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iPhone 4S: Available in-store 'by reservation only'

Apple is asking would-be 4S buyers to reserve their phones the night before picking them up at an Apple store.

Apple's telling customers who want to buy an iPhone 4S in-store to reserve it through its system first.
Apple's telling customers who want to buy an iPhone 4S in-store to reserve it through its system first.

The iPhone 4S is now available to retail-store customers "by reservation only," an indication that the hot-selling phone is likely in short supply. Apple has asked would-be buyers to use a reservation system to request a unit the night before before heading to the company's retail stores.

The new system, picked up by MacRumors earlier today, lets buyers pick out one of Apple's 18 iPhone 4S variants, then request that the company holds the unit so they can come in to complete the purchase. The system doesn't open up each day until 9 p.m. Pacific time, with in-store pickup available the following day.

Apple employed a reservation system from the get go with last year's iPhone 4 and iPad launches. In the iPhone 4's case, that it resulted in a launch with multiple lines, whereas with the 4S launch last Friday, there was just one line and no reservations offered. With this year's iPad 2 launch, Apple moved to a similar reservation system shortly after units became scarce, suggesting the same thing's now going on with the company's new phone.

The iPhone 4S has been the Apple's fastest selling product to date. Earlier today, the company announced it hassold more than 4 million units in three days since launch, more than twice the number of handsets as last year's iPhone 4 release. Customers can still buy it through Apple's online store, but there's a wait time of "1-2 weeks" in the U.S. for all models on all carriers, giving those who wish to buy it in-store a potential leg up on waiting.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for clarification on if the new policy keeps walk-in buyers from purchasing a device without a reservation.