Apple Store offline ahead of expected iPhone 6 preorder rush

Online store apparently prepping for consumer demand for pair of new handsets, which feature larger screens than their predecessor.

iPhone 6 goes on sale at midnight Pacfic time. CNET

Per Apple's standard operating procedure before a major product offering, the home page for the company's online store was offline on Thursday evening, displaying the familiar "We'll be back" message.

The move is apparently in preparation for the anticipated onslaught of preorders for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus that will begin at midnight PT. The timing coincides with the preorder launch at Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular, among other sellers.

Customers also can place your order at a physical Apple retail store beginning at 8 a.m. local time on Friday. And several retailers also will get in on the act Friday in their physical stores, including RadioShack, Sam's Club, Target, and Walmart. Best Buy will offer online preorders for only the Sprint version of the iPhone 6 but will open up preorders for other devices in its physical stores on Friday.

Apple unveiled both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus on Tuesday. The iPhone 6 is equipped with a 4.7-inch Retina display, while the larger iPhone 6 Plus has a 5.5-inch Retina display. Both devices are a big jump over the 4-inch screen found in last year's iPhone 5S. In addition to being slimmer and lighter, both models also include a 64-bit A8 processor with improved graphics, an improved 8-megapixel rear camera, improved battery life, and an NFC chip that allows you to use the phone to make payments.

The iPhone 6 is priced at $199 with a new two-year agreement, while the iPhone 6 Plus starts at $299.

The iPhone 6 has the potential to be the biggest launch in Apple's 38-year history. 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.