Apple iPhone 5S: Where to Buy It Sept. 20 and Get the Best Deal

By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2013-09-19

Apple iPhone 5S: Where to Buy It Sept. 20 and Get the Best Deal

The Apple iPhone 5S will become available Friday, Sept. 20. It's the first time Apple hasn't accepted preorders for a flagship device (despite accepting them for the mid-tier iPhone 5C), and analysts say it's because the 5S will be in short supply.

Due to the iPhone 5S' Touch ID fingerprint reader, it's expected to be more "production-constrained" than previous models, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said in a research note, according to a Sept. 19 report from Mashable.  

"We believe that Apple will likely sell all of the 5Ses they will produce for launch weekend," wrote Munster.  He added that the firm believes Apple didn't take online preorders for the 5S "to avoid customers immediately seeing delivery times for 2-plus weeks out," and that by the weekend's end, he expects Apple to have sold between 6 million and 8 million units, besting the iPhone 5's first-weekend sales of 5 million. 

Despite Apple's no-preorder policy, some retail partners have been jotting down names. A call to the Target store in Trumbull, Conn., for example, revealed that the store has been accepting preorders since Monday, though the new iPhones haven't arrived, and it's unclear whether they'll actually arrive Sept. 20.

A store employee told me that those who preordered but don't pick up their phones within 48 hours of its arrival will forfeit the device to the next person on the list.

Where to Buy the iPhone 5S

Apple will sell the iPhone 5S in its retail stores starting at 8 a.m., and so will carrier partners AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless.

Select Best Buy, Radio Shack, Target, Walmart and Apple Authorized Resellers will also be selling the iPhones. But if you're hoping to have one in hand Sept. 20, your best bet is likely either an Apple store or a carrier retail location, rather than an authorized dealer location.

All the dedicated carrier stores—versus authorized dealers—that I called said they plan to open at 8 a.m., and none had received their phones, though they're expecting them. It seems the phones will arrive with the sunrise.

"I don't know what I'm getting. Call me in the morning," one authorized AT&T dealer in Brooklyn told me.

Likewise, when I called a RadioShack in Brooklyn, I was told, "We're getting it. We just don't know the exact date." The employee added that the store had received "no announcements" about delivery information.

The dedicated carrier locations, as well as the Apple stores I called, all said they would have all models and all colors in-store Friday morning. However, one Apple employee, after offering a not-very-specific, "We should," in response to whether the store would have all models, got serious and offered to double check. He put me on hold, and a minute later picked up again and told me, "We should."

When asked whether, based on history, the store, located on the West Side of Manhattan, tended to sell out on iPhone launch days by midday, or the next day—basically, whether one needed to hustle over in the morning, pre-showered—he answered, "We have no idea how many they're going to send us."

Apple iPhone 5S: Where to Buy It Sept. 20 and Get the Best Deal

AT&T customers who don't want to take chances, can get their orders in a little early. While AT&T retail stores will open at 8 a.m., the carrier will begin selling the iPhone 5S online, starting at 3:01 a.m. ET.

Still, it's unclear how quickly those buyers will receive their phones. When I asked an AT&T spokesperson whether a phone ordered at 3:30 a.m. Friday would arrive on Saturday, or just eventually, I was told that "online orders are fulfilled on a first-come, first-served basis."

The Best Deal for the iPhone 5S

If you're contract-free and ready to buy, the 16GB iPhone 5S will retail for $199 with a new two-year contract and the 32GB for $399 with a contract.

Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile now all offer monthly device financing, and it's expected that on the morning of Sept. 20, Sprint will get on board, as well.

Which carrier offers the best deal depends on what's most important to you: not having a contract, paying a low up-front cost or getting the best deal over a two-year stretch.

Laptop put together a good chart breaking down the payments (sans any Sprint announcement, off course). Bottom line: The 16GB iPhone 5S, as things stand, are cheapest month-to-month on Sprint, where a 1GB Unlimited My Way data plan will run you $80 a month—though for $83 a month, you can get a 2.5GB T-Mobile plan.

Over a two-year span, the best deal is again with Sprint and the 1GB plan, which totals $2,055. The next best is again the T-Mobile 2.5GB plan, totaling $2,100.

If it all seems like too much trouble, you can find comfort in purchasing what Apple calls the "most forward-thinking smartphone in the world."

Or, you can take HTC up on its offer to pay up $150 or more for old iPhones and other smartphones, when you purchase an HTC One. And, of course, there's always the lower-end iPhone 5C. According to reports from carriers in the U.K., preorder demand has been underwhelming. You're almost guaranteed your color of choice.  

Follow Michelle Maisto on Twitter.  

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