Apple exhausts initial supply of iPhone 5S

Gregg Keizer
23 September, 2013
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Within minutes of its sales debut early today, Apple’s iPhone 5S was already in short supply, with shipping dates seven to 10 business days from ordering in the US.

The gold-tinted model was in the shortest supply: Apple’s online store said the somewhat flashier smartphone would not ship until an undisclosed date in October.

Apple kicked off online sales of the iPhone 5S at 12:01 am PT (5:01 pm later that day Australian AEST).

A Computerworld editor who placed an order for a gold iPhone 5S just two minutes after the virtual doors opened was told his smartphone would ship in one to three business days, and that the phone would arrive between 30 September and 2 October.

He was among the lucky. Not long after that, inventories emptied and shipping dates slipped, with first the grey model selling out, then the white. By 9 am ET, the grey and white models were showing seven to 10 business days before shipping in all storage space configurations for AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.

Other markets saw the same sell-outs. In Hong Kong, the gold iPhone 5S was marked ‘currently unavailable’, while the other tints were to ship next month. In China, the gold iPhone was expected to ship in October, while grey and white models displayed a seven to 10-business day delay.

Europeans will have to wait as well: at 9 am ET, all models of all colours of the iPhone 5S were tagged as shipping next month in France, Germany and the UK.

iPhone shortages are nothing new. When the iPhone 5 went on sale a year ago – Apple took pre-orders for its flagship in 2012 – the company drained stocks within an hour and shoved back shipping dates by two weeks.

It sometimes takes months for Apple to reach a supply and demand balance.

Most analysts, however, believed that the iPhone 5S would be in especially short supply due to a component pinch of some kind, most likely the new fingerprint scanner or the A7 system-on-a-chip (SoC) at the core of the phone. They have speculated that Apple passed on pre-orders for the flagship this year because of the smaller-than-usual stocks.

Some Wall Street experts predicted bullish sales numbers, but have included the less expensive iPhone 5C in their tallies. In a note to clients early Friday, Brian White of Cantor Fitzgerald & Co predicted that Apple would sell between six million and 6.5 million new iPhones over the weekend, a 20 percent to 30 percent increase over 2012′s five million in the same period.

Apple began taking pre-orders for the iPhone 5C, which starts at US$99 with a two-year contract in the US, or US$549 without one on 13 September.

The iPhone 5C is in much greater supply. In the US, Hong Kong and China, all five colours of the plastic-cased smartphone showed shipping times of one to three business days after ordering.

Assuming Apple follows past practice, it will announce opening weekend sales numbers on Monday 23 September.

Apple ran through its iPhone 5S inventory of gold-coloured smartphones in just minutes, and now shows a shipping date some time in October.

by Gregg Keizer, Computerworld

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