U.S. Carriers Struggling To Keep Up With High iPhone 4S Demand

U.S. carriers continue to struggle with high demand for the iPhone 4S, The Wall Street Journal reports today. Apple’s latest iPhone, launched on October 14th in seven countries including the United States, has been a success for the company in early sales, reaching over 4 million units sold in the first weekend of availability. For comparison, the iPhone 4 sold “only” 1.7 million units in its first weekend last year. But according to U.S. carriers, the iPhone 4S’ popularity isn’t just a passing fad among Apple fans and early adopters: as the device’s popularity continues to build. carriers are finding themselves struggling to get inventory from Apple.

Verizon Wireless customers may have to wait more than three weeks for the device, according to the carrier’s website. That compares with as much as 21 days at AT&T and up to 14 days at Sprint Nextel. While some tech blogs have suggested Apple’s manufacturing isn’t keeping pace, the carriers point to unexpectedly strong demand for the handset.

“We are having some supply issues in the sense that demand’s huge,” AT&T’s president of emerging devices, Glenn Lurie, said Wednesday. “We have had just record-breaking sales on it.

Obviously, both Apple and the carriers prioritize in-store retail sales over online orders; Apple, for instance, is giving customers the possibility to reserve an iPhone 4S at their local store, and it’s generally easier to find an iPhone 4S just by walking into a store, rather than ordering it online. On Apple’s online store, shipping times for the iPhone 4S are now set at 1-2 weeks. Furthermore, it appears the problem with shortages isn’t due to Apple’s manufacturing process – there’s simply too much demand for the device than Apple can meet both online and in physical stores at the moment.

At the Q4 2011 earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook said they were extremely pleased with the initial demand for the iPhone 4S and customers’ reaction to the new model, adding that the company was confident they had enough supply to meet demand. Since its U.S. launch, Apple has been quickly rolling out the iPhone 4S in new countries, reaching 44 in less than a month and with another round of international rollouts reportedly set for later this month.

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