Apple iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus preorders top 4M in first 24 hours

Apple says it hit a record in the first day of sales. However, it confirms demand outstripped initial preorder supplies, so some customers will receive their new iPhones as late as October.

Shara Tibken Former managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Ben Fox Rubin Former senior reporter
Ben Fox Rubin was a senior reporter for CNET News in Manhattan, reporting on Amazon, e-commerce and mobile payments. He previously worked as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and got his start at newspapers in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Shara Tibken
Ben Fox Rubin
5 min read

The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, which hit stores Friday, could mark the biggest launch in Apple's 38-year history. Apple

Apple said Monday it hit a record in first-day preorders of its new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, with over four million preorders in the first 24 hours.

By comparison, Apple two years ago received over two million preorders for the iPhone 5 within 24 hours, and first weekend sales totaled more than 5 million. Last year, the first time Apple offered two iPhones, the company said it sold 9 million units of the iPhone 5S and 5C models in the first weekend after they hit stores.

The iPhone 6 has the potential to be the biggest launch in Apple's 38-year history, with the latest design providing two larger-screen models, slimmer and lighter bodies and a new mobile-payment system. Apple reportedly has asked manufacturing partners to produce about 70 million to 80 million units of its larger screen iPhones by December 30, which is about 30 percent to 40 percent more iPhones than it ordered for its initial run of last year's iPhone 5S and 5C.

"IPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are better in every way, and we are thrilled customers love them as much as we do," Apple CEO Tim Cook, who unveiled the new smartphones last week, said in a statement Monday.

The company also confirmed that demand for the new smartphones outpaced initial preorder supplies. It said "a significant amount" of the devices will be delivered to preorder customers beginning this Friday and throughout September. However, many iPhone preorders aren't scheduled to arrive to customers until October. Apple, as well as several wireless carriers, have shown on their websites a longer wait in delivery time for the larger-screen iPhone 6 Plus.

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Additional supplies of the smartphones will be available to walk-in customers on Friday, starting at 8 a.m. local time at Apple retail stores, when the devices officially go on sale. With long lines expected at Apple stores, the company encouraged customers to arrive early, or order online and then pick up their devices in stores or receive an estimate delivery date.

The record for the first 24 hours comes on the heels of Apple saying last Friday it hit a record number of customer orders overnight when presales started that day. These records follow with a trend of new Apple devices selling out quickly.

The iPhone 5 from 2012 -- available for preorder on September 14 of that year and in stores September 24 -- sold out of launch-day stock at a then record pace. About an hour after preorders started, Apple's online store changed the shipment timing from one week -- coinciding with the official launch date -- to as long as three weeks.

Apple received over two million preorders for the iPhone 5 within 24 hours. By comparison, it took about 22 hours for iPhone 4S preorders to sell out online after it went on sale October 14, 2011, and about 20 hours for the iPhone 4, released June 24, 2010, to go out of stock.

Last year marked the first time Apple released two phones at the same time, the pricier iPhone 5S with the TouchID fingerprint sensor and the colorful and cheaper iPhone 5C. Apple didn't make the iPhone 5S available for preorder because of supply issues, but it did allow customers to reserve the 5C on September 13.

Apple didn't release preorder figures for the 5C as it had done for every iPhone since 2009's introduction of the iPhone 3GS . That was likely because the 5C's initial uptake wasn't very strong, as Apple CEO Tim Cook later acknowledged during an earnings report in January.

The 5C also didn't sell out during preorders, with the device still available in many places after preorders first started. But less than two days after the September 20 launch, it already was tough to find an iPhone 5S. Many customers waited as long as a month for the new device.

Demand for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus was so high when preorders began last Friday that Apple's online store and various carriers couldn't keep up. Outages plagued the Apple Store site for more than two hours after the iPhones became available for presale at midnight PT. Despite the outages, customers scooped up the devices at a rapid clip. As of 7 p.m. PT Sunday, the iPhone 6 models generally were available to ship in seven to 10 business days, according to the Apple Store online. The iPhone 6 Plus wouldn't be available to ship for three to four weeks.

Preorders through Verizon Wireless and AT&T largely started without a hitch at midnight Friday, though some customers on Twitter complained about issues. Those problems were nothing compared with the issues experienced by Sprint and T-Mobile customers. The Sprint and T-Mobile sites were still down for many users nearly two hours after presales were slated to start. Access to Sprint's site faded in and out, while the T-Mobile site continued to display a form to register for a reminder for when the preorders began.

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Ordering more devices from its manufacturers could buffer Apple against the supply shortages it has seen with past launches -- though there was still a significant wait time for customers as of midmorning Friday. The company also sets aside allotments for the different days of the preorder process.

The 4.7-inch iPhone 6 goes on sale September 19 in 115 countries, starting at $199 for a version with 16 gigabytes of storage space. The 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus starts at $299 for its 16-gigabyte version. In the UK, an unlocked iPhone 6 will start at £539, and the iPhone 6 Plus will start at £619.

Both models will also be available Friday from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless -- which all started preorders, too -- as well as additional carriers and some Apple authorized resellers.

Apple shares were up less than 1 percent Monday morning at about $102, adding to a 28 percent rise so far this year.

The iPhone is Apple's most important device and its biggest moneymaker, accounting for more than half of sales. Millions of customers continue to purchase its older devices, but Apple has been challenged by a trend toward bigger-screen smartphones from Samsung, HTC and others. Introducing larger screens with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will help it please current customers and possibly tempt some buyers away from its competitors.

The new iPhones are a big jump over the 4-inch screen found in last year's iPhone 5S and 5C. Both models also include a 64-bit A8 processor with improved graphics, an improved 8-megapixel rear camera, better battery life and an NFC chip that allows you to use the phone to make payments.