US iPhone Shortage... Due to INTL Pirates?


As previously mentioned, US Apple Store's have been surprisingly (or suspiciously) out of iPhone stock lately.

Some have speculated that this is due to the immanent release of a 3G iPhone, others have cited atypical supply chain management issues, component shortages, or shipping problems.

In a long post based on info from an anonymous source nom-de-tip'd, Tantrum, Roughly Drafted brings a third option to the table: Pirates. (JAR!)

“Demand for iPhones outside the United States, particularly in emerging markets, is out of control and has reached the point where it has started to impact Apple’s normalized supply chain projections,” Tantrum wrote. “It’s okay to have a delta of, say, 100,000 units or so per year between actual and forecast. International demand is driving that delta upwards of 1 million. That’s a whole different ball game for component sourcing, quality control and production ramp-up and some things are starting to come unstuck, even for a finely managed company like Apple.”

Tantrum mentions 5 specific reasons for the increased international demand:

Ease of jailbreak/unlock with new GUI-based solution. Organizations specializing in getting iPhones into Eastern Europe and Asia. Spread of Wi-Fi and EDGE being "good enough" in most countries. GSM compatibility. Low price (due to weak American dollar and high local smartphone costs).

There's much more in the original post, so be sure to check it out. Could the pirates (JAR!) be sucking the US channels dry? Or is this just another crazy theory in face of the impending 3G monster birthing any minute now? What do you think?

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

US iPhone Shortage... Due to INTL Pirates?


While the general notion and bit about factors driving demand outside of the US seem eminently reasonable, some of the data specifics have me wondering:
If you define a potential user as someone who can afford (or is used to) paying twice as much for an iPhone and double what an AT&T subscriber pays per month, there are at least 7 million potential iPhone users in Nigeria, 9 Million in South Africa, 80 Million in India, 25 Million in Russia, 25 Million in Brazil, 8 Million in Indonesia and 100 Million in China. Not all of them will be users but just 5% of this number is way more than 10 million.
Quantifying numbers of people who can afford something and their spending habits ('is used to paying twice as much) in seven countries seems, to put it mildly, like a very substantial undertaking.
From research I’m conducting. we have conservative numbers of grey market as follows:
* Russia 2000 to 4000 phones/week
* China 4000 to 6000 phones/week
Demand from Western Europe is substantially slower but still significant, averaging anything from 2000 to 3000 units/week from New York and other big cities with international airports.
So now it's research into essentially clandestine operations? So he (or she) has what, a network of spies?