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Apple Store offline ahead of expected rush for iPhone 5S

While the store's offline status is pretty standard, its closure for retooling more than three hours before the high-end handset hits the market is a bit unusual.

Sarah Tew/CNET

In a familiar procedure before a major Apple product release, the company's online store has gone offline in preparation for the onset of online ordering for the iPhone 5S at midnight Pacific time.

While certainly a standard procedure for Apple, the outage appears to have begun at 8:30 p.m. PT -- a bit early for site retooling that traditionally takes less than three hours.

While a fingerprint sensor and some iterative software and hardware improvements are the only real upgrades to the iPhone 5S, hordes of shoppers are still lining up outside Apple Stores worldwide for a chance to be among the first to get their hands on the 5S and the "unapologetically plastic" and colorful iPhone 5C.

While online sales of the 5S begin at midnight Pacific time, shoppers can pick up the handset in person at 8 a.m. local time. However, the high-end 5S is said to be in short supply, with backorders stretching seven to 10 days.

The culprit behind the shortage might be the handset's fingerprint sensor, which some speculate might be difficult for suppliers to deliver on time. However, those waiting in line at Apple Stores are said to have a much better chance at scoring a gold or silver iPhone 5S than those hoping to get them through a partner carrier or other retailers.

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