By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
September 14, 2012

FORTUNE — Pre-orders for Apple’s (AAPL) new iPhone were supposed to begin Friday at 12:01 a.m. Pacific (3:01 a.m. Eastern), but things did not go quite as planned.

The first problem was a traffic jam at Apple’s online store. At 12:01 the store’s servers were apparently so overwhelmed with would-be customers that many early risers (including this one) who tried to order online were greeted with the dreaded multilingual “We’ll be back” sign — a message that one frustrated user tweeted was like being told “screw you” in 10 different languages.

Word quickly spread on Twitter that the iPhone’s Apple Store app was successfully taking iPhone 5 orders. That was true — to a degree. The app took my order, but it kept timing out at the sign-in stage. After entering and re-entering my password for nearly 10 minutes, I finally got through at 3:25 a.m. My iPhone 5 is scheduled to be delivered next Friday.

Others were not so lucky. Less than an hour after orders were scheduled to begin, the Apple Store had run out of pre-order stock. Orders placed now are scheduled to ship in two weeks.

According to MacRumors‘ Eric Slivka, AT&T (T), Verizon (VZ) and Sprint (S) were still listing 9/21 delivery dates. But as Slivka diplomatically puts it “those dates may not immediately reflect available stock.”

If you really need to get an iPhone 5 on Sept. 21, you might have to go to a physical Apple Store and get in line.

But you might have to get there early. Last year it took 22 hours for iPhone pre-orders to stock out. This year it took less than an hour.

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