iPhone 3G Definitive Guide: How to Score One This Friday

You're all set to get an iPhone 3G-you've done the research, you've picked a plan and you've even convinced the office you've got an 8AM uh, sales call. Here's everything you need to know for launch day: Where to go, what to bring, the final word on in store-activation (you're not gonna like it), why you might be SOL if you want the mythical white iPhone (you're really not gonna like it) and more.

First dilemma: Apple Store or AT&T?

The Apple Store is way cooler than any AT&T shop, so that's where the zealots, cool kids and attention whores will be lining up. But according to Gary at the ultimate Apple retail blog ifoAppleStore, they're also going to have the most stock (logically). His guess is that, based on the original iPhone's first three days of sales, "each of Apple's 217 stores should be receiving between 750 and 1,000 handsets for sale this time." Happily, you'll be able to check a store's next-day stock every night after 9PM.

If you're getting an enterprise plan, your choice is made for you too: You have to hit an AT&T store. But there may be other reasons to go to AT&T instead of Apple. AT&T's stock per store won't be as heavy as Apple's (Apple's controlling distribution, so they're going to favor themselves, naturally) but Gary says AT&T's allotment will be better than last time. AT&T wouldn't comment on how many per store, but Gary thinks north of 50-75, even in the boondocks, and another source tells us 100-250. Though AT&T wouldn't comment on the spread, logically, stores in more populated areas are going to get more. Our advice here is to plan and scout ahead: Drive by on the night before, or just early in the morning, and see if there are lines. If the AT&T store is surrounded by coffee shops and boutiques and has a line running down the block, maybe try one in a sketchier neighborhood. Oh, and no, you can't just skip the lines and order it online, at least for now. There's no word on when you'll be able to, either.

If you want a white iPhone, you may be out of luck: AT&T confirmed they would have both 8GB and 16GB models, but could not confirm they will have the white iPhone 3G. In fact, based on the fact that UK reports say there isn't a white iPhone in the whole of the British Isles, we're gonna go on a limb and say that either a) the white iPhone isn't available at launch, or b) it's going to be a devil to track down, like those pink iPod minis way back when. Best bet there is to hit the biggest Apple Store you can find, and sweet talk your way towards the front of the line. But there's no guarantee. We asked Apple, but predictably we have not heard back on this matter.

Camping out

If you're deadset on purchasing the JesusPhone 3G under the warm glow of the divine, you might just have to camp it out. Here's Giz's list of essentials:

• Laptop with lots of spare batteries (a solar generator if you can hack it) and a 3G card

• Beef jerky and Cliff bars (compact, easy energy)

• Adult diaper

• A friend you can pay to wait in line for you

• Patience, deodorant (more for us, than for you)

You made it inside!

AT&T has confirmed it's one per customer, period. No official word from Apple, but since they're actually sort of in sync here, we expect it'll be the same. Here's what you'll need when you get to the counter, straight from Apple: credit card, social security number, valid government-issued photo ID and, if you're new to AT&T, your current wireless account number and PIN. That's right boys and girls, no cash. And don't forget to sync your old iPhone one last time before you roll in.

Despite reports suggesting the contrary, AT&T has reiterated to us that you will have to activate in store. Like really, it don't get much plainer: "YOU MUST LEAVE THE STORE WITH THE PHONE ACTIVATED." They estimate it'll take 15 minutes. Apple's page also refers only to in-store activation, which they say will be mercifully over "in just a few minutes." Update: Apple retail chief Ron Johnson confirms in-store activation only at Apple Stores, while shattering our nimbler expectations by repeating the 10-15 minute blurb.

If you get there too late and it's sold out, don't hurt yourself (or others). At least at AT&T stores, you can go ahead and pay for the iPhone 3G, and they'll call you when it comes in. Then you can go to the store and activate it. Last year after the initial stock ran out, most people got their phone by the following Wednesday via 2nd day air, so we expect this year there will probably a fresh shipment pretty soon after initial run.

Don't fall for this stuff:

AT&T has told us they've taken steps to ensure you won't be forced by a rogue manager to buy an accessory bundle to get your iPhone 3G. You never have to buy an accessory pack. If someone pulls that on you, call them on it. If they insist, back out, report their ass to corporate and let us know. It's BS, so don't get screwed. Also, there isn't an iPhone insurance plan from AT&T. If they offer to protect your iPhone 3G for $100, it's a scam. Period.

Something we left out? Let us know and we'll update (they'll be at the bottom). Good luck and godspeed!

Update 1, Re: Family Plans: AT&T tells us that "the person in line who is buying the device must be the person who is paying for the device. If the person in line is buying for a FamilyTalk plan, the people who will get the device must be in line."

Update 2: You'll be able to check an Apple Store's next-day stock every night at 9PM.

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