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Bumpy Start For iPhone 4S Pre-Order Process

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Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at an event introducing the new iPhone 4S at the company's headquarters on October 4, 2011 in Cupertino, California. (credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (CNET) - History repeated itself this morning, with the iPhone 4S pre-ordering process getting off to what can only be described as a bumpy start in the United States.

Despite the promise of a 12:01 a.m. PT starting time for pre-order sales from Apple and its carrier partners, Apple’s store experienced intermittent errors shortly after that deadline. Its online doors opened about 45 minutes after that to let people order the company’s new top-end smartphone.

AT&T took even longer to begin offering pre-orders, and some would-be Sprint customers reported delays of two hours trying to place their pre-orders. Separately, both Apple and AT&T’s sites showed error messages for customers who wanted to upgrade their device. Apple later switched from its pre-order mechanism to a reservation system to let buyers reserve a device and fill out eligibility and billing information at a later time. With the reservations system, Apple still promised to deliver the iPhone by the company’s original ship date.

This year’s iPhone 4S pre-order is the biggest yet for Apple in the U.S., launching on AT&T, Verizon and newcomer Sprint at the same time. In addition, Apple is selling it for all three carriers through its own online store.

Both Apple and carriers ran into similar problems during last year’s iPhone 4 launch, with buyers running into issues getting orders processed. Nonetheless, Apple managed 600,000 pre-orders or the new device, breaking previous pre-sale records. Shortly thereafter, the device sold out, pushing orders back days, then weeks past launch.

There was one other surprise to come out of the pre-order process, which is that Apple plans to offer an unlocked and contract-free version of the iPhone 4S for sale as soon as next month. Those making pre-orders though Apple’s site can see that option when picking out their phone or plan, but are unable to purchase it.

Did you stay up to try to get the new iPhone 4S and come away successful? Let us know what worked for you in the comments.

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