With AT&T now selling the iPhone 4, and launch hysteria subsiding, theoretically it should be easier than ever to get one of Apple's new phones, but that hasn't been my experience.
To check availability of the iPhone 4, I called each retail store that carries the device, all in my neck of Los Angeles, including the Apple Store, Best Buy, AT&T, Radio Shack and Wal-Mart. The situation was pretty bleak at all of them, but here's what I learned:
Different answers at two stores. One representative said I could check availability in the morning, when the store opens, but would not say when the store would receive more iPhone 4s. An employee at another store said no walk-ins were allowed. There was only a priority list, and she could not say how long the wait would be. Both reps seemed exhausted. Verdict: Check your local store to see if walk-ins are allowed, otherwise you might as well get on the list.
The story at Best Buy was similar to that of the Apple Store. One location said there was no waiting list for the iPhone 4, and the best chance of getting a phone would be to call every morning for first come, first serve availability. Another store was only selling to people who pre-ordered. Verdict: Check which stores are doing walk-ins, and swing by in the morning to see if there's a line.
Stores are taking orders and promising delivery within 7 to 10 business days. Walk-ins are welcome, but there was no word on when the next shipment would arrive. I was only able to reach one store by phone -- phone lines were jammed at several others. Verdict: If you've got no patience for standing in line, but the will to wait a couple of weeks, AT&T seems like the way to go.
Both stores I called were adding people to a waiting list, but didn't know when they would receive their next iPhone 4 shipment. Neither store took walk-ins. Verdict: The waiting list seems like a long-shot, but could be worth jumping on for the heck of it.
Employees at two stores had no idea when they'd receive the iPhone 4, if at all, and they weren't taking orders. Verdict: Avoid.
The Apple Store says orders will ship in three weeks. AT&T estimates, but doesn't guarantee, shipment in seven to 10 business days. Orders are not being accepted at Best Buy or Walmart, and Radio Shack's website doesn't mention the iPhone 4 at all. Verdict: Best of luck to you.