updated 01:30 am EST, Tue November 19, 2013
Availability at retail improving just as holiday season gets underway
The iPhone 5s, initially constrained by severe shortages on its debut, is now much more readily available at retail (though the "gold" option is still more scarce than the other colors), and Apple on Monday reduced the ship time to "3-5 business days" across all models and capacities. The move indicates that the company is feeling more confident about having the stock levels necessary to meet demand over the holidays - where Apple is expected to break its own and industry records for sales.
At one point shortly after its debut, the top-of-the-line iPhone had sold out so completely that Apple had simply listed it as being available in "October." Shipping times of 2-3 weeks after ordering were also routine until quite recently, while supplies at retailers had begun to see improvement over the last two weeks, particularly for the non-gold color options.
Recent data based on real-world sales suggests that the iPhone 5s is outselling the iPhone 5c by about 3-to-1, which would explain the 24 hour shipping availability of the colored iPhone option. Both the 5c and 5s, however, are significantly ahead of where the iPhone 5 was at this same point in its sales cycle, suggesting that Apple was wise to diversify its iPhone product line as it did this year.
While Apple has guided analysts that it expects to do around $55-$58 billion in revenue during the holiday season (the company's fiscal first quarter 2014), the rate of growth of sales will be lower than at any time since 2008 - and is expected to be between one and seven percent more than last year. With both iPhone models selling better than the iPhone 5 did at the same time last year, as well as refreshed iPad models, there is a possibility that the company will significantly beat both its own guidance and analysts' consensus, particularly in the large North American and Asia-Pacific markets.