Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s new iPhones will take as many as four weeks to ship, a sign that early demand for the smartphones is outstripping supply.
The iPhone 6 Plus, which has a larger display, will take three to four weeks for shoppers who pre-ordered online yesterday, according to Apple’s website, as people rushed to buy the handset hours after the company began taking pre-orders. Certain iPhone 6 models, which have a slightly smaller screen, will take seven to 10 business days to arrive, though some versions are still available for delivery on Sept. 19 when the devices are set to go on sale in stores. Pre-orders through some individual carriers’ websites indicate shipments could take even longer.
“Response to iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus has been incredible, with a record number of pre-orders overnight,” said Trudy Muller, a spokeswoman with Cupertino, California-based Apple.
Apple this week unveiled the new smartphones with rounded edges, thinner frames and higher-resolution displays, and they became available for pre-order starting at 3 a.m. New York time yesterday. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook is counting on the new devices to usher in demand for other products he introduced this week, from the iPhone-compatible Apple Watch to the credit card-substituting Apple Pay service.
Demand for the latest iPhone is the greatest AT&T Inc. has seen in two years, Ralph de la Vega, CEO of its mobile division, said yesterday at a Goldman Sachs media conference.
“Every time there is a change in design, and this is clearly a change in design for Apple, there is an uptake,” de la Vega said. “I think there’s going to be a great uptake, which is good for us.”
This isn’t the first time Apple and phone carriers have seen iPhone models delayed well before they were available in stores. In 2012, the iPhone 5 was delayed for shipment by a week after a rush of orders, and in 2011 the iPhone 4S sold out at AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and Sprint Nextel Corp. only five days after pre-orders began.
“The iPhone 6 Plus experiences severe supply constraints,” Brian White, an analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald, wrote in a note to investors.
The iPhone 6 has a 4.7-inch display and the iPhone 6 Plus has a 5.5-inch one, while the previous iPhones have a 4-inch screen. The iPhone 6 costs $199 to $399 with a two-year contract, while the 6 Plus is priced at $299 to $499. The devices will come in silver, gold and space gray.
“It’s the biggest advancement ever in iPhone history,” Cook said yesterday in an interview with Charlie Rose at Bloomberg headquarters in New York. “We think that the upgrade cycle here and the number of people that will switch from other smartphones — it will be enormous.”
Customers took to Twitter to complain of difficulties loading Apple’s website to place pre-orders. The website had problems loading at about 3:22 a.m. New York time yesterday, according to Isitdownrightnow.com, a site that tracks Internet issues.
Shares of Apple rose less than 1 percent to $101.66 at the close in New York yesterday. The stock is up 27 percent this year.
While the company normally doesn’t disclose figures for its production runs of new products, it typically has a supply of its new devices in stores on the first day.
Carriers, which often offer deals when a new iPhone comes out to lure more data-hungry smartphone users and bolster their market share, are again offering incentives that may be bolstering interest.
Verizon is promoting a “Trade In & Trade Up” smartphone sale on its website, offering $100 to $300 for used devices. AT&T said earlier this week it will let customers swap in their old iPhone for a new iPhone 6 and as much as a $300 credit. Sprint is offering the “iPhone for Life” plan, which for $70 a month lets users rent the iPhone 6 and upgrade to a new version every two years, while T-Mobile US Inc. says it will top the best trade-in price with an added $50.
“Right now, we’re in an online, preorder phase, and will share info on in-store when it becomes available,” Debra Lewis, a Verizon spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.
While AT&T is planning on having new iPhones in stores by Sept. 19, the company won’t comment on which specific models will be available, said Mark Siegel, a spokesman for the carrier.
T-Mobile will have the iPhone 6 Plus in stock in stores when the device goes on sale next week, said Tolena Thorburn, a spokeswoman for the Bellevue, Washington-based company. The company’s website was unable to process orders part of yesterday, with its site carrying a message attributing the errors to “strong demand for preorder devices.”
T-Mobile CEO John Legere apologized to customers on Twitter, saying “demand has been huge but we are on it.”
Michelle Mermelstein, a spokeswoman for Sprint, declined to comment on whether the Overland Park, Kansas-based company would have the iPhone 6 Plus in stores on Sept. 19.
The iPhone remains the most important piece of Apple’s business.
The handset accounted for about half of Apple’s $171 billion in revenue in its last fiscal year, and with sales of the iPad slowing, the company needs to keep the iPhone a blockbuster to maintain growth.
The handsets will initially be available in a limited set of markets — including the U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore and the U.K. – – for pre-order and shipping on Sept. 19, the company has said. China, one of Apple’s biggest markets, won’t get the new devices at first, though the company said it plans to have the phones in 115 countries by the end of the year.