Update: Preorders are live!
The emails haunt our sleep. Plaintive in tone, they ask the same question... and they just. Keep. Coming. When? they ask. Do I have to stay up late, or get up early? The anxiety, the tension. When? When?
For the iPad launch preorder kickoff, we asked on your behalf and we got an answer; in this case, we we've had no response from Apple PR to tell us exactly when the iPhone 4 preorders will begin. Maybe that's a protective step, to keep AT&T's systems and Apple's store from getting deluged; we don't know. The retail outlets that are accepting preorders (Radio Shack and Best Buy; the Walmart sales don't kick in until launch on 6/24) will presumably be ready to go when they open Tuesday morning.
Update: One of our commenters reports that he was told by an Apple phone rep to check the store at 9am ET, 6 am PT.
What we can do is give you the likely times, and a quick bit of advice. [Thanks to timeanddate.com for the fixed time links.]
Option A: Midnight, Eastern time. Not a particularly likely candidate, as it would put the heaviest load on the purchasing systems overnight when the support leads are presumably asleep. Still, if you're up and want to check the store, we won't tell.
Option B: Midnight Pacific. Again, doesn't seem like a good bet, but it's possible.
Option C: 8:30a ET/5:30a PT. This was the time for the iPad preorder kickoff, and it's a reasonable guess -- AT&T's headquarters team will already be on the clock, and Apple's store ops folk can be ready.
Option D: 8-9 am PT. By this time, all of the East Coast will be at work or school, but it might be when the gates finally fall open.
The piece of advice mentioned above? Relax, for crying out loud. Whenever you happen to wake up and check the site will be plenty of time to get your preorder in -- they are not likely to bump delivery dates on the first day of preorders. Have a calming beverage, get a good night's sleep, and let your dreams wander amongst the Retina Displays and the gyroscopes of your imagination.