iPhone 6 Supplies Lower Than Desired for Holidays: Analyst

Apple's iPhone 6 smartphones are so popular that finding the one with the features you want could be tougher than it should be this holiday season.

Apple iPhone 6

When Apple launched its then-new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones in September, the devices flew off store shelves and out of warehouses in a frenzy that may not have yet slowed down. And what that's done, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, is resulted in lower supplies of the devices in all colors and configurations during the holiday shopping season.

A recent research note from Munster revealed that "only 56 percent of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus trims, or configurations, were in stock" as of Dec. 12, according to a Dec. 16 Modern Readers story. "This figure may improve to about 80 percent by the end of the fourth quarter of 2014, but this is a more bearish outlook compared to Munster's original forecast that 100 percent of all iPhone 6 and 6 Plus configurations will be in stock at that time."

Munster's report also showed that "availability for both devices combined had actually deteriorated from the previous month, slipping from 58 percent of all configurations" since Nov. 14, the news story said. "Fortunately, supply figures had ticked up from mid-October's levels, while iPhone 6 shipping lead times are now at three to five business days, down from seven to 10 business days from the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus' mid-September release to around mid-November. iPhone 6 Plus lead times are even more drastically improved, decreasing from three to four weeks right after the device's release to three to five business days as of this month."

The supplies of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones are tighter than supplies of then-current iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c phones in December 2013, according to Munster's research.

Munster did not immediately respond to an email inquiry from eWEEK seeking additional comments about his report.

Interestingly, the tight supplies of iPhones come just as research firm Gartner unveiled its latest rankings for worldwide smartphone sales by vendor. Samsung continues to lead those rankings with a 20.6 percent market share, but Apple looks ripe to soon climb out of the third spot at 8.4 percent to move ahead of Nokia in the second spot at 9.5 percent of the market.

Roberta Cozza, a Gartner analyst, said in a statement that the market shifts are happening as Samsung and Nokia are losing ground to Apple. "Samsung and Nokia experienced sharp double-digit declines in the third quarter, which let Apple get closer to Nokia, with only 5 million units separating these two vendors," she said.

The new iPhones went on sale on Sept. 19 in the United States and are now available in some 115 countries. The launch day saw customers around the world waiting in long lines at Apple stores and other businesses to pick up their long-awaited new phones, according to an earlier eWEEK report.

Preorders for the new iPhones reached huge levels ahead of the launch, with more than 4 million devices preordered within 24 hours of the process opening in early September. That high demand quickly led the company to advise customers that many devices won't be delivered until October due to short initial supplies.

The new iPhones include the iPhone 6 with its 4.7-inch Retina HD display and the iPhone 6 Plus with its 5.5-inch Retina HD screen. The devices—which come in 16GB, 64GB and 128GB storage capacities—also come with many other new features and capabilities, making them popular before they ever hit store shelves. The new phones include an Apple-designed A8 chip with second-generation 64-bit desktop-class architecture, enhanced iSight and FaceTime HD cameras, and the latest iOS 8 operating system.

Earlier in December, United Airlines announced that about 23,000 of its flight attendants will soon be getting Apple iPhone 6 Plus smartphones starting in the second quarter of 2015 to beef up and expand the company's customer service in the air around the world. The phones will help flight attendants check flight connections for customers and sell instant seat upgrades for premium Economy Plus seats in aircraft cabins.

Other benefits will include simplified sales of on-board food items and the ability of all United flight attendants to have personal Internet access during flights. They will also gain access to company email and intranet sites, as well as electronic copies of airline safety manuals.