introduced on Tuesday, beginning at 12:01AM Pacific Time (3:01AM Eastern) on Friday, September 13. Verizon and Sprint have formally confirmed the times, while Apple, AT&T and fourth-place T-Mobile USA are expected to follow suit. The new iPhones are functionally similar to the iPhone 5, but cost $100 less at full price and start on contract at $99.
The timing is similar to the way preorders were handled last year at the launch of the iPhone 5, and are designed to maximize sales during the phone's opening weekend. As hinted by Apple during its presentation, no carrier has thus far announced preorders for the premium iPhone 5s, suggesting the flagship phone will be in short supply when it debuts at retail alongside the iPhone 5c on September 20.
The iPhone 5c has disappointed analysts for not costing even less, but in fact its pricing is exactly in line with what Apple would have charged for the iPhone 5 had it retained that model. As per the company's practice, the year-old model drops to a $99 contract spot, with the two-year-old model taking the "free with contract" position, with a corresponding drop of $100 per tier in its full, unlocked price.
Apple surprised some industry watchers by retaining the iPhone 4S, which retains the 30-pin connector from the previous generations of iPhone, but in hindsight retaining the iPhone 5 would have cannibalized sales of the iPhone 5s, which is functionally the same device. The iPhone 4S, as the entry-level model, is both physically and technologically behind the iPhone 5-class devices, while the iPhone 5s is obviously well ahead of the iPhone 5c. The three devices together represent a clear "good-better-best" choice even to consumers who may not be fully aware of all the specific differences.
Pricing for the iPhone 5c at full price will begin at $599 for the 16GB model, $699 for the 32GB version and $799 for 64GB. The iPhone 4S will sell for $450 unlocked, and may represent the best value for frequent travellers, since it will include many (but not all) of the software features of the iPhone 5 -- albeit with an older processor and graphics system -- and is compatible with iOS 7, which debuts on September 18 . The flagship iPhone 5s will sell for $699 (16GB), $799 (32GB) and $899 (64GB) respectively, though buyers of the iPhone 5c may be tempted to jump up to the considerably more advanced iPhone 5S for $100 more.
Customers can check their eligibility for preordering through Apple's website, regardless of their carrier.