By Casey Liss
iPhone Preorder Lessons Learned

I just ordered a new iPhone, last night this morning, at 3:11 AM. I got an iPhone 7, [matte] Black, 128 GB. It should ship on launch day.

In placing the order, I learned several things, which I’m putting here mostly to help me remember next year.

The day before

Apple shuts the store down the afternoon/evening of the day before preorders begin, so it’s important to get these steps done ahead of time.

  • It’s best to use the Apple Store app to place your order, on the device that you will be replacing. It’s a bit cruel to use your current device to order its replacement, but it’s fastest. Using the web is almost always a recipe for misery.
  • If at all possible, set up Apple Pay on that device.
  • Confirm your default shipping and payment information:
    • Apple Store app: Account tab → Primary Payment and Primary Shipping
    • Apple Pay: Settings app → Wallet & Apple PayShipping Address
  • Speaking of shipping address:
    • If possible, choose your place of business. The delivery will require a signature, and you don’t want to be trapped at home all day.
    • That said, AT&T requires you to ship new devices to the address they have on file. Good luck if you’re on a multi-city family plan.
  • Back in the Apple Store app, find the device you want, and configure it (go through all the motions like you’re going to buy it right now), and save it as a favorite.
  • Also make sure you’ve enabled the Apple Store app keeping you logged in, as well as your carrier settings. There’s one switch to flip for both:
    Account tab → Account SettingsRemember Me

The night of

Please note that things won’t be exactly the same for those upgrading via the iPhone Update Program, as of the iPhone 7 you must make an in-store appointment to surrender your 6S, and collect your 7. I’ve also heard second-hand reports that availability was extremely limited for upgraders. Your mileage may vary.

  • Wake up a few minutes before preorders go on sale. They are supposed to start at midnight Pacific time, but in reality it’s often 5-10 minutes later. I set my alarm at 2:58 AM for a (roughly) 3 AM sale time.
  • Use your cellular connection when you wait for the Apple Store to come back online. I found my otherwise-fantastic FiOS connection didn’t see the store come back up as quickly.
  • Though the Apple Store app does (sometimes) refresh itself when you simply leave it and return to it, I’d recommend force-quitting it, reopening it, repeat. That forces the app to refresh and see if the store is up or not.
  • When the store comes back up, go to Account tab → My Favorites and proceed from the favorite you saved earlier. It’ll save you time.
  • When you check out, pay with Apple Pay. It’s faster and increases your chances of getting your order through quickly.
    • Be careful, though, that the correct addresses and e-mails are used. I found that an old, busted, e-mail address was somehow used for my order, despite me having confirmed my settings in the Apple Store app ahead of time.
  • For Americans, on the iPhone 7 anyway, if you’d like to get an unlocked, SIM-free phone, your only choice is T-Mobile. Unlike all the other carriers, they do not ask for any sort of account confirmation during the order process.

The wait

I cannot recommend Deliveries enough to track your order. They have apps for all the Apple platforms, and they’re all great. Deliveries supports tracking by Apple order number.

Additionally, often times a day or two before your target delivery date, you can actually get your tracking information before Apple sends it to you. It changes often whether Apple uses FedEx or UPS to ship the phones, but either way, go to the tracking page for either carrier.

Tracking by reference

Once you’re on the tracking page, try to track a package by reference. Try using either your billing phone number or your iPhone’s phone number as that reference number. (I’ve seen both used in the past). Sometimes, this will give you your iPhone tracking information. Sometimes, it doesn’t. Can’t hurt to try.

In the case of UPS, which Apple has used for me in recent years, it’s worth noting that you must be on the desktop site to track by reference. Additionally, you may find that you can also use your Apple order number, with the last two characters truncated, as a reference number. For example, for order W123456789, try to track by reference W1234567.

UPS My Choice

For the iPhone 7, I signed into my free UPS My Choice account in order to see if the tracking number was visible. When I went to my Delivery Planner calendar, I noticed on Wednesday (the first time I looked) that my phone had a tracking number and was scheduled for Friday.

Arrival day

It’s worth noting that in years past, if you’d like, Apple has allowed you to print and pre-sign a form and tape it to your door. You can print the signature form PDF from your order status page. The delivery person is supposed to take that as proof of signature, and leave you your phone. Depending on the area in which you live, this may be risky, as the iPhones ship in boxes that look like they have iPhones in them.

  1. Upgrade your existing phone to the latest version of iOS—in this case, iOS 10—before you do anything. Since the iPhone 7 will presumably ship with 10, it’ll make the whole backup dance much easier.
  2. Unpair your Apple Watch, if you have one, from your iPhone
    Additionally, if you have an Apple Watch with LTE, unless you’re switching carriers, choose to keep your service. More in this kbase article.
  3. Perform a backup of your iPhone, preferably to iTunes, preferably with Encrypt iPhone backup checked, so that your passwords will restore automatically on the new phone
  4. Go through the onboarding on the new iPhone
  5. Restore the backup you created in step #2
  6. Re-pair your Apple Watch with your new iPhone.

Here’s hoping your purchase experience—and mine!—is as smooth as possible in 2017.

UPDATED 10 September 2016 2:00 PM: Added some thoughts about the iPhone Upgrade Program, updating your existing phone, and pre-signing for delivery.

UPDATED 13 September 2016 07:45 AM: Added information about using UPS My Choice to get your tracking number.

UPDATED 1 November 2017 11:00 PM: Added information about Apple Watch with LTE, and tracking by reference.