Apple now offers you the ability to start the purchase of your iPhone online and pick it up in person, at a nearby Apple retail store.
The new page on Apple’s Web site, for customers in the United States, enables you to enter your billing information, review your eligibility and pricing for the iPhone, and select the appropriate AT&T rate plan.
The new procedure is available to new iPhone customers and people upgrading from original iPhones alike. You can also use the Web page to add a new iPhone to your existing AT&T account.
Once you’ve completed the process, you identify the Apple Retail Store closest to you, and indicate when you can come in to complete your purchase. Apple then arranges for a Specialist in the store to help you “personalize” your iPhone 3G, teach you how to make calls, use the phone to browse the Web, receive e-mail and more.
The new procedure is aimed at streamlining the vetting process for AT&T — existing iPhone customers must verify their accounts, and new customers submit data for an AT&T credit check.
Committing to get an iPhone 3G online using Apple’s new page doesn’t actually guarantee you that there will be one waiting for you at the store when you get there. You pay for the iPhone only after you’ve arrived at the store, and Apple notes that iPhone 3Gs are sold on a first-come, first-served basis. But using the new page, you can at least save some time once you arrive in the store to get your phone.