For months, reports have been coming out of Asia saying that the supply of Apple’s new iPhone X phone will be severely constrained. Another such report came from the Nikkei today, stating that Apple will have only about half the iPhone X’s it planned on for the launch.
A bit later in the day, Apple posted a statement saying that the new phone will be available both for pre-order October 27th and in stores on launch day, November 3. The statement also helpfully adds that buyers on November 3 should “arrive early.” (Read: “Please make huge lines and tweet lots of photos!”) You can also read it as Apple saying supplies will be very limited. You can also wonder exactly how early Apple means when they say “arrive early.”
An Apple spokesperson repeated that information when I called, but would not say if Apple had reserved separate allotments of the phones for pre-orders and more in-store buys. This matters because in the past one has depended on the other. Last year the iPhone 7 Plus sold out during pre-orders, leaving none available for purchase in the stores on launch day.
I seriously doubt Apple would create a situation where only the first five people in line will get the opportunity to lay down $999 and up for a new iPhone X, leaving everybody else to go home angry (if richer). I suspect anybody who shows up in the first few hours will be able to get a phone.
But I also fully expect that demand will far exceed supply. Around the time of the announcement of the iPhone X in September, the common narrative held that supplies of the new phone would be limited for six months after launch. Those reports were based on rumored difficulties in manufacturing the optical systems that do the facial recognition–one of the handful of key new features in the new phone.
Citing the same issues, today’s Nikkei report says Apple will be able to ship only 20 million of the 40 million iPhone X’s it hoped to ship in the period from launch to the end of December.
“Apple is launching iPhone X in 55 countries next week, in addition to having some supply available at Apple Retail stores,” writes Above Avalon analyst Neil Cybart in a brief today. “My suspicion is there will be more than 2M to 3M iPhone X units shipping at launch.”
The problem is compounded by the likelihood that many buyers held off buying the new iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus so that they could buy an iPhone X. This was borne out by the shorter-than-usual delivery lead times for iPhone 8 and 8 Plus pre-orders. Where the iPhone X offers several new features never seen in iPhones before, the iPhone 8 contained mainly upgrades of existing components and features.
More recent research suggests the iPhone 8 Plus (starts at $799) is outselling the smaller and less expensive iPhone 8 (starts at $699). Mixpanel data from October 23 says 1.79% of all new iPhone turn-ons were from iPhone 8 Plus, while only 1.30% were from iPhone 8’s. This suggests either that people want iPhones with really big screens, or (more likely) that they want iPhones with dual cameras and far better photographs. The iPhone X also has dual cameras.
My advice: Before going to stand in line to buy an iPhone X, give some serious thought to whether or not you’re really going to be able to train your thumb to stop reaching for that Home button (the iPhone X, of course, doesn’t have one.)