The hunt for the iPhone 5S is about to begin.
Apple's new iPhone officially goes on sale Friday morning, along with its less expensive sister phone, the 5C. But it could be tough to get your hands on a shiny new 5S on launch day, especially the particular model you might want, according to several reports.
Not even a handful of obsessive technology watchers I surveyed could agree on a strategy for finding the phones.
Typically the best way to avoid lines and scavenger hunts for new iPhones on launch day is to simply pre-order them. That option is not available for the 5S, though it is for the 5C. That means you'll just have to go to a store for a first-day phone.
Good luck with that. Carrier sources tell AllThingsD that 5S inventory on launch day will be “grotesquely” low, while retailers scramble to figure out which colors -- gray, white or gold -- will be most popular in different locations. BGR reports that supply for the iPhone 5S is “severely constrained.”
According to 9to5Mac, Apple expects the "Space Grey" model to be the most popular, which means the white/silver and white/gold models might be harder to find. In fact, carriers and U.S. retailers will have “almost no gold or white” iPhone 5S models in stock on the first day. As for phones with different capacity, the site is reporting that the 16 GB and 32 GB configurations could be easier to acquire than the 64 GB models.
So, where is the best place to get one of these apparently rare devices on the ultra-hyped launch day?
I asked a bunch of members of the tech press to try to figure that out. The consensus? There is no consensus.
“My not-so-secret iPhone secret spot is RadioShack,” said Charlie Warzel, deputy editor at BuzzFeed FWD. “I mean, who even goes to RadioShack anymore, right? Unless you need like a headphone splitter or batteries or something. On iPhone 5 launch day I just sauntered in there around 10 a.m., and there were plenty of them just sitting there behind the counter.”
“Usually the scragglier the RadioShack, the more phones,” he added. “Like, if it looks like your RadioShack has been out of business for three-and-a-half years, then you'll have no problem.”
HuffPost Tech executive editor Bianca Bosker suggests Best Buy could be the way to go, since the crowds usually aren’t too large at the big-box store.
“I find the more unpleasant the shopping experience at the store, the more likely you are to be able to find stuff in stock,” she said. “When the iPad 2 launched, I had success snagging one of the last few units remaining in Manhattan at a Best Buy.”
Engadget’s Jon Fingas said that if you absolutely must find an iPhone 5S in a particular color or with a specific capacity, the Apple Store is the best bet.
“As you'd imagine, Apple typically has the widest selection and largest inventories on an iPhone launch day. It may be worth braving the lines,” he said. “If you're not fussy, however, try queuing up at a carrier store instead. They tend to have low supplies at iPhone launches, but there's usually a shorter wait at the same time.”
Steve Sande, features and hardware review editor at TUAW.com, said that ordering online from Apple once the clock edges over to 12:01 AM Pacific Time is the smartest method, but that’s only if you’re willing to wait a few days for shipping. If not, head to an Apple Store, because it will have the best selection and inventory.
“I really do think the best way of ensuring that you're going to get exactly the model and color you want is to just order online and wait a bit,” he said. “Yes, that's strange coming from a guy who always has to have the latest and greatest in Apple tech, but I'm really getting tired of standing in lines. Patience is a virtue, isn't it?”
Leslie Horn at Gizmodo said that stores are “generally prepared to be pummeled with massive demand,” so launch-day scramblers should be okay at their local Apple Store or their carrier’s store, though it’s best to simply wait out the storm.
“I’ve always had luck with just going to AT&T on the early side and getting set up that way,” she said. “But if you can wait, give it a week or two until things die down, and you’ll save yourself waiting and dealing with annoyed salespeople and other crazed buyers losing it in line next to you.”
Business Insider senior editor Steve Kovach had a dream-crushing answer for those who want their iPhone 5S on day one: No matter where you go, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to get the device you want -- or any iPhone 5S at all.
“You might have luck at smaller shops like carrier stores and RadioShack, but their supply will be very limited. Apple Stores will have the most supply, most likely,” though the lines will probably be longer, he said. The lower-end iPhone 5C shouldn’t be too difficult to find though, he added.
“If you want a 5S, just pray,” he said.
Happy hunting everyone!