updated 01:52 am EST, Thu November 21, 2013
Distribution problems could hurt crucial holiday sales figures
With supplies of the iPhone 5s now seen to be on its way to meeting demand, Apple and its carrier partners are now facing a new issue - a potentially crippling shortage of the new Retina iPad mini, expected to be one of the top-selling Apple products this holiday season. While the Wi-Fi only version is not nearly as scarce, carriers expected to sell plenty of the cellular-capable versions - but are reporting minimal stock and long backorders already, suggesting Apple may have a hard time meeting Christmas demand.
Apple's own supply of the units appears to be better than that of its partners, reports AppleInsider. The company's online store lists ship times of five to 10 business days from the ordering date, while three of the big four US carriers are backlogged by anything from two weeks to over a month. A spot check of Apple's retail stores in several states saw available supplies of the full-size iPad Air with cellular capability and generally good availability of the Wi-Fi only Retina iPad mini, but widespread shortages of any cellular versions of the Mini in any capacity or color option.
KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has a better-than-average track record on Apple predictions, has told his clients in a recent investor note that he expects the Retina iPad mini to be in very short supply until after the holiday season. He also predicts that the 7.9-inch tablet will outsell the larger 9.7-inch iPad Air (which also features a Retina display) by a significant factor. He predicts shipments of the Retina iPad mini will double just after Christmas, but still expects Apple to sell a total 23.1 million iPad units in the December quarter.
While Kuo's prediction on sales may or may not pan out, the new iPad mini is definitely expected to be one of, if not the, most in-demand consumer electronics devices during the holiday buying season, which is expected to formally kick off with Black Friday sales in the US this weekend. Should Apple be unable to increase supply of the cellular version of the device over the next few weeks, the resulting shortage could have negative implications on the company's calendar fourth-quarter sales in the overall iPad segment -- particularly if Kuo's predictions about the popularity of the Mini over the Air are borne out.