iPhone 7 preorders kick off without much of a hitch

Apple opens online reservations for its new phones, minus the major glitches that plagued preorders over the past couple of years.

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."
Shara Tibken
3 min read

Here's something new for the iPhone 7: a smoother preorder process.

Apple's phone was supposed to go on sale at 12:01 a.m. PT Friday, with the first buyers slated to get their devices September 16. This year, consumers had to wait an extra 10 minutes before Apple's online store allowed them to begin ordering. Even then, the most popular models were going fast. Just 10 minutes later, the expected shipping time for the jet black iPhone 7 Plus with 256GB of storage was already up to four to six weeks.

Last year, many avenues for preordering, including Apple's online store, were unavailable for some users for nearly an hour after order-taking was set to begin. The year before that, when the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus went on sale, eager shoppers couldn't access the online store for about two hours.

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On Wednesday, Apple unveiled its newest phones, the iPhone 7 and its bigger sibling, the 7 Plus. The iPhone 7 starts at $649, and the 7 Plus starts at $769. Apple also announced the second generation of its Apple Watch, which starts at $369, and showed off new $159 wireless headphones called AirPods.

The iPhone is the most popular device Apple has ever made and remains its biggest moneymaker. The phone accounts for more than two-thirds of Apple's annual revenue. In July, the company confirmed it had sold its billionth iPhone since then-CEO Steve Jobs introduced the device in 2007. The iPhone has spawned entire new industries, like app development, and changed the way we live.

But there are signs the iPhone phenomenon is slowing down. In April, Apple reported its first ever drop in phone sales and continued that trend the following quarter. People just aren't as excited about phones anymore, and it's unlikely the iPhone 7 will change that. At the same time, the smartwatch market has been slow to take off, and the Apple Watch, while popular, faces more rival devices.

Apple said Thursday it won't disclose opening weekend sales figures for the iPhone. It typically has touted the figure but said "initial sales will be governed by supply, not demand, and we have decided that it is no longer a representative metric for our investors and customers." Apple said that it knows it will sell out of the iPhone 7 and that the move not to announce sales has nothing to do with low demand or expectations. Last year, Apple sold a record 13 million iPhone 6S and 6S Plus devices during the first three days of sales.

The iPhone 7 and its bigger sibling, the 7 Plus, look nearly identical to last year's models but ditch the headphone jack in favor of wireless headphones or headphones that connect through the Lightning charging port. The phones also come in a two new black versions, including a shiny "jet black" model. The phones feature better processors, more storage, water resistance and new home buttons that respond to different pressure levels. The larger model, the 7 Plus, includes dual rear cameras that give users better zoom capabilities.

Along with iPhone 7 preorders starting Friday, Apple also started taking advance orders for its newest Apple Watch. The new device looks identical to the first model but comes with one notable improvement: It's waterproof enough for swimmers. Officially called the Apple Watch Series 2, the device sports a faster dual-core processor, improved graphics, a much brighter display and GPS, which can be used to measure pace, distance and speed when running and biking.

By 9 a.m. PT Friday, the ceramic version of the new watch was backordered as long as seven weeks. Most other versions also had a shipping delay from the September 16 launch date, with most falling between two to three weeks.

Update at 9:30 a.m. PT with details about watch preorders.

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