There is a shortage of iPhones in Apple’s stores in the United States. And there is a surplus of frenzied speculation about what this means. Many wonder whether Apple is closing out of its existing stock in order to clear the way for new models, possibly with the ability to connect to faster 3G networks.
Gene Munster, the analyst at Piper Jaffray, said that of the possible explanations for the shortage there is an “80 percent chance that a new version of the iPhone is coming earlier than anticipated.”
The mystery of the missing iPhones has reach a fever pitch, and several pundits including Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster have interpreted the shortage to mean that a 3G model is on its way to stores soon, bolstered, it seems, by the comments of ATT Mobility president Ralph de la Vega at CTIA yesterday, where he hinted heavily?but did not outright confirm--that the iPhone would be on the 3G network within months. Others including Sanford C. Bernstein analyst A.M. Sacconaghi Jr., believes Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) is really just short of handsets. In an interesting response that surfaced on Saul Hansell's NYT BITS blog on the missing iPhones, an anonymous poster put forth the theory that the runaway gray market for iPhones in emerging countries was making it difficult for Apple to manage its supply chain projections?hence the shortage.
"Tantrum," as the poster signed him/herself noted that 100,000 gray market units was to be expected, but with upward of one million iPhones going gray? "That's a whole different ball game for component sourcing, quality control and production ramp-up and some things are starting to come unstuck, even for a finely managed company like Apple."
This is not a wild theory. Since its launch, iPhone has struggled with gray market sellers in Europe and Asia, where they've played a whack-a-mole game of sending out letters threatening legal action against them. In February, there were reports that 1.4 million iPhones were unaccounted for?that is they weren't registered on the respective networks they had been bought for. The post goes on to give a very detailed analysis of how American analysts can take a too US-Europe-centric view of the iPhone, all the while an organized gray market?with some sellers even offering support on the hacked iPhones?are catering to the wealthy elite in emerging countries. The upshot: a "conservative estimate" of 15,000-20,000 sucked out of the US on a weekly basis and ending up in China, India, Brazil, the Middle East among others just at a time when American iPhone adoption is ramping up even more.
Something about 3G
3G is the third generation of mobile phone standards and technology, superseding 2G. It is based on the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) family of standards under the International Mobile Telecommunications programme, "IMT-2000".