**As published at RCR Wireless News** If you were planning on posting up outside one of AT&T Mobility’s stores before the sun rises Thursday morning to pick up the new iPhone 4 from Apple Inc. on launch day, you should start making other plans. Unlike every previous iPhone launch, AT&T won’t have any iPhones available at its stores beyond those units that are already guaranteed to customers that placed pre-orders. In other words, if you don’t have a pre-order to pick up on Thursday, don’t line up at any AT&T store because there won’t be anything at the end of that line but a world of hurt and self-pity.
As expected, Apple stores should be the safest bet, but you might also have to put up with the longest wait times at Apple stores where the excitement and crowds have historically hit an unmatched level. “iPhone 4 will be available to walk-in customers at Apple stores on a first-come, first-served basis,” an Apple spokeswoman told RCR Wireless News. The problem for anyone looking to buy an iPhone 4 on launch day elsewhere is that there is so much rumor and speculation to weed through. Where do the best chances of success lie for customers who weren’t able to get a pre-order through? RadioShack Corp., Best Buy Co. Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Apple stores are all likely alternatives, but the question of availability is still less than clear for at least three of those options. Making matters even worse, many sales representatives at AT&T stores are giving out false information and a false sense of hope. Representatives at three different stores in the Long Beach, Calif., area have told RCR Wireless News that iPhone 4s will be available for purchase on a first-come, first-served basis, but that’s not what AT&T corporate is saying. “iPhones go on sale in our stores on the 29th,” AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel said unequivocally. Following the same talking points outlined in a press release from AT&T today, Siegel said the company is giving priority to the customers who submitted pre-orders last week. When AT&T and Apple opened the pre-order floodgates last week, history repeated itself as demand for the device caused countless glitches on AT&T’s site. Nonetheless, the carrier later said it gathered 10 times the number of pre-orders for the iPhone 4 than the current iPhone 3GS generated prior to launch. Even a spokeswoman at RadioShack Corp., which put out a release on Monday that said “Apple’s innovative new iPhone 4 will be available in stores beginning June 24,” wasn’t certain about availability. “There’s been so many changes it’s all continually in flux,” she told RCR Wireless News. Wal-Mart spokesperson Ashley Hardie said the new iPhone will be available at a “select number” of Wal-Mart’s 1,500 stores on Thursday. She added that Wal-Mart will begin selling the new iPhone “at the directed time for launch” at 8 a.m. local time. “Our Wal-Mart wireless associates are getting prepped and ready for the day and for demonstrating its new features as we bring more to stores after launch. We are not offering pre-orders, but encourage customers to call their local Wal-Mart to see if their store is included in this launch. We will be competitively priced with other retailers,” Hardie concluded. RCR Wireless News has left messages with representatives at RadioShack and Best Buy for further comment and clarification. We will update this story as we learn more and hopefully save at least a few of our readers a headache come this Thursday.