What can we expect for the in-store Apple iPhone 4 launch?

The in-store launch day experience has changed each time an iPhone has launched and I am left wondering what we can expect next week. Will early line goers get an iPhone 4? Will you be able to get in line for one without a pre-order?
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

You may recall my Tweets and post from last year documenting my iPhone 3GS purchase frustrations and I am now left wondering what Apple plans to do next Thursday when the iPhone 4 appears at their retail stores. The current date for getting a pre-order online is 14 July, but I am wondering what that means for the in-store buyer. I went through the pre-order process back when everyone else was ordering and received an error at the end that said they couldn't process my order, but I had an in-store reservation for my local Tacoma Mall Apple store. This leaves me with more questions than answers though, especially after the dual lines last year in the stores. UPDATE: Please check out this new post and help me figure out if there are indeed different levels of pre-ordering for next week's in-store pickup customers.

I am hopeful that Apple has now had the experience to figure out a system that will work next Thursday, but still believe you are going to have to arrive quite early to be comfortable knowing you will get an iPhone 4. Here is what I would like to know:

  1. Is there stock set aside for those that went through the pre-order and pick up on 24 June process?
  2. Is there stock set aside for those that show up with no pre-order on the books?
  3. Will there again be two lines at the Apple Store for those who pre-ordered and those who did not?
  4. If you pre-order now, with the 14 July date, can you even choose to pick it up instead at the store on 24 June?

In my email confirmation for the pick up on 24 June it clearly states that my reservation will be held until close of business on 24 June. However, later down in the fine print it states "Pre-authorization does not guarantee iPhone availability at an Apple Retail Store. iPhone is sold on a first-come, first-served basis." So does this mean it doesn't even matter if I pre-ordered online or not? There are still some unknowns about what to expect next Thursday and it seems the only way to make sure you get one is to arrive very early, stores open at 7 am, and maybe even camp out the night before. Many people mock those who camp out, but as a mobile phone geek I think it is quite enjoyable to hang out with like-minded geeks and chat about smartphones and we really don't get this kind of rock concert line opportunity that often.

When I ordered my iPad I was guaranteed it would arrive on launch day. It did arrive on that Saturday, but not until later that afternoon with no tracking information being provided at the end. I imagine many who were able to complete the pre-order process with the device stated to arrive on 24 June will experience this same apprehension and they may end up going to the store to try to get a device as they sit around at home watching others in line get their iPhones. I know it isn't that important in the grand scheme of life, but let us geeks have a bit of fun and lighten up.

Does anyone have any insight into my questions above? I hope Apple provides some information on the in-store expectations. Anyone planning to camp out early for the iPhone 4? I am not sure yet, but have a feeling that Joel and I may be in lines next Thursday morning.

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