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Apple Store offline ahead of preorders for new iPhone, iPad

Preorders begin at midnight Thursday for the iPhone SE and iPad Pro 9.7, two product line refreshers unveiled earlier this week.

Visitors to Apple's online store were greeted by a familiar greeting letting them know preparations were underway for sales of its latest products.

Apple's online storefront was taken offline Wednesday in preparation for processing preorders for its new iPhone SE and iPad Pro 9.7 at midnight Pacific Time Thursday.

The outage is a familiar procedure before a major Apple product release. The online store will begin accepting preorders on March 24 for the devices, which will be available for in-store purchase the same time preorders are fulfilled a week later on March 31.

The iPhone SE, which was unveiled Monday, features a 4-inch screen and all the processing and photographic might as the larger iPhone 6S. Plus, the SE launches with version 9.3 of Apple's iOS software, which also became available Monday for all iPhones.

The iPhone, with either 16GB or 64GB of storage, comes in four colors: silver, gold, space gray and rose gold. It's available on four carriers in the US -- AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, and there's also a SIM-free (unlocked) version. Pricing will vary by carrier and purchase plan.

The iPhone SE will be first be sold in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Singapore, the UK, US Virgin Islands and the US. It will be available in more than 100 countries by May.

Meanwhile, the iPad Pro 9.7 is essentially a smaller version of last year's 13-inch version. Starting at $599, £499 and AU$899, it features the same type of display, which is brighter and less reflective than the iPad Air 2, and also has a wide range of colors that, according to Apple, is 25 percent more saturated than the Air 2.

Debuting with the iPad Pro 9.7 is True Tone display, which dynamically adjusts color temperature based on ambient light. It also features four speakers and, like its bigger sibling, Pencil support and Smart Keyboard connectors.