PALO ALTO, Calif. – Apple's most devoted fans are firing up laptops and setting alarms so they can get their hands on their latest object of desire: the iPhone 6.
Apple this week unveiled two new phones with larger screens: the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. Pre-orders begin Friday at 12:01 Pacific time on Apple.com and on the websites of wireless carriers and major retailers. The phones go on sale Sept. 19.
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Tim Johnsen, a developer with app maker Flipboard, plans on parking in front of his computer just before midnight. His tips: "Have all your information ready," he said. "For me, that's having my log-in and checklist ready. What type of phone do you want, what carrier do you want."
Additionally, have patience, he counsels. "The website usually goes down, so just keep hitting refresh."
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Apple fan Melissa Mitchell, 30, a blogger and social media manager, says she and her husband, who live in St. Louis, Mo., are setting their alarms for 1 a.m. CT, so they have an hour to set up their computers and prepare to target both the Verizon and Apple websites.
"We have tried to pre-order before and find that if my husband and I each have a laptop open, we have a better chance at getting through," she said.
Mitchell is going for the iPhone 6 and her husband, an app developer, is going for the iPhone 6 Plus. Currently they have the iPhone 5s.
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"I am so glad they offer the option to pre-order because we have gone to the store on the day before phones have came out and waited in line for hours," she said.
Analysts say consumers who want the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus better plan to shop early.
The new larger phones are expected to sell out by the end of opening weekend as Apple scrambles to get more inventory into stores.
"This will be the biggest iPhone launch since the introduction of the first iPhone," said Tim Bajarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies.
Aubrey Nelson, 35, says she plans to pre-order the iPhone 6. She already sold her iPhone 4s on Gazelle for $105.
"I'm perplexed by the move to wait in line for days or hours for a phone that can be pre-ordered online. It's a bit ironic that those craving the latest tech don't take advantage of it when buying the tech itself," said Nelson of Burbank, Calif., who works in human resources.
'Coveted new toy'
"I'll be up late tonight, albeit in the comfort of my bed, watching and waiting for that midnight drop," she said. "My credit card information stored in my trusty MacBook for expedited ordering. Coffee on my nightstand lest I succumb to the sandman's subtle attempts to sabotage my goal of attaining my coveted new toy."
Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray, says people like Nelson will help Apple sell 92 million new iPhones by the end of the year. There are currently 300 million iPhones in use worldwide.
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Jamie Dunham, a 63-year-old brand strategist from Nashville, Tenn., says she's staying up until 2 a.m. CT so she can pre-order the iPhone 6.
She says she has been waiting since last October when her AT&T contract was up for renewal.
"I am a bit desperate. I have a 4s and it's on its last legs. I have been holding out on my contract to get the new iPhone 6," she said.
She's looking forward to the larger screen, longer battery life and a better camera, but she's still trying to decide between the iPhone 6 and the 6 Plus.
"I never bought an iPad mini so the larger iPhone might just be the compromise I need for work and viewing videos, docs, etc.," she said.
The new iPhones have gotten larger as Apple tries to shore up the gap with competitors Samsung, Sony and Microsoft, whose most popular phones have larger screens than Apple.
The iPhone 6 has a 4.7-inch LCD screen, up from 4 inches for the current iPhone 5s, while the larger iPhone 6 Plus has a 5.5-inch screen.
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Of the two phones, analysts expect the smaller iPhone 6 to be the bigger seller over time, but the Plus will be harder to get on opening weekend.
The iPhone 6 starts at $199 with 16 GB of storage, or $299 with 64 GB, while the Plus starts at $299 with 16 GB and $399 with 64 GB.
Dave Donohue is staying up late to pre-order the iPhone 6 from AT&T to replace his iPhone 5s.
He says he's in the market for a better camera and more storage for photos and videos of his 13-month-old son.
"One thing that pushed me to buy on opening day is that the 5s took an unscheduled dip in the ocean a couple of weeks ago," said Donohue, 42, who runs marketing and communications for software company Unified in San Francisco. "While it doesn't appear to be damaged, I feel like the 5s might be on borrowed time as a result."
The novelty of the bigger phone will push some people to the Plus, said Forrester Research analyst Frank Gillette.
Ryan Loebe, a 23-year-old community manager from Phoenix, Ariz., is waking up early on Friday to pre-order the iPhone 6 Plus from Sprint. He has been saving up for the past few months, said Loebe, who has an iPhone 4s.
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"I get so jealous of the rest of the office when they take out their bigger-screened and faster phones. After three years of having this phone, it's definitely time for a change," Loebe said.
But Loebe has another reason for wanting the bigger screen.
"For me, going from a 3.5 inch screen to a 5.5. inch screen will be like going from a regular movie theater to an IMAX theater. I have a visual impairment and the accessibility features on Apple's products is the reason I keep coming back," he said. "I am able to enlarge the font and zoom in and out of any app that I have opened. Zooming in on the bigger iPhone 6 Plus screen is going to be mind-blowing."
—By Jessica Guynn and Jefferson Graham, USA Today