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For iPhone 6 Plus, big phone equals big wait

Apple and the major carriers are all showing wait times of several weeks to months for the larger version of the new iPhone.

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Consumers will have to decide whether the iPhone 6 Plus, right, is worth the wait. CNET

Interested in the iPhone 6 Plus? You might not get it until Thanksgiving.

After Apple's iPhone 6 and 6 Plus smartphones went on sale for preorder Friday, the arrival times for the iPhone 6 Plus were quickly pushed back several weeks later than those of its smaller sibling, showing either higher demand for the bigger model or fewer units available. The snag comes as the Apple Store didn't open for preorders on time Friday.

Apple, which unveiled the two new smartphones Tuesday, has seen its devices sell out quickly when they first go on sale. The company in 2012 sold out of its iPhone 5 launch-day stock after it received over 2 million preorders within 24 hours. First weekend sales totaled more than 5 million.

The long preorder wait times on Friday offer an early indication of heightened demand for the smartphones, which offer a substantial upgrade from last year's model and come with bigger screens. AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel said Friday morning that preorders so far have been better than in the last two years. He added that preorders are "always a dynamic process," including shipping times.

Apple's website said Friday morning the iPhone 6 Plus would be available to ship in three to four weeks, while the iPhone 6 would be available in 7 to 10 business days.

AT&T said on its website the iPhone 6 Plus would ship between November 2 and 27, while the iPhone 6 would ship in 21 to 35 days. Sprint's site provided a "shipping alert," saying some devices may be delayed. The company said "we'll do our best" to get the iPhone 6 to preorder customers by Sept. 19, when the iPhone 6 officially goes on sale, but noted that the 64-gigabyte and 128GB models of the iPhone 6 Plus will take up to three weeks to reach customers, and the 16GB version won't ship for four to six weeks.

Verizon said models of the iPhone 6 will be delivered by Sept. 19 to Oct. 7, but the iPhone 6 Plus will arrive by Oct. 21. T-Mobile said it's experiencing a similar difference in shipping times, too, but added that it's seeing "incredible demand" for the new phones.

A Sprint representative had no comment on the difference in shipping times. Apple and Verizon representatives weren't immediately available for comment.

The 4.7-inch iPhone 6 will be sold for $199 for a version with 16GB of storage space. The 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus starts at $299 for its 16GB version -- $100 more. In the UK, an unlocked iPhone 6 will start at £539, and the iPhone 6 Plus will start at £619.

The iPhone is Apple's most important device and its biggest moneymaker, accounting for more than half of sales. Despite the iPhone's huge success, Apple has been challenged by a trend toward bigger-screen smartphones from Samsung, HTC and others. Introducing larger screens with the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and the 5.5-inch 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. 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, better battery life and an NFC chip that allows you to use the phone to make payments.

Update, 11:22 a.m. PT: Adds additional details throughout.