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Apple bungles iPhone 6 pre-orders

Gregg Keizer | Sept. 15, 2014

Apple today quickly exhausted its pre-order supply of the larger iPhone 6 Plus as the company bungled an online effort for the second time this week.

As of 9 a.m. ET, the iPhone 6 Plus, the model with a 5.5-in. display, was listed on Apple's U.S. online store as shipping three to four weeks after ordering. The iPhone 6, which boasts a 4.7-in. screen and is the more direct successor to the iPhone 5S, remained in stock, at least on the Apple store, with deliveries promised by Sept. 19, a week from today, when the new smartphones go on sale in the U.S. and several other countries.

Short supplies are nothing new for Apple and its iPhone at on-sale launch, and even more so when it offers pre-orders. In 2012, for example, the then-new iPhone 5 sold out in about an hour. Last year was abnormal, in that Apple did not offer the more-appealing iPhone 5S for pre-order, only the less-expensive iPhone 5C, which sold poorly at the beginning.

Nor have those online pre-orders always been problem free. But the technical issues went beyond glitches this time: Many reported on Twitter that the Apple Store was unavailable hours after the 3 a.m. ET kick-off (midnight PT).

It was the second black eye for Apple in the span of four days.

On Tuesday, when Apple hosted a news conference to unveil the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus — as well as its new electronic payment system, Apple Pay, and its first wearable, the Apple Watch — the live webcast was a mess. For between a third and a half of the one-hour-and-45 min. broadcast, people faced constant interruptions, black screens, failed audio, pre-show color bars, repeats of parts already seen, several "Access Denied" error messages, and a Chinese translator talking over CEO Tim Cook and other Apple executives.

Customers — potential customers might be more accurate — took to Twitter to vent their frustrations early this morning. "I feel like it's Tuesday and I'm watching the Apple Event live stream drop out," said Dan Frakes, formerly with Macworld, in a tweet. "There's even Chinese writing on my Apple Store page."

Some, including at least one Computerworld staffer, managed to score an iPhone 6 Plus this morning, but only after using the Apple Store app on his iPhone to place the pre-order.

The quick disappearance of the iPhone 6 Plus from immediate availability was not unexpected: Talk of short supplies had circulated in the days and weeks before Tuesday's introduction, enough so that some speculated Apple would not even unveil the larger iPhone, and would instead wait until later in the year, perhaps even early next, to start selling the 5.5-in. so-called "phablet."


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