Apple iPhone 6s buyer's guide: When, where, and how much?

The buying frenzy that occurs every year is about to begin. Since Matthew Miller will be right in the thick of things, he's put together this guide to help you plan your purchase strategy.

A couple of days before the pre-order frenzy starts each year, I like to figure out my iPhone purchase strategy to ensure that I get an iPhone as soon as possible to review for the blog. If you don't pre-order online within the first hour or so, it's likely you will have to wait weeks for your new iPhone or else battle the crowds in stores a couple weeks later.

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The carriers are changing how phones are sold, while Apple is also now helping isolate customers from the typical carrier experience. Let's take a look at when you can buy one, how you can buy one, and how much it will cost you.

When?

In the US, Apple will launch iPhone 6s and 6s Plus pre-orders starting just after midnight -- 12:01 am Pacific Daylight Time (-7 UTC) -- on September 12. Here's that time in a few other time zones around the world:

  • 3:01 am Eastern Daylight Time (-4 UTC)
  • 4:01 am in Brazil (-3 UTC)
  • 8:01 am in the UK (+1 UTC)
  • 9:01 am in Spain and France (+2 UTC)
  • 10:01 am in Finland (+3 UTC)

If you wish to purchase the new iPhone 6s or 6s Plus in retail stores, then those sales start on September 25. September 25 is a Friday and if you want any chance at all of finding the iPhone in a retail store, you should probably plan on taking that day off work as people will start lining up at most stores the night before or in the early morning hours so you can expect to spend several hours in line.

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While the Apple Store has the biggest stock of iPhones, including every color and storage capacity, other retailers will also sell the new iPhone starting September 25. The problem is that carriers, Best Buy, and other locations often have very limited stock and often do not have all the colors or capacities.

Where?

I am personally planning to place my pre-order from the Apple Store, especially after T-Mobile let me down last year. The only carrier that I ever successfully pre-ordered from on launch day was Verizon.

My carrier is T-Mobile and they have an interesting "JUMP! on Demand" program. T-Mobile setup a special program for the new iPhone 6s where you need to call or go into a store at least 48 hours in advance of September 25th to secure an iPhone under the program and save your place in line. Check with your carrier for special conditions around the new iPhone launch, but understand you will have to go into a carrier store to purchase a new phone and battle the crowds September 25th.

Even if you decide to pre-order from the Apple Store late tonight or tomorrow, the website often gets bogged down by the massive amount of traffic. Many people have successfully pre-ordered a new iPhone through the iOS Apple Store application. I highly recommend you download and install that application now and make sure your credit card and shipping address is entered and ready to go.

If you don't have an iOS device -- which is my current situation -- then try to borrow an iPhone, iPod, or iPad from someone else. I borrowed my daughter's iPad Mini for later tonight. The original owner is likely signed in on the App Store so in order for you to use their iOS device for your purchase, first go into the App Store app and sign them out. Sign into your Apple account from within the App Store application and then launch the Apple Store application. You should now see all of your Apple Store details.

How much?

I was pleased to see ZDNet's Kevin Tofel list the actual prices of the two new iPhones, ranging from $649 to $949, before taxes. Carriers confuse the issue with some offering subsidies, various repayment periods, and more. iMore put together a comprehensive article detailing the wide ranging carrier price options, so please refer to it and check your carrier pricing scheme.

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To make sure I can get my iPhone 6s Plus as soon as possible, I'm going to pay full price for my 64GB model on T-Mobile that will end up costing me over $900 with Washington State sales tax.

As I mentioned earlier, Apple is also further isolating the carrier as carriers move away from subsidized prices. I'm pleased to see this because I grow tired of hearing people insist that their iPhone only cost them a couple hundred dollars. Sorry folks, your iPhone costs you a lot more than that, but your carrier was just hiding the real cost from you in your monthly plan fees.

ZDNet's Larry Dignan detailed the costs associated with the new iPhone Upgrade Program that is financed by Citizens One Bank. You can pay a monthly fee, ranging from $32.41 to $44.91, for a new iPhone 6s or 6s Plus that also includes the Apple Care+ protection plan and ability to upgrade your iPhone every year. If you like to purchase the Apple Care+ protection, then this will save you money over the long run.

The one problem I have with this new iPhone Upgrade Program is that you must visit an Apple retail store to sign up for the program. That means a day of PTO on the September 25 and long lines that I am not ready to take on this year.