Can I Still Get an iPhone 5 on Friday?

There are plenty of high-fives in Cupertino right now. Apple (NAS: AAPL) revealed this morning that it sold 2 million iPhone 5 smartphones within 24 hours of opening up the presale window. For those scoring at home, this is more than twice as many first-day pre-orders the tech giant scored a year earlier with the iPhone 4S.

The initial supply of pre-orders that will be delivered on Friday were gone even earlier. Those reservations were spoken for within the first hour. Folks placing orders now are being told that their shipments won't be received until October.

People who still want an iPhone 5 on Friday aren't out of luck, though. They'll just need comfortable shoes. Lines at some of Apple's 356 stores are already forming, since Apple also sends out an allotment of smartphones for standby customers on a first-come, first-served basis. It's a smart move by Apple, of course. Limit the pre-orders, and turn the queues outside its stores into carnival sideshows.

Potential buyers can also try their luck at the stores operated by all three of the country's major wireless carriers. The lines will be shorter, and there won't be local television news cameras around.

This morning's Detroit Free Press is spelling out the pre-order process that's still in place at some of the leading bricks-and-mortar chains. It's a smart way to secure a phone, though those stores should also have a limited supply of iPhone 5 handsets for walk-in customers.

Wal-Mart (NYS: WMT) shoppers have to go their local stores to place their advance orders with $25 deposits. Wal-Mart is throwing in a digital movie rental from its Vudu streaming service. That's not much, but it's better than nothing.

Best Buy (NYS: BBY) and RadioShack (NYS: RSH) deposits are $50 and also need to be done at the actual store, where they can be picked up by Friday or later.

This may sound like just what the struggling Best Buy and RadioShack need, but let's not forget about the very nature of smartphones. Once someone buys an iPhone 5 at Best Buy, it's not as if they ever have to come back to the store for CDs, movies, games, or books. Apple has direct distribution on all of the media formats. Then there's the low-margin nature of the iPhone 5 when it comes to retailers. RadioShack's margins have been crushed over the past two years, largely on the success of Apple's device.

Apple wins. Again. Get used to it.

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