/ Technology

Is Apple guilty of iPhoney shortages?

Apple Store

iPhone fans are still queuing around Apple stores hoping that new stock will come their way. Shame Apple isn’t doing more to meet demand, but then what would fuel the hype machine?

Apparently, people are still queuing for the signal-challenged iPhone 4, standing in line outside Apple stores, desperate to hand over a wad of cash for the latest iGadget.

It’s a level of demand that was previously reserved for bread queues in the old Soviet era USSR. The cynic in me thinks that Apple could well benefit from keeping supply tight, and demand high.

True, Apple did sell 1.7m iPhone 4s in the first three days on sale, and it also claims to have shifted over 3m iPads in 80 days. So, why is it so hard to find them – and why are people still queuing for these ‘magical’ products?

Perhaps Apple is deliberately throttling the numbers available in stores, banking on disappointed shoppers being turned away empty handed. This will then create pent up demand and a feverish trawl to track one down.

I’m not alone in thinking so. By keeping demand high, Apple can continue to stretch demand – and sales – significantly over the coming months.

Or, is it just because the iPad and iPhone 4 are insanely popular? While hunting for my own iPad, I quizzed Apple store staff who insisted that new stock arrived daily, but was snapped up as soon as it arrived. Their advice: join the queue each morning and take a punt – and presumably help boost the whole hype machine to boot.

Well, forget that. iGiveup when it comes to these suspect shortages.

Andy Hessentaler says:
8 July 2010

Why don’t you just buy online? Is that the point of online shopping? Avoiding queues? If you’re in the market for a iphone 4 or ipad I reckon you’re going to be pretty comfortable shopping online, no?

Andy Hessentaler says:
8 July 2010

I remember a few years ago when Nintendo launched the Wii before Christmas (and a few years before that with various Sony products; PSP & Playstation), demand way outstripped supply, with many Christmas shoppers either resorting to ebay to pay extortionate prices or simply buying an alternative present. It would certainly not make any business sense at all for Sony or Nintendo to miss out on fulfilling Christmas sales as much of it won’t be retrieved. Its not just consumer electronics either – lack of product in the market happened with the launch of the Audi TT, making second hand prices higher than brand new ones for a while.

So, history tells us its genuinely possible for even Apple to find it difficult to meet demand.

On the other hand…

2) Some clever analyst (and marketing VP with nerves of steel) have probably calculated how long they can play this game. I accept your point that they maybe throttling supply as there simply isnt a direct substitute product on the market for ipads.

I think quite a big argument could be made for Nintendo holding back Wii supply to increase demand. It may be a little harder the PS3, since there were actually shortages and troubles with new high-end technology (like blu-ray diodes). Though I’m sure Nintendo was surprised by the success of the Wii.

John Barnes says:
9 July 2010

The reason I disagree with you is that it isn’t just Apple that has shortages of its phones! You haven’t been able to get an HTC Desire for love nor money for much of its existence – it goes out of stock within a day every time more come in.

The difference is that Apple spends most of its money on (actually pretty good) advertising, and stoking up excitement about their products. Fair play to them. The problem is that the media laps this up, lazily printing the stories Apple tells them to. Can you imagine what the headline woudl be if it were anyone else? Yes, that’s right: ‘HTC too incompetent to keep phones coming’. But with Apple it’s ‘Fans sooooo excited they can’t make enough’. Lazy, lazy journalism. There are loads of other phones out there, but all they talk about is a tiny-bit-better new iphone.

This not only applies to newspaper journalists, but also to the BBC and to Government.

A recent news story reported that the Department for Work and Pensions and the Foreign Office have spent 10's of thousands of £s developing iphone apps. The former have developed apps which purport to assist jobseekers. I wonder how many jobseekers can afford to buy and run an iphone?

A Local Authority (South Kesteven District Council) is boasting that they have an iphone app available on their website – "making it even easier to find out how clean a restaurant or takeaway is when you fancy a quick snack or a night out."

Is this a reasonable use of public money in a time of economic stringency?

While I agree totally about the HTC Desire being a better phone (I love mine!), I don’t think the blame can sit with journalists entirely. After all, they write about what readers are interested in. You can’t ignore stories about the iPhone when everyone is interested, and they just don’t seem to be in the same way about Android phones.

Which is a shame, because I think there are many, many phones out there that have long surpassed the iPhone, especially by not being deliberately closed and broken.

John says:
17 July 2010

Matt, you obviously do not have have any idea about what manufacturing these kinds of devices involves and how managing to get these devices off the manufacturing line at the rate of around a million a month is in itself a miracle.

Karen Morley says:
25 July 2010

I wasn’t prepared to queue for 90 minutes to buy the iPhone 4, so I went into the store & reserved a phone. Approx a week later Apple emailed me to say it was ready for me to collect (held for two days). This is obviously quicker than purchasing online and also offers the advantage that a ‘specialist’ will help set the phone up, transfer contacts, set up email etc, if you need guidance.