If you want to buy a new iPhone, especially a big one, I hope you're already standing in a line somewhere - because the iPhone 7 Plus is going to be extremely hard to come by today, and one model in particular.
Update, 9:00AM: If you're looking for an iPhone, the places to go at the moment seem to be Apple Stores and Telstra stores. Telstra devoted some of its launch-day stock for stores to sell directly to customers, where the other carriers took as many pre-orders as possible and only delivered leftover (un-pre-ordered) stock to retail stores. We'll have a full run-down of how stock levels are going across Australia later today.
The overnight iPhone 7 line at Apple's George Street flagship store is modest compared to previous years, but you can attribute most of that to the fact that Apple is now a lot better at selling its phones online as it was a few years ago, as are its major telco partners Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. With that online success also comes less stock for those willing to wait out in the cold overnight.
Here's the thing, though: these people lining up are smarter than you think. In-store, walk-in purchase stocks of the iPhone 7 — and mostly the larger iPhone 7 Plus — will be more limited than ever, and prestige colours and high-capacity smartphones will be incredibly difficult to find on launch day and the days immediately after.
Further reading: Six Tips For Picking Up An iPhone 7 On Launch Day
We've heard from several industry sources that iPhone 7 Plus stocks are extremely limited, and that Apple will likely be unable to meet demand for at least a fortnight after launch. Australia is getting around half the quantity of iPhone 7 during the two-week launch period as it did with iPhone 6s, with increased demand from China and Japan — again, especially for the larger-screened iPhone 7 Plus — pushing us down the pecking order.
The glossy Jet Black finish of the iPhone 7 in particular will be almost impossible to find, our sources tell us. During the launch period less than 50 of the top-spec iPhone 7 Plus 256GB in Jet Black — costing $1569 in Australia — have been made available for pre-order customers through Apple's major carrier partners, although Apple itself will likely have some more stock on hand to sell through retail. There are also likely to be less than 250 of the 128GB iPhone 7 Plus in Jet Black delivered tomorrow.
Telstra has admitted to taking more pre-orders than the number of phones it will be able to deliver to customers on launch day, and waiting times have already blown out to a month or more on certain models. Currently, Telstra doesn't quote a delivery time for new iPhone 7 Plus pre-orders, but stock of some iPhone 7s is available for delivery tomorrow.
Vodafone has confirmed to Gizmodo that there will not be any iPhone 7 Plus phones in stock to sell to walk-in customers in its stores Australia-wide tomorrow. A Vodafone spokesperson told us the company has "prioritised its loyal customers who wished to pre-order their device, meaning the only stock that will be for sale across Vodafone retail stores are devices which did not sell over the pre-order period. As a result of extremely high demand, there will not be any 7 Plus models at any retail stores on Friday.
"Most Vodafone branded stores will have some stock, although very limited. Anything black — both Matte and Jet Black — has been extremely popular, as has any 7 Plus model. We have been very transparent to customers around expected wait times, informing them of likely back order timing on certain models from day one."
High-capacity variants of the iPhone 7 in Matte Black and Rose Gold will be the most widely stocked variants available for walk-in purchasers tomorrow morning.
We've also been told that Telstra and Optus stores won't have any stock of the iPhone 7 or 7 Plus in outer suburban or regional stores to sell to customers that haven't pre-ordered. That stock with be limited to the carriers' flagship retail stores — like Telstra's on George Street in Sydney, directly across the road from Australia's first and largest Apple Store. Customers can also reserve a phone through with Australia's major telcos through Apple after the launch, from 8AM on Saturday 17 September.
Virgin Mobile has told us that customers should check ahead before trying to buy an iPhone 7 in-store tomorrow. "As with any popular handset launch, we expect that there will be more people who want the new iPhone than available handsets. All Virgin Mobile stores will have a limited quantity of iPhone 7 handsets, so we recommend people call ahead to check with their local store before visiting."
"For customers who do wish to visit our stores, our current advice is that stores will operate as normal, but as with all popular handset launches it’s always good to get there early if you wish to avoid disappointment. We expect the new colour variants of matte black and jet black to be the most popular this year, and we will take advantage of regular stock shipments and update our frontline with information for our customers."
Optus mirrored those comments, with a spokesperson saying "we know our customers are eager to get their hands on these new phones. As with many new phones, stock is limited. Customers wanting to get their hands on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus should regularly check Optus’ website or the local Optus store for stock availability."
A Telstra spokesperson said that customers getting to stores early would have the best chance, obviously, of picking up a new phone if they hit the telco's stores early in the morning: "With pre-sales exceeding expectations we're anticipating strong demand for the new iPhone models tomorrow.
"We will have stock available across our metro, suburban and regional store network, however availability of specific models and colours will vary and may be limited. We're opening many of our stores early at 8.01am so our customers who get in early can be amongst the first in the world to get their hands on the new phones."
An Apple spokesperson told Gizmodo that the company was still in the pre-order phase, so couldn't comment on stock levels or future availability. We were told, though, that the best indication of any iPhone 7's stock level was to check the pre-order page on Apple's website. Currently, iPhone 7 Plus Jet Black orders ship in November, with most other models shipping in 2-3 weeks. The iPhone 7 Jet Black will ship in 3-5 weeks, and most other colours will ship in 2-3 weeks.