Apple reduces iPhone 5 wait time

Shipping delay falls to "2-3 weeks" in first improvement in nearly two months

Apple today revised the backorder status of the iPhone 5, saying that new orders would ship in "2-3 weeks", a week less than the earlier "3-4 weeks" that had plagued the smartphone for almost two months.

Apple started taking pre-orders for the iPhone 5 on September 14, but ran through its initial inventory within an hour. By Monday Sept. 24, three days after the smartphone went on sale at Apple's retail stores and those of its mobile carrier partners, the device was backordered three to four weeks.

Until today, it had remained stuck at that status.

The Apple website for Australia is showing 2-3 weeks delivery time.

Some of Apple's carrier partners say that they'll ship an iPhone 5 faster: Verizon, for example, claimed on its website today that it could ship an order by Friday, Nov. 16.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, in a conference all with Wall Street analysts two weeks ago, declined to put a date to balancing supply with demand for the iPhone 5, saying then only that sales had been "extremely robust" and that production output had "improved significantly" since earlier in the month.

Analysts expected that the iPhone 5 would, like almost all new Apple products, be in short supply off the bat, but predicted that inventory would match demand by the end of this year. Reducing the shipping delay by a week was the first step in that direction by Apple.

Other factors have also played a part: According to experts last week, the iPhone 5's design -- and Apple's tough quality requirements -- have contributed to the shortages.

The CEO of Foxconn, the Chinese contract manufacturer that assembles Apple devices, also said last week it was shipping fewer iPhones because of design demands and general production issues.

Brian White, of Topeka Capital Markets, has predicted total iPhone sales for the fourth quarter at 43 million, which if accurate, would be a new record for a three-month period. The current record of 37 million iPhones was set in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Brian Marshall, of the ISI Group, has pegged iPhone sales for the fourth quarter of 2012 at 47 million.

Apple dropped the shipping delay for new iPhone 5 orders to '2-3 weeks,' the first step toward matching supply with demand in almost two months.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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Gregg Keizer

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