Apple and allies begin sales of iPhone 5C

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Apple and its business partners began taking orders on Friday for its iPhone 5C, the lower-end of two smartphone models introduced earlier this week, but not without some hiccups.

Pre-orders were set to begin at 12:01 a.m. Friday, but Apple’s online stores weren’t usable until 12:12 a.m. Customers might have had better luck with T-Mobile in Germany and O2 in the United Kingdom, which began presales just after midnight PT.

In the United States, AT&T’s store was taking orders, too, though Sprint and Verizon Wireless still showed only information pages at 12:20 a.m.

The iPhone 5C, whose internals are very similar to the now-discontinued iPhone 5 that arrived last year, costs $99 for the 16GB version and $199 for 32GB with a two-year contract. Customers can place orders online now, but they won’t be delivered until September 20, when the phones also will go on sale in stores.

Apple isn’t offering a preorder option for the iPhone 5S, its new high-end model that starts at $299 and adds new hardware features like a faster A7 processor, fingerprint security system, improved camera, and a speedier processor with an integrated low-power motion tracking chip.

Last year, Apple ran out of its initial online stock of the iPhone 5 in less than an hour, with new buyers facing a two-week ship time. That quickly ramped up to three to four weeks, with many new buyers turning to Apple’s retail stores or carrier partners to get a phone sooner. It then took the company another two months before it was able to shorten the waiting times in early November, just ahead of what turned out to be a busy holiday quarter.

This launch could be Apple’s biggest yet. First, it’s putting two new iPhone models on sale for the first time. Second, both are being released in 11 countries simultaneously on September 20, with a wider release in other regions to follow.

To put any expectations in perspective, last year’s iPhone 5 tallied up two million preorders in the first 24 hours. Apple went on to sell more than 5 million iPhone 5s in its first three days on sale. The year before, more than a million people preordered an iPhone 4S in the first 24 hours, which went on to become around 4 million on its opening sales weekend.

The iPhone 5’s record was not without hiccups. Online stores experienced performance and availability issues almost immediately after opening up for sales. Both Apple and AT&T’s online stores temporarily went down for maintenance, while Sprint experienced slowdowns the first half hour the phone was on sale. Similar issues plagued some International carrier partners, including T-Mobile in Germany, as well as Orange in the U.K.

Along with the new iPhones, Apple is introducing a handful of new accessories, including color cases.

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Apple started selling its lower-end new smartphone, the iPhone 5C, with an expected delivery date of September 20. That’s the day the phone will be available in stores.

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CNET News: iPhone 5S, 5C will reportedly land in Japan on Sept. 20

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New iPhones will arrive in Japan on September 20 with a gold iPhone 5S option in tow, Japan’s Nikkei reported Wednesday.

SoftBank and KDDI will handle sales of the iPhone 5S and 5C, according to Japan’s largest business daily. NTT Docomo is not expected to sell the new iPhones, Nikkei added.

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The U.S. announcement is expected on September 10, the report noted.

In addition to the conventional black and white models, a new “champagne gold” will be offered, the newspaper said. This reinforces widely-reported rumors about that color option for the iPhone 5S.

The 5S is expected to come with an upgraded processor and camera as well as fingerprint reader integrated into the home button, according to the report. Again, echoing recent reports.

In a note to investors Monday night, Citi Research’s Kevin Chang commented on build plans for the upcoming Apple phones.

Citi anticipates a “modest mix shift” to the iPhone 5S “and away from iPhone 5C,” in Apple’s fiscal quarter ending in December.