Does iPhone Shortage Signify 3G Debut?

Dennis Faas's picture

There's a major shortage of iPhones in stores across the country, and Apple's own online outlet is also running short. The shortage has prompted speculation Apple is planning to bring forward the launch of its next phone, likely based on 3G technology.

AppleInsider, an unofficial site that reports on the company's business, says it contacted Apple stores across the country and all were out of stock of both the 8GB and 16GB models.  Thus far, there's no news as to when replacements will arrive. Readers of the site added to the reports, suggesting some entire states were without stock. There's also a very unusual 5-7 day delay on delivery from the Apple website, while most AT&T stores are also out of stock.

It seems the shortage began last week and is only getting worse. That's out of the ordinary; Apple rarely has supply problems and usually fixes them quickly. (Source:

Apple is keeping very quiet about the reasons for the shortage. An official statement simply revealed, "We are working to replenish iPhone supplies as quickly as we can. Our stores continue to receive shipments almost every day." They wouldn't answer any further questions.

One analyst says Apple may be clearing shelves to make room for a surprise early release of a new iPhone, which can connect to the faster 3G phone networks. Gene Munster believes there's an "80 percent chance that a new version of the iPhone is coming earlier than anticipated". Other experts believe this is unlikely, pointing to the fact that the Federal Communications Commission hasn't approved any new Apple models; usually they'd do so several weeks before a phone goes on sale.

It's likely Apple would want to keep on selling the original iPhone after the new release, probably at a reduced price. In addition, there are no notable supply problems in Europe, where a 3G-enabled phone would be much more marketable. (Source:

Another theory suggests that it's an accounting trick: phones shipped to independent stores count as sales immediately, while those in Apple's own stores aren't officially unsold until a customer buys them. Apple may be diverting stock elsewhere to boost its on-paper revenues. (Sources:

And yet, it's tough to imagine Apple is deliberately keeping its shelves empty for any reason. Let's face it, that would be the type of poor customer service it generally avoids. Chances are, it's nothing more sinister than a genuine supply problem, perhaps with some of the components that make up the phone.

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