Did you order your iPhone 4 online? If so, don’t count on actually getting your hands on the highly anticipated new handset from Apple. Reports are circulating that customers are being notified that online sales have been canceled. However, reports are also circulating that AT&T is saying this should only affect those who accidentally submitted their order more than one.
All this follows the debacle last week, which resulted in the suspension of sales of the iPhone 4 after the reported response was 10 times bigger than that for the iPhone 3GS just a year ago. Apple has since noted that it has sold 600,000 iPhone 4 models last Tuesday alone. But AT&T, which remains the exclusive carrier of the iPhone, has also noted that Apple didn’t really have enough handsets for pre-orders.
But isn’t this par for the course with new technology and devices? There is always supply and demand in retail, regardless of what the “widget” might be – and in this case I say widget as the ever-generic product used in retail studies rather than the mini-application or add-on for software browsers and handsets. Make too many products and the supply is greater than the demand, and this drives the price down of course. But on the flip side if you don’t make enough, and the demand is there, this can increase the price to the end user (as various third parties mark it up). The manufacturer might not actually see the added revenue directly, but it could actually get buzz from the resulting interest.
This does run counter to what I had recently said about the iPhone being part of an iPonzi scheme, where Apple would have to face the fact that consumers will not likely just keep re-purchasing the same handset time and time again. But only so much, because even with real Ponzi schemes there will be moments when there are waves of revenue. In this case the iPhone 4s deliver a lot of what the past models – including the iPhone 3GS couldn’t do.
And this brings us to those “online reports” that we read about. While last Tuesday saw a huge response in sales, and Apple is reporting that it can’t keep up with the demand, we are seeing that this is far more than the usual short packing, where you purposely let out a bit less so some users are forced to seek out the device. It is much like the hot toy at Christmas. The stories aren’t about every parent happily finding one, it is about those parents who can’t find it – and thus must drive everywhere to get one. Even if said toy wasn’t on the list to Santa for their respective child, other parents suddenly wonder if they need to seek out it.
So why wasn’t Apple prepared for the demand? Could it be that even the House that Jobs built knows that they’ll be facing diminishing sales with each new iPhone model? This isn’t to say that the iPhone is going to crash and burn, and since debuting in 2007 the iPhone has been an extremely successful product.