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Where, how, and when to buy the iPhone 4S

Because we don't want you to miss out, use these steps to make sure you're in possession of an iPhone 4S on October 14.


If you have your heart set on the iPhone 4S, we have good news and bad news. The good news: there are several surefire ways to get a 4S on October 14.

The bad news: you're not the only person who wants one.

Apple's release of the fifth iPhone comes months after the expected date, and millions of pissed-off Apple fanboys (and girls) have been anticipating its arrival since June. And even though the device isn't as Earth-shattering as many expected it to be, you can bet there will be an insane demand for the new device.

Because we don't want you to miss out, use these steps to make sure you're in possession of an iPhone 4S on October 14.

Step 1: Check your eligibility

If you're a new subscriber to either Sprint, AT&T, or Verizon, or you plan to buy the iPhone without a contract, you can skip this step. Otherwise, if you plan to get the subsidized $199 price, make sure you're eligible for an upgrade before you attempt to get the iPhone.

Visit this page on to check your upgrade eligibility.

Step 2: Preorder. We repeat: preeeeordeerrr

Do you really want to camp out in line at an Apple store during this cold season? Not unless you have self-loathing tendencies. Instead, preorder the iPhone and get it the same day as the people queuing up overnight.

On October 7 at 12:01 a.m. PT, the iPhone 4S can be preordered from Apple, Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T.

How it usually works: Apple open windows for several delivery periods. There is a limited number of iPhones reserved for preorders, and once they've all been claimed, Apple will open another window for a later delivery time--usually one to two weeks after the release date.

Carriers also have limited inventories for the iPhone 4S, but they continue taking orders on a first-come, first-served basis. Even after their preorders sell out, you can still order the iPhone, but it'll be backordered.

Here's my point: get online at 12:01 a.m. and be one of the first people to preorder. If this means skipping the usual "Thirsty Thursdays" festivities, so be it.

The lineup for the iPhone 3GS in 2009.
The lineup for the iPhone 3GS in 2009. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

(Optional) Step 3: Grab your sleeping bag

If you weren't able to preorder the iPhone, then the next best option is to stand in line. Apple stores nationwide will open at 8 a.m. to begin selling the 4S. Check with your local Sprint, AT&T, or Verizon store to find out what time they'll open.

Even thoughthe iPhone 4 store release was anticlimactic (there were hardly any lines), we expect this release to be different. AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon customers are eligible this time, and that means three times the crowds of previous launches.

(Optional) Step 4: Buy it from a third-party seller

It's well-known that many of the first iPhones to be sold are often resold on third-party Web sites like eBay and Craigslist. So if by October 14 you haven't gotten a preorder, all Apple stores are sold out, and you don't want to wait for the restock, you might have to pay a premium at one of these outlets.

Our advice? Don't buy from a third party unless you're desperate. Opt for an authentic experience from Apple or your carrier to ensure that you aren't scammed, overcharged, or mislead.

Related stories
• You should wait online, not in line, for the iPhone 4S
• How to pick a carrier for the iPhone 4S
• iPhone 4S unveiled (roundup)