Is Apple iPhone 4 A Victim Of Its Own Hype?


From pre-order debacles and an early prototype leak, the Apple iPhone 4 hasn't had the smoothest road to travel.

And despite some long lines at major Apple stores nationwide – Boston, New York, San Francisco, and others – it seems the Apple iPhone fever may have finally broke.

Stores had two lines for customers: One line for folks who had already reserved their Apple iPhone 4 online, and one for iPhone 4 hopefuls who lined up with a credit card and a prayer, hoping to secure the device on-site. Walk-up customers were guaranteed nothing, as Apple has said they would sell unspoken for iPhones on a first come, first served basis.

Since Steve Jobs pulled the curtain off of the Apple iPhone 4 earlier this month, there have been questions around whether iPhone 4 supply would be able to meet demand. In the first day of online pre-orders, the latest iteration of the now-iconic smartphone sold a brisk 600,000 units, the highest in Apple and iPhone history.

The demand was so great that AT&T's servers crashed, forcing the iPhone's sole U.S. carrier to suspend pre-sales. Apple, too, had to scale back operations a bit and guarantee customers a later delivery date than expected. While some iPhone buyers actually received their Apple iPhone 4 a day early, others who pre-ordered through Apple will have to wait until July 2, while still others will have to be a bit more patient, as their Apple iPhone 4 won't land on their doorsteps until July 14.

It certainly says something about the power of the iPhone that in a shaky economy 600,000 consumers are willing to pony up either $200 or $300 for a smartphone, while several thousand more line up for a chance with no guarantee to buy one.

But Apple should have been prepared, right? The company should have been ready for the excitement.

Apple has been through this before. It's become an annual tradition that started with the June 2007 launch of the first generation iPhone and continued on with 2008's iPhone 3G and last year's iPhone 3G S. Each device sold briskly. Apple should have known.

The official facts and figures from the official launch day of Apple iPhone 4 haven't been tabulated yet. Heck, as of this writing it's only been available in stores for two hours here on the east coast. But with the massive pre-sale and the lines, it wouldn't be off base to predict that many an iPhone hopeful will leave the Apple store empty handed and disappointed today.

AT&T retail stores were smart. AT&T made it clear that their in-store stock of iPhone 4s was for pre-sales and reservations only. If you didn't pre-order or make a reservation, you won't be getting an iPhone today at an AT&T store.

Other retailers, too, like Wal-Mart, Radio Shack and Best Buy have been vague about their supply of the Apple iPhone 4. They say they have some, but how many is anyone's guess. Radio Shack even posted an alert via the store's Facebook page. In the past, the store said "demand for the iPhone 4 has far exceeded expectations" and noted that some stores won't even receive enough iPhones to fulfill pre-orders, let alone customers attempting to make a walk-up purchase. Meanwhile, Best Buy community forums indicate that each Best Buy store will receive only five to 10 iPhone 4s, or 15 if they're lucky.

Apple also should have learned from the iPad, its touch-screen tablet that went on sale in April. While it took about 80 days, the Apple iPad has now hit the 3 million sold mark. Not too shabby for a device that didn't even exist until just a few short months ago and has become a must-have for the Apple faithful. And the iPad costs a great deal more than the iPhone.

Regardless, folks who are lining up this morning for a chance to snag the latest and greatest iPhone have a stressful wait ahead of them and for once it seems that the hype around the iPhone was too much for even Apple to handle.