Apple’s iPhone 6 drought: A deliberate mistake?

Apple has had some trouble supplying its handset fans with stock of this year’s iPhone, particularly the phablet model, as you’ve no doubt noticed if you follow Cupertino, or indeed have tried to purchase one of the phones since their launch.

The supply picture is definitely improving now, as we reported at the weekend, with delivery times at the Apple online store coming down in the UK and US – although there are still issues with the larger 128GB capacity handsets that have a seven to ten working day wait (potentially two weeks, in other words – not exactly immediate service).

CBNC has published a report looking into why Apple has struggled to meet demand, and noted that according to Gene Munster, the ever-present phone analyst from Piper Jaffray, late last month only 58 per cent of iPhone 6 and 6 Plus stock was actually available to purchase in stores in the US. In other words, 42 per cent or 4 in 10 new iPhones weren’t available to the public (presumably stuck in some warehouse or other somewhere).

That’s obviously a problem, and even stronger demand this year for the new much larger iPhones (and the first ever Apple phablet) has compounded the issue.

Apple’s profits have still been more than rosy, and of course the obvious clamour for handsets doesn’t hurt the iPhone’s overall image. Indeed, CNBC mulls that old chestnut of whether Apple deliberately moves more slowly with its supply chain to generate this sort interest in, and desire for, its iPhones – is it all part of some grand sales strategy?

Marlene Morris Towns, a marketing strategy professor at Georgetown University, argued: “No one's really familiar with the inner workings of Apple, but my thinking is, this company is too big and too experienced to get it this wrong.” She has a point, and adds: "They can still forecast, they can still anticipate the demand. I don't see a plausible explanation as to how they could have miscalculated this much."

If the iPhone is in hot demand, and people literally can’t get enough of them, it brings a kind of edge of exclusivity to the product, stokes Apple’s hype cycle, and ensures a stronger level of continued sales (and less of a massive spike to begin with, and then a fall-off – which would make the product seem as if it was becoming less desirable somehow).

It’s certainly food for thought, and not the first time Cupertino has been accused of having some sort of overarching supply/demand strategy.