Apple's online store and telco sites will probably fall over at approximately 3.01AM EST on Friday as pre-orders go live for Apple's slightly less expensive, but more colorful iPhone variant. However, bargain hunters may want to hold off tapping that Buy button as you could save money elsewhere. 

After the Hype Comes the Sale

Just who is the iPhone 5C for? It certainly isn't one for the emerging markets, as once imagined. And Apple didn't really paint a clear picture at its launch earlier this week. So, is it for rich school and college kids, with a hope of moving the next generation to brand Apple? Those bright colours, lurid cases would suggest a youth vibe. 

Or is it for those who don't get technology, afraid of the big numbers, space-age design, buzzwords and features that most phones shout out loud? Either way, these people and anyone else who think the 4"-screened 5C is for them will have to stay up late as pre-order sales kick off at 12:01 PST (3:01AM EST) on Friday, with delivery due on 20 September.

That's according to the Verizon and Sprint sites with Apple and other vendors likely to be matching the timing for pre-orders. AT&T has listed its prices with no-money down and $22 for an AT&T Next offer or $99 for a two-year contract.

UPDATE; Apple's store and other sites have gone down for maintenance ahead of the green light. In fact its 0:05 PST and Apple still isn't back up, but AT&T's site is live and taking orders. In the U.K, where its a more sociable 8AM, O2's store is now taking orders. And finally, the Apple Store is up and running, no glitches so far. 


That sort of timing might limit the damage to Apple servers, but we bet there are plenty of takers, all furiously clicking "Buy" or "Refresh" on their browser in the hope of a day-one purchase. With Apple, Verizon, AT&T and other retailers spreading the load with a simultaneous opening, the servers will also be spared the hardcore Apple fans who only want the full-spec iPhone 5S which isn't available for pre-order.


Looking For A Bargain?

New Apple products and discounts are usually mutually exclusive affairs, but in what is likely to become a heated battle among box shifters, Walmart is knocking $20 off the iPhone 5C and $10 off the iPhone 5S with its own pre-orders. Over the life of the contract, that's not going to add up to much, but with the iPhone 5C due to tempt a wider range of customers, Walmart and its competitors might see a greater share of sales for that device. 

As for the iPhone 5S, Apple has presumably limited pre-orders to get the queues at the doors of its brick-and-mortar Apple Stores, which will open at 8AM on the 20th. That's largely because good news is only measured in however many thousand buyers are lining up, which doesn't translate well on a website. With its thumbprint sensor that has sparked the usual wave of discussion, privacy warnings and so on, the 5S and to a lesser extent the 5C will replace the original iPhone 5 model, with the 4S becoming the standard free-with-contract model. 


With iOS 7 (which becomes available for existing iPhone users on 18 September) being the standout feature alongside the 64-bit processor for added power, Apple's event was almost subdued, with only the worship at the school of design to get Apple fans excited. For the casual phone user, it is looking increasingly clear that the well of ideas has run dry. But that won't stop millions of sales of these devices, and even Apple's legendary shipping machine might struggle to keep up.