Apple, AT&T kick off iPhone 4 pre-orders

But Apple store goes under around 6 a.m. Eastern

As promised, Apple early today began taking pre-orders for its new iPhone 4, although only the black model was immediately available.

Around 6 a.m. Eastern, however, the iPhone 4 page on Apple's U.S. online store was returning an "Oops! An error occurred" message. Minutes later, the entire store went down. It was back up around 8 a.m., and a Computerworld editor successfully ordered one of the iPhones (in black). But by 8:15 a.m., the store was again down, displaying a "We'll be back soon" message.

The iPhone 4, which Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled earlier this month at the company's annual developers conference, first hit the online stores of Apple and U.S. carrier partner AT&T shortly after midnight Eastern time.

Only the black model can be pre-ordered from Apple or AT&T. According to Apple, the white iPhone 4 is "currently unavailable for pre-order or in-store pickup." Apple gave no reason for the delay or when customers could pre-order the white smartphone.

The 16GB iPhone 4 costs $199 with a two-year AT&T contract; the 32GB model is $299.

Also early today, Apple and AT&T started taking pre-orders for the new $99 8GB iPhone 3GS.

Both the iPhone 4 and the 8GB iPhone 3GS will be available for pickup at Apple's retail stores on June 24, the day that pre-orders will also reach customers who asked for at-home delivery. AT&T has set June 25 as its in-store pickup date.

On its Web site, AT&T said that orders would be processed on a "first-come, first-served basis" and that orders submitted by 2 p.m. Eastern on June 22 would arrive two days later.

"The actual shipment date and receipt of your order is not guaranteed and may be subject to delays," AT&T cautioned as it ticked off several potential factors, including availability and credit issues.

IPhone customers new to AT&T must select one of two capped-data plans that the carrier debuted earlier this month as replacements for the previous unlimited plan. However, existing AT&T iPhone customers can keep the higher-priced unlimited data plan indefinitely, even if upgrading their phones.

The online stores for the other retailers selling the iPhone 4 -- Best Buy, Walmart and Radio Shack -- did not list the new model as available for pre-order as of 6 a.m. Eastern. Both Best Buy and Radio Shack said Monday that they would take iPhone pre-orders today. Early today, Radio Shack announced via Twitter that it would take pre-orders starting at noon Central time.

Apple's online store was down in France, Germany and the U.K. as of 6 a.m., effectively barring customers in those countries from ordering. Apple's Japanese online store was up and running, but the iPhone 4 was not yet available for pre-order.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

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