iPhone 5 edges toward supply-demand balance

Apple reduces wait time to two weeks, second improvement in eight days

iPhone 5 supplies continued to improve this week as Apple reduced the wait time for delivery to "2 weeks" on its online store.

The status change comes a bit more than a week after Apple shortened the shipping delay to "2-3 weeks" from the "3-4 weeks" that had plagued the smartphone for almost two months.

Apple started taking pre-orders for the iPhone 5 on September 14, but ran through its initial inventory within an hour. By Monday September 24, three days after the smartphone went on sale at Apple's retail stores and those of its mobile carrier partners, the device was backordered three to four weeks.

It stayed stuck on that span until November 12.

In late October, Apple CEO Tim Cook told Wall Street analysts that sales of the iPhone 5 had been "extremely robust" and that production output had "improved significantly" since the beginning of that month. Cook declined to set a target date when supply would meet demand, however.

Analysts have noted the limited supplies of the new smartphone, but some have predicted that Apple would have the problem under control by the end of the year. But if the situation does not improve further, customers would have to order an iPhone 5 no later than the week of Dec. 3 to insure they receive their order in time for the Christmas holiday.

The new iPad Mini is in similar straits: Like the iPhone 5, it's currently back-ordered two weeks.

Other recently-introduced Apple products, however, are in stock, according to Apple's e-store, including the fourth-generation iPad and the 13-in. MacBook Pro notebook with the higher-resolution "Retina" display. The fifth-generation iPod Touch sports a ship delay of "1-3 business days." But redesigned iMacs, also unveiled last month, have yet to make it to the online outlet or Apple's retail stores.

Apple reduced the shipping delay for new iPhone 5 orders to '2 weeks,' the second improvement in the last eight days.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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