My Verizon contract was finally up, and it was time to upgrade my slowly dying iPhone 4 to the long-awaited iPhone 5. October 26 was the day, and I was ready.
I had heard I'd face some delays getting a new iPhone, but after calling a few nearby Apple and Verizon stores, I learned that "delays" meant three to four weeks. I've been waiting for months to be able to upgrade to a new phone, so three to four weeks seemed like a lifetime.
My co-worker Sharon Vaknin mentioned that I could do an in-store pickup if I timed it just right, and pointed me to this NBC News GadgetBox story on a possible trick to getting the new iPhone within 24 hours. What the heck, right?
Here's the gist: Apple updates in-stock numbers for all its stores every day at 10 p.m. If you monitor Apple's site for the updated tally and you're quick enough and have a little patience, you can snag an iPhone online the minute one becomes available at a nearby store. In the morning, an e-mail awaits telling you your phone is ready to be picked up. So easy!
Around noon, I put the phone in my online cart so everything would be ready when Apple updated its stock numbers. "In-store pickup" wasn't an option at that time, and the online store said that if I wanted to the phone shipped, it would arrive December 4.
However, like a lunatic, I kept checking the site throughout the day; maybe the author of that GadgetBox post had it wrong. Maybe Apple updates its online stock numbers more often. No luck. Then, voila! Later in the day, "in-store pickup" became an option and the site let me input my ZIP code, but the phone wasn't in stock at any of the 20 or so stores within a 100-mile radius.
At 9:55 p.m., I jumped back online and started refreshing my cart. At 9:57 p.m., the site showed the phone in stock at the San Francisco store, so I quickly (and frantically) started inputting my credit card information. By the time I got to check out, the phone wasn't available anymore. I tried again, this time choosing a store in Emeryville, Calif., about 10 miles away. Once again, by the time I entered my credit card information, the phone was no longer available at that store.
The site still showed the phone as available at the Palo Alto, Calif., store (about 35 miles away), so rather than enter a new credit card this time, I let it use the card I had on file. Lo and behold, the third time was a charm, and I got an e-mail that my order was being processed and I would get another e-mail telling me when my phone was ready to be picked up.
At 6:30 a.m. on October 27, less than 24 hours after I first started this process, I got an e-mail saying my phone was ready for pickup. I got to the Apple store when it opened at 10 a.m. and would've been able to pick up my phone right then, but there was a minor wrench in the plan. That day happened to be the grand opening of the new Apple store in Palo Alto, and there was a line around the block of people waiting to check it out and hopefully snag a T-shirt (the first 1,000 people in the store got an exclusive Palo Alto Apple store shirt).
Since the whole point of getting an iPhone 5 this way was to not to have to wait in line, I spent a couple hours shopping, having coffee, and running errands. I got back around noon, the line was gone, and I walked out with my new iPhone 5 in about 15 minutes.
If you, like me, are impatient, don't really want to wait weeks for a new phone, and are willing to do a little driving, give this trick a try. If you don't succeed the first time, try again, and maybe try a few nights in a row. You can always just have Apple ship the phone to you if it doesn't work out. Good luck!