The iPhone 5 went on sale as the clocked ticked into Sept. 14 on the West Coast. Within an hour, according to reports, the Sept. 21 ship date had changed to "2 weeks" on the Apple site.
As of the start of the working day on the East Coast, Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint were all still accepting orders and posting a Sept. 21 shipping date, though AT&T appears to be only offering the black and slate model, while the others also have a white and silver option.
Roughly a year ago, it took nearly 22 hours for Apple's supply of iPhone 4S handsets to run down to where Apple had to extend the shipping date by two weeks. The difference, Topeka analyst Brian White said in a Sept. 14 research note, points to even greater than expected sales.
"Clearly, iPhone 5 fever is in full swing," White wrote, according to Business Insider.
"Given that the iPhone 4S received over 1 million pre-orders in the first 24 hours, we indicated this week that we expected 1.3 million to 1.5 million pre-orders for the iPhone 5," White continued. "At the same time, the iPhone 4S sold over 4 million units in the first three days last year, and assuming supply chain constraints aren't a major issue, we also have projected at least 5 million to 5.5 million iPhone 5's can be sold in this same time frame. With similar caveats, we have projected Apple could sell 10 million to 12 million iPhone 5 units in 4QFY12, making our iPhone projections look very conservative."
Supply chain constraints may indeed be a problem.
Marketwatch reported Sept. 13, citing the Nikkei business daily which didn't cite sources, that if demand is particularly strong, "Sharp Corp.'s slow production of display screens for Apple Inc.'s iPhone 5 could lead to shortages of the new smartphone..."
The report added that engineers from Apple and Hon Hai Precision, which assembles the iPhone, helped Sharp to get production started a key plant, which should be running at full capacity "next month."
LG Electronics and Japan Display—a joint venture of Sony, Toshiba and Hitachi—also provide Apple with iPhone displays.
Hon Hei Precision owns Foxconn, which earlier this year was exposed by The New York Times and others as subjecting workers unsafe and woeful working conditions. The media reports followed months of on-going worker suicides at the factories. In February, Apple said that the Fair Labor Association (FLA) was looking into the labor right allegations, and in March the FLA reported back, saying it had found "serious and pressing non-compliances with FLA's Workplace Code of Conduct as well as Chinese labor laws."
A day before Apple introduced the iPhone 5, the Shanghai Evening Post ran its own exposé after a reporter went undercover as a worker in a Foxconn factory. According to a translation from Micgadget, the worker faced excessively long working hours performing tedious tasks and still was pressured to work overtime; crowded, uncomfortable living conditions; was told to "obey" and not question anything; and was made to sign a contract saying he faced no "possible harmful effects," regardless of the truth.
Apple CEO Tim Cook, earlier this year, maintained that "no one in our industry" does as much as Apple to improve the conditions for its hundreds of thousands of workers, which may simply imply that conditions elsewhere are worse.
"Any suggestion that we don't care is patently false and offensive to us," Cook reportedly said in a January 26 email to Apple staff. "As you know better than anyone, accusations like these are contrary to our values. It's not who we are."