If iPhone 5 sales have not yet spiked to the heights investors had hoped, it’s not because of limited demand. It’s due to a continuing shortfall in supply. Two weeks after its retail debut, Apple’s latest iPhone continues to be difficult to come by, with devices ordered online showing shipping estimates of three weeks to four weeks, and a number of Apple’s retail stores reporting low inventory.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, an Apple bull if there ever was one, whacked 2.2 million units from his September iPhone forecast Thursday for precisely this reason. Munster’s team surveyed 100 U.S. Apple Stores over the past week and concluded that the supply of iPhone 5 is “extremely limited.” Given that, Munster lowered his iPhone forecast for September from 27.2 million units to 25 million units.
But Munster’s not yet willing to take a scalpel to the holiday quarter. By December, he figures, Apple should be able to meet demand for the iPhone 5, and when it does, investors will finally see those outrageously big sales for which they’ve been hoping. “While the supply issues for the iPhone 5 since launch are concerning in terms of the company’s ability to fully meet demand in December, we are staying with our 49 million unit estimate for the holiday quarter,” he said.
So, assuming supply and demand for the iPhone 5 hit equilibrium in the next month or so, Apple is going to be in a great position heading into the holidays. As Jefferies analyst Peter Misek observes, right now there simply aren’t enough iPhone 5s to go around. “Remember, there are 170 million post paid subscribers coming off contract,” Misek told AllThingsD. “That’s overwhelming all supply ramps. The demand here is unprecedented.”