Apple on track to meet 100-market target for iPhone 5 roll-out

Plans to start selling its new smartphone in 55 more countries this month

Apple has announced the iPhone 5 will reach retail in South Korea on Dec. 7 and another 54 countries later this month.

The announcement followed one last week about iPhone 5 sales opening on Dec. 14 in the People's Republic of China, one of Apple's biggest markets.

The December debuts -- South Korea on Dec. 7, 34 countries, including China, on Dec. 14, and another 20 on Dec. 21 -- will push the iPhone 5's total to 102 by the end of 2012.

Brian White, of Topeka Capital Markets, noted that this month's roll-outs let Apple meet its target of 100 markets, something company executives promised in an October earnings call with Wall Street analysts. But company executives at the time gave themselves wiggle room.

"We do plan these [roll-outs] in advance and so it is not a precise science," said CEO Tim Cook during the earnings call. "And we obviously have to plan those with several weeks of notice. And so occasionally, it can be different than what we think."

White, who had predicted that Apple would reach a supply-and-demand balance for the iPhone 5 by the end of the year, said his forecast is looking good. "Capacity is now becoming more widely available and shipment times have plummeted to just one week versus three to four weeks a few weeks ago," said White in a Monday note to clients.

Today, Apple's U.S. online store said that ordered iPhone 5s will ship in one week, an improvement over the two-week delay late last month.

Other Apple stores, however, have even shorter shipping delays. In Australia, for example, Apple will ship an iPhone 5 "2-4 business days" after ordering, according to that market's e-market.

White pointed out that the iPhone 5 is behind the roll-out pace of 2011's iPhone 4S, but that the planned launches this month will make up all that ground, and more.

"The iPhone 4S was already in 70 countries in the first 63 days of the launch last year versus our estimate of 47 countries for the iPhone 5 over a similar time frame this year," wrote White. "[But] Apple is on track to reach 101 countries during the first 91 days of the iPhone 5..., better than the 92 countries for the iPhone 4S over a similar time frame."

Among the markets slated to see the iPhone 5 on Dec. 14 are Brazil, China, Israel, Russia and Taiwan. The Dec. 21 debuts will include Egypt, Morocco and Vietnam.

Apple can now ship an ordered iPhone 5 in '1 week,' an improvement over a delay twice as long just two weeks ago.

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.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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