updated 09:30 pm EDT, Fri September 14, 2012
Store stock available in nine countries on September 21
Pent-up demand from existing iPhone users, along with those who have patiently waited for the latest iPhone combined to play havoc once again with the pre-ordering systems of the major US carriers and Apple itself. Earlier today Apple said that its pre-order allotment was already sold out, less than 12 hours after it opened sales at 3:01AM ET, with other carriers following suit. All three major US carriers now list the iPhone 5 as shipping in two to three weeks, though in-store units will still be available on September 21.
Apple issued a brief statement saying that pre-orders for the iPhone 5 have "been incredible" and that "we've been completely blown away by the customer response." Analysts expect Apple to be able to sell between five and 10 million units on its opening weekend, numbers that may be revised upwards in light of the remarkably quick sellout of pre-order allotments. It was a given that the iPhone 5 would do well, as millions of iPhone 4 and earlier models are now off contract or eligible for an early upgrade from their providers, but exactly how well the new model will do won't be known until after the first full weekend of retail sales.
Apple has not revealed pre-order allotments of its own stock or that of other carriers, but last year when the iPhone 4S came out, AT&T and Sprint both reported pre-orders of over 200,000 units had sold in the first 12 hours. Apple is likely to have provided far more units for pre-orders this time, as the iPhone 5 is said to have been in production for months (which consequently led to frequent leaks of parts, to the point where leaders could build nearly-complete units weeks before the official announcement). Apple eventually reported sales of four million units for the first full weekend of the iPhone 4S, double the number of iPhone 4 models sold the year before.
Stock levels at stores are expected to be constrained and sell out quickly on launch day, given the popularity of pre-orders. It is expected that fans will camp out in front of Apple and other provider stores as has been the case previously. While there may be shortages in the earliest days, Apple will have planned for a large rollout and should be able to replenish supplies quickly once the initial demand is met.
Apple has already stated that unlocked, contract-free iPhone 5 units are not likely to be available in the US for several weeks, a concession to US carriers. A quick check of online Apple stores in other countries shows that pre-orders in the countries where the iPhone 5 will first arrive appear to be pushed back to 2-3 weeks availability, though outside the US the factory-unlocked option remains available.
The iPhone 5 introduced a taller, thinner and lighter design with an especially sleek new bezelled edge. While not any wider than the previous model, the unit retains all the features of the iPhone 4S and adds LTE compatibility, an improved camera, a new processor that's said to be twice as fast in both CPU and graphics tasks, improved 802.11n frequencies, redesigned earbuds and a new dock connector, better battery life and will come with the latest version of iOS included, which adds some 200 new features.