Customers looking to buy an iPhone 4S are going to have to plan a little further ahead, thanks to Apple's new reservation-only policy.
Over the weekend, customers could simply walk into an Apple store and pick up the 4S. But now, possibly because of high demand for the new handset--4 million were sold in three days--Apple requires a day's notice for 4S purchases in the U.S. and Canada.
iPhone 4S is available in store by reservation only. Reserve yours after 9:00 p.m. tonight for pickup tomorrow. When you come in, you’ll choose a carrier and plan, and we’ll get your iPhone up and running before you leave the store.
An Apple retail representative who spoke to MacRumors said that their own Apple store still has the 4S in stock and will continue to sell units to walk-in customers until supplies run out. MacRumors reported that this was likely true for any store with remaining iPhone 4S handsets, but that Apple is probably trying to preemptively shift the bulk of sales toward reservations, as in-store supplies are "evaporating."
Besides the U.S. and Canada, the 4S is also currently available in the U.K., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, and Japan. The phone will reportedly not be available in China until the end of the year, but according to a report in PC World, "gray market" iPhone 4S's are already being sold there for as much as $2,000.
The proliferation of gray market iPhones in China, many of which are imported from Australia or Japan, may be one reason Apple is limiting the sale of contract-free handsets overseas. The U.K. Apple store's "how to buy" page says that while both unlocked and on-contract phones are available via online reservation, only on-contract phones are available for walk-in customers. According to Macstories, this is probably due to the "long lines of grey market buyers that characterized the iPhone 4 launch last year."
While Apple has stated that a contract-free 4S would be available in November, 9to5Mac reports that some U.S. Apple stores are already selling the unlocked phones. A contract-free iPhone 4S will run you $649, $749, or $849 depending on how many gigabyte's you want.