Apple's online store offline ahead of iPhone 8, Apple Watch Series 3, Apple TV 4K preorders

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As it does every year, Apple on Thursday took its online storefront offline at around 5:50 p.m. Pacific in preparation of an onslaught of expected traffic, as preorders for iPhone 8, Apple Watch Series 3 and Apple TV 4K open tomorrow morning.

Apple's online store went down for maintenance ahead of Friday's big hardware preorder kickoff, with the site now displaying a familiar landing page reading, "We'll be back" accomplished in the company's San Francisco font. The site is expected to come back online at 12:01 a.m. Pacific, when preorders for iPhone 8, Apple Watch Series 3 and Apple TV 4K are scheduled to go live.

The iPhone 8 offers a number of incremental improvements over the iPhone 7 series, including a brand new A11 Bionic processor that boasts two high performance cores Apple claims is 25 percent faster than last year's A10, as well as four high-efficiency cores that are 70 percent faster than its predecessor. For the first time, Apple is integrating an in house-designed GPU into its mobile SoC that is said to deliver a 30 percent speed boost over previous silicon.

The A11 Bionic powers new features like Portrait Lightning, an augmentation of iPhone 7 Plus' Portrait Mode that uses the dual cameras in iPhone 8 Plus to create a depth map of a subject and scene. Machine learning is applied to the image data to create facial landmarks, over which users can add special lightning effects in real time. Portrait Lighting will debut alongside iPhone 8 Plus as a beta feature.

Both iPhone 8 and 8 Plus sport 12-megapixel rear cameras, which Apple says have been specially calibrated for augmented reality, including pairing with new gyroscope and accelerometer sensors. Powered by an Apple-designed video encoder, the handsets are capable of capturing 4K video at up to 60 frames per second, or 1080p at up to 240 frames per second. The 8 Plus gets a separate 12MP shooter with telephoto lens.

Other upgrades include a new glass back chassis structure that allows support for Qi wireless charging, True Tone display technology, redesigned stereo speakers and optimizations for augmented reality applications.

The 4.7-inch iPhone 8 starts at $699 for 64 GB of storage, and moves up in price to $849 for 256GB. The 5.5-inch iPhone 8 Plus will be available for $799 and $949 for 64 GB and 256 GB models, respectively.

For potential buyers looking to upgrade from an older device, AppleInsider put together a handy guide to this year's best trade-in deals from popular buyback services.

As for Apple Watch Series 3, the wearable finally gets cellular connectivity, allowing it to operate largely in the wild without being tethered to an iPhone. Apple managed to stuff an LTE radio and eSIM into the already svelte chassis without adding to the device's size or heft. The only difference is that the back sensor glass has been extended 0.25 millimeters, the equivalent of two sheets of paper.

A new dual-core processor with up to 70 percent more performance powers the device, but cellular data capability is the main draw for Series 3. With LTE, users can stream music, send and receive Messages, conduct voice calls and more without need of an iPhone.

Apple Watch Series 3 starts at $329 for GPS-only 38mm aluminum versions, while GPS + Cellular models of the same size start at $399. Apple Watch Nike+ models start at $329, Apple Watch Hermes at $1,149 and Apple Watch Edition at $1,249. Apple is carrying over the Apple Watch Series 1 from last year, dropping the price down to $249.

Finally, Apple TV 4K brings 4K resolution and HDR capability to Apple's set-top streamer. Powered by the A10X Fusion processor, the box is twice as fast as the fourth-generation Apple TV, with four times the graphical power, and can pump out 3,840 by 2,160 pixels with support for HDR formats including Dolby Vision.

Customers can look forward to an updated iTunes Store that features 4K movies and TV shows which are available to buy or rent at the same price as 1080p HD content. Notably, Apple is offering free automatic upgrades to 4K HDR for previous iTunes Store purchases.

Apple TV 4K starts at $179 for 32 GB of storage, and moves up to $199 for 64 GB.

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