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iPhone 5 a sellout; component shortages and carrier testing may delay shipments

iPhone enthusiasts who awoke in the wee hours this morning were able to pre-order a new iPhone 5 for delivery next Friday. The rest of us may have to wait a little longer; by the start of the business day Apple had already pushed back the ship date for all models of the new smartphone. The company now says the new phones will not ship for two weeks in the United States. Canadians must also wait two weeks, and UK residents must wait 2-3 weeks, according to Apple’s website.

Carriers are also having a hard time meeting demand on schedule. AT&T’s website now says the new iPhone will ship in 14-21 business days. Sprint is still promising the 32GB and 64GB models by September 21, but says the 16GB could take up to two weeks to ship. Verizon says new customers will get not get the phone until October 5. The differences in delivery dates are potentially due to the carriers’ different certification processes, according to Jefferson Wang, who leads the wireless practice at IBB Consulting. “Having been involved with phone launches on all the major US carrier networks, it’s important to remember that each carrier has its own certification process that leads to a final stamp of approval,” he says.

Once the carriers finally get the iPhone, they can expect a rush of retail traffic and a potential hit to earnings, due to the subsidies Apple requires them to pay on each phone sold. Historically, the iPhone has been a good long-term investment for carriers because it brings in new customers, but the short-term costs are significant. One Wall Street analyst has already downgraded AT&T and Verizon, expecting the the subsidies to have a short-term negative impact on earnings.

But for Apple, the iPhone enthusiasm is nothing but good news. “This is a good problem to have,” says Sterne Agee‘s Shaw Wu. “From our understanding APple built a very large initial batch and they sold out. … The numbers are huge; it’s going to be well, well above iPhone 4S. Demand is going to be overwhelming.

Wu agrees with the conventional wisdom about the shipment delays, which is that Apple’s suppliers cannot make the new phone’s in-cell touchscreen displays quickly enough. Apple “can’t keep up because of some component issues,” says Wu, adding that troubled Sharp Corp. is not the only bottleneck. Wu thinks that there are also delays at Apple’s two other suppliers: South Korea’s LG Display and Japan Display, a joint venture formed by Toshiba and Hitachi, among others.

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Martha DeGrasse
Martha DeGrasse
Martha DeGrasse is the publisher of Network Builder Reports ( At RCR, Martha authored more than 20 in-depth feature reports and more than 2,400 news articles. She also created the Mobile Minute and the 5 Things to Know Today series. Prior to joining RCR Wireless News, Martha produced business and technology news for CNN and Dow Jones in New York and managed the online editorial group at Hoover’s Online before taking a number of years off to be at home when her children were young. Martha is the board president of Austin's Trinity Center and is a member of the Women's Wireless Leadership Forum.

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