San Francisco/Beijing/London: Apple Inc. began accepting early orders for its iPhone X at 12:01am in California and within minutes shipping times quickly lengthened to as much as six weeks in the US, signalling supplies will likely remain tight as the new device goes on sale November 3.
Around the world, Apple fans posted images and comments online on Friday about how they were planning to get their hands on one of the $999 (or more) phones. You had to be fast. In Hong Kong, the phone appeared to sell out less than half an hour after ordering began in the mid-afternoon, with the online store there showing the phone “currently unavailable.” It was a similar story across Asia.
In the UK, the device sold out within minutes. By mid-morning, customers were being told they would have to wait four to six weeks before the phone became available. And if New Yorkers didn’t stay up all night, they were likely out of luck. By early morning on the East Coast, Apple’s website was already registering a wait of as much as six weeks.
“We can see from the initial response, customer demand is off the charts,” Apple said in an emailed statement. Shares of the Cupertino, California-based company rose as much as 3.5% to $162.95 in New York.
“We believe the iPhone X will reach global supply-demand equilibrium sometime in the March quarter, or 3-4 months after launch,” wrote Gene Munster, co-founder of Loup Ventures, in a note to clients.
A few people posted complaints about glitches, saying the screen was freezing or that they received a message saying that Apple couldn’t reach the carrier systems to process their request. Such gripes are typical after the launch of a major gadget and don’t necessarily mean there are substantial issues. Mostly people were either sad that they couldn’t get one of the first phones, or ecstatic that they did.
Waiting several weeks for major new Apple devices has become common. Shipping times for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, launched in 2014 and the previous end-to-end iPhone overhaul, extended to as much as four weeks in the hours after becoming available to pre-order. Apple typically takes a few weeks or months to reach a balance of supply and demand for major new iPhone launches.
The iPhone X has an OLED screen with slimmer bezels, matching recent designs from Samsung Electronics Co., in addition to a unique facial recognition scanner that lets the user unlock the phone rather than using a fingerprint. Apple struggled to manufacture aspects of the new features, and the iPhone X’s November 3 debut will be about six weeks after the arrival of the iPhone 8, which is a less sophisticated device.
In recent years, Apple has come to rely more heavily on pre-orders. It’s a smart tactical move for Apple because it helps lock people in—even though the company doesn’t collect payment until the phone actually ships. That in turn dissuades shoppers from buying competing devices should there not be enough iPhone Xs available during the holiday shopping season.
Consumers who ordered early will get their iPhone Xs next Friday. Apple also plans to set inventory aside for people choosing to buy an iPhone X at one of the company’s physical stores. For those prepared to fight the crowds, Apple had some advice: “Arrive early.”