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I'm planning on buying the iPhone 4S from the Apple store when it comes out next week (waiting in line in NYC shouldn't be too bad). In the past, how many unlocked iPhones will they let you purchase at the Apple store?

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I wonder why a Stack Exchange employee is buying multiple unlocked iPhone 5's... ;-) – Nathan Greenstein Sep 27 '11 at 22:37
Why would there be a line @ Apple next week for something that isn't even available, or might not be for weeks? Just curious. Grab one for me though while you're at it! – l'L'l Sep 28 '11 at 0:25
Yeah, next week is just an announcement. Of something. Usually releases of new iPhones are announced FAR in advance of the actual releases. – GEdgar Sep 28 '11 at 0:36
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Selling unlocked phones is a fairly new thing for Apple retail. They've never been part of a product launch - so looking back, the precedent is NIL. There is great precedent for any new phone launch to have lines and quotas for the first 30 to 60 days after a product introduction. There also is precedent for a huge shipment on launch day - then limited stock for a few weeks as things sell faster than they can be made.

I would simply stop by your store and get to know the business team if you have business needs. Until the policy is announced, it should be handled like any other phone in terms of what payment is allowed (cash or not) as well as purchase limits.

The last launch, it was one phone per person while availability was limited and one web order at a time. Once the stores stopped selling out of inventory on a daily basis, it was easier to just walk in and get a phone. Last time I checked, the store has to bring out a different physical box when I purchased an unlocked phone ( I changed my mind about AT&T contract half way through the process). The current stock does ship as an AT&T phone or an unlocked GSM phone - they are not the same SKU.

I suppose the computers could use a common stock and "unlock" the device when selling, but that would be different than what happens today. I do know that the iOS app to reserve product worked very well last launch, so do think about getting that installed if you are keen to get a few phones as soon as iOS 5 launches.

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There is currently no limit to the number of iPhones a person may buy. However, during the launch of a new product Apple has sometimes had to impose a limit. The original iPhone, for example, had a limit of two per person/credit card (they disallowed cash sales so that people couldn't get around it).

In addition to limiting the actual sale, Apple has sometimes limited the number of devices someone can pre-order. For the iPhone 4 last year you could pre-order at most 2 per person/credit card.

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I think most of these examples were to curb the grey market that emerged because the US had no official way to buy unlocked iPhones. I believe that has changed though. – Samuel Mikel Bowles Sep 28 '11 at 0:31
@SamuelMikelBowles Grey market, yes, but not in the US - there are people that buy as many as they can to sell them overseas. – Kyle Cronin Sep 28 '11 at 0:34
I know. I was one of them. Apple's restrictions did have an affect on the international grey market as the supply risks rose. – Samuel Mikel Bowles Sep 28 '11 at 0:40
The carriers do limit the numbers of activations - I thought there was a soft limit to the number of unlocked phones - even in stores not in large cities with long lines (and unless you get the business team to verify why multiple devices are needed). – bmike Sep 28 '11 at 2:11

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