Want an iPhone 5s? Line Up and Good Luck

Apple is only hours away from online orders for the iPhone 5s in the United States, and countries where online sales have already begun are showing 7-10 day wait times. If you don't want to wait that long, line up early at your local Apple Store because it looks like retail inventory will be limited, too.

iPhone 5s inventory may be hard to come by Friday morningiPhone 5s inventory may be hard to come by Friday morning

The Mac Observer contacted several Apple Stores to ask about iPhone 5s inventories, and we consistently got the same story: They wouldn't tell us what type of inventory they had, but the phones were already in the store waiting for Friday's 8AM local time launch. The stores also said they would be using the same in-line reservation cards to dole out iPhones on a first come first serve basis.

Every store we spoke with said that lines were already forming outside their stores regardless of whether or not the malls permitted it.

Our sources that were willing to be more candid said that Apple's own stores will have limited numbers of iPhone 5 units on hand in the morning, and that other retailers have been receiving surprisingly small shipments -- a fact that our own Dave Hamilton heard from his local AT&T store. Many locations won't have any gold models -- or only a small handful -- in stock, and that orders for those models will take about 10 days to arrive.

While Apple isn't officially confirming that iPhone 5s availability will be very constrained, the fact that the company didn't offer pre-order sales hints at just that.

It looks like the black space gray models will be easiest to come by on Friday, but in this case "easiest" may be a relative term. Assuming inventory is as low as it appears now, it's very likely there will be plenty of disappointed shoppers waiting in line Friday morning.