Anyone who’s tried to preorder an iPhone while living near the East Coast of the United States knows this frustration: being online at 3AM ET in order to make one of the very first purchases, guaranteeing that your phone gets delivered on day one. That usually meant waking up shortly before 3AM, commiserating with a bunch of other nerds on Twitter, and then going back to bed 30 or so minutes later.
Finally, those days are over.
For the iPhone 11 series of phones, Apple has moved the preorder time to later in the day: 8AM ET. East Coasters can now wake up at a normal time, and West Coasters get to feel the pain.
According to a bunch of questionably sourced answers I found online, far more people are on Eastern than Pacific time in the US, so I feel we’re justified in this win.
Of course, I recognize this whole thing is a little ridiculous. No one ever made you wake up at 3AM to buy a phone, which you could just as well buy several hours later and still receive shortly after launch. But for a decade now, it’s been a very nerdy rite of passage for Apple fans — at least for the ones who weren’t planning to wait overnight in front of an Apple Store instead.
Apple has been shifting customers away from those kinds of uncomfortable early purchase experiences in recent years. In 2015, the company’s retail chief at the time, Angela Ahrendts, began discouraging customers from sleeping in front of stores in order to buy a new product, calling for a “significant change in mindset.”
Day-one lines in front of Apple Stores have dwindled since. That may be because of steps Apple has taken to ease the online preorder experience, but it’s likely also because, a decade on, buying a new smartphone isn’t that exciting anymore. The iPhone 11 Pro is very similar to the iPhone XS, which was very similar to the iPhone X. Radical changes are rarer, and fewer people are buying smartphones for the first time.
Apple never explained why its preorders long opened at 3AM ET, but I have some guesses: putting it in the middle of the night means there are going to be fewer people bombarding Apple’s servers at once. Apple can also correct any problems before most people in the US begin placing orders, and it can get through a large number of customers before most people in the US come online. (The big caveat here is that the US is far from the only country where preorders are available. This year, they open in 30-some countries and regions right away.)
If anything, 8AM ET seems like a worse time for Apple. Employees in Cupertino may need to be up at 5AM PT to set things live, and a lot more people on the East Coast will likely be trying to place orders at once. If there are any problems, it’s probable that a lot more people are going to notice them, too.
But that’s not my problem. And for anyone in Eastern Time who plans to preorder an iPhone this Friday, September 13th, that task is looking a lot more pleasant this year. At least, assuming the later time doesn’t make it even harder to place an order in the first place.