iPhone 6 pre-order sites crippled by 'unprecedented' demand for new Apple phones

Apple fans were left disappointed this morning as mobile network websites and call centres were bombarded with pre-orders for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, knocking some stores offline for several hours.

Pre-orders for the two new handsets were meant to open at 8am on 12 September, but the process got off to a bad start when the Apple Store website was unavailable for at least half an hour. Some customers - Mobile Choice included - were able to order the iPhone for collection at a specific store through a separate part of Apple’s website.

iPhone 6 Plus already suffering month-long delay

The new phones can still be pre-ordered from Apple's own website, but with delays. An iPhone 6 ordered today will be shipped in "7 to 10 business days" while the larger iPhone 6 Plus will not be sent for "3 to 4 weeks".

But those looking to order through the mobile networks were left disappointed. At the time of writing, some four hours after pre-orders were supposed to open, both O2 and EE’s web stores are offline and not accepting any business at all; no phones can be bought online from either website.

O2 tweeted at exactly 8am to say the two new iPhones could be pre-ordered, but moments later the site became unresponsive and was shut down. Vodafone’s website was also sluggish off the startline, but has since stabilised and is now accepting pre-orders smoothly.

One EE customer told Mobile Choice her attempts to order a new iPhone repeatedly failed, logging her out as she tried to complete the order. She then claimed to be in a queue of 1,500 people while trying to get through to EE’s call centre; her call was cut off after being on hold for 20 minutes.

EE told Mobile Choice its website is “seeing unprecedented demand” for the new iPhones and that it hopes “to have the sight running seamlessly ASAP.”

UPDATE: As of 12:30pm, four-and-a-half hours after pre-orders should gave opened, the EE only store is back, but is very slow and almost unresponsive.

Another Apple fan said he had been on hold to Vodafone for an hour before giving up and requesting a call back via email.

Queuing begins outside London Apple Store

Meanwhile, at least two tents have already been pitched outside the Regent Street Apple Store in central London.

The tents arrives last Monday, a day before the new iPhones were even announced. One is occupied by staff employed by the app-based service Task Rabbit, which offers help with shopping, household chores, DIY, gardening and more.

One wealthy customer has paid Task Rabbit staff to hold his place in the queue for more than a week, which is estimated to have cost him more than £2,000, so he can be among the first people in the world to get the new iPhone.

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