Technically, no one knows if an iPhone 5 even exists. In reality, everyone is expecting it to be announced around September 12 and be available for purchase around September 21. And if the rumor mill is as accurate as it has been in the past, it's easy to find out what the new model will look like and many of its features.
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A genuinely new model — as opposed to a tweaking with the iPhone 4S — hasn't come out since June, 2010. Consequently, the anticipation is huge, and many people have probably decided already that they will buy one. This week, research firm Gartner reported that worldwide smartphones sales had declined 2.3 percent and attributed part of that to people holding out for the iPhone 5.
iPhone sales have crashed — down about 13 percent, said Gartner. And the iPhone 4 — soon to be two generations old — is nearly free, selling for about $50 at retailers such as Best Buy and Walmart.
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With armies of Apple fans and regular folk lathered in anticipation, will the country's roughly 250 Apple stores be mobbed with buyers, some lined up for a day or more before sales start? Possibly, but that may be more for the experience than the convenience.
In fact, if people want to be among the first to hold a new iPhone, they will probably go to Walmart. Most of the retail giant's roughly 600 U.S. stores are open 24 hours, and they began selling the latest iPad at 12:01 AM the first day of sales — while most Apple stores don't open until 9:00 AM or 10:00 AM. Going to Walmart for an iPhone is like seeing the first showing of a blockbuster film.
Walmart sold the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S on launch day, spokesperson Sarah Spencer told TechNewsDaily. Like the other major retailers we spoke with, she emphasized that the company did not know if or when there would be an iPhone 5.
If you don't live near a Walmart and can wait a few more hours, you might also try Best Buy or Radio Shack — both of which have sold iPhones on launch day. Best Buy has more than 1,400 stores, and Radio Shack has about 4,600.
Radio Shack didn't extend its hours for past iPhone and iPad product launches. And Best Buy has only one 24-hour store — on Union Square in Manhattan, where savvy buyers of the new iPad strolled in to pick up the model of their choice after a short wait just after midnight on March 16.
Of course, pre-ordering is also an option. Orders could open up online the same day the new iPhone is announced. But where's the adventure in that?