June 16, 2009, 9:25 PM — The best place to buy the new iPhone 3GS is--surprise!--direct from Apple. Amid concern about delays for AT&T customers, Apple has already begun shipping new iPhones and is still promising quick delivery for orders placed on its Web site. If AT&T really is facing a short supply of new iPhones, this could be seen as the latest snub Apple has handed the company, its original iPhone launch partner.
At last week's WWDC iPhone announcement, Apple appeared to criticize AT&T's slow support for sending photos with SMS messages and non-support for tethering, which allows an iPhone to become a broadband modem for a nearly PC.
Those features are new to the iPhone 3.0 operating system, which ships on the new iPhone 3GS and will be available for older iPhones and iPod touch devices via download.
The 3GS will be available in Apple's U.S. retail stores at 8 a.m. on Friday, but can also be ordered or reserved online. Orders will be delivered--free--on Friday or before. Reserved units can be picked-up from Apple's stores beginning Friday morning.
Apple has, however, included a footnote on its iPhone 3GS purchase page warning, "Pre-authorization does not guarantee iPhone availability at an Apple Retail Store. iPhone is sold on a first-come, first-served basis."
In other words, arrive early. Or order online, where orders are now being shipped direct to customers for an Apple facility in Shenzhen, China.
Pre-orders at AT&T stores will reportedly be available at 7 A.M., with stores opening to new customers at 8 A.M.
With the AT&T/Apple relationship seemingly in tatters, amid rumors of a coming Apple/Verizon partnership, it would not be surprising if Apple limited AT&T's supply of a hot new product in order to provide for its own customers first.
Will AT&T customers face iPhone 3GS shortages and delays? We should find out on Friday or Saturday. But, if you really want a new iPhone 3GS, better deal with Apple directly. Or risk a wait.