Apple Inc said on Monday that its online stores in the US and the UK were sold out of the iPhone, a sign supplies were being winnowed ahead of the launch of the device's next generation featuring faster Internet surfing speeds.<
The Cupertino-based company confirmed that the iPhone is out of stock online, but added that brick-and-mortar stores run by Apple and iPhone carriers, including AT&T Inc, might still have units available. Apple has been known for clearing out its inventory of a certain product ahead of a major upgrade.
Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris declined to comment on reasons for the shortage and on Apple’s plans for an update to the device, which is widely expected to be unveiled next month at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco.
The paucity of iPhones for sale in some markets comes as Apple is hustling to meet its goal of selling 10 million of the hybrid iPod-cellphone-Internet surfing gadgets by the end of the year. The latest data available showed that Apple had sold 5.4 million iPhones as of the end of March.
On Monday, four mobile providers in the Asia-Pacific region announced partnerships with Apple to bring the iPhone to their regions later this year.
SingTel will sell the gadget in Singapore, Bharti Airtel Ltd in India, Globe Telecom Inc in the Philippines and Optus in Australia, the companies said in a brief joint statement, without giving details.
Last week, the top mobile phone operator in Latin America, America Movil SAB, also announced plans to deliver the iPhone to its region.
In recent weeks Apple has also signed deals with Rogers Communications Inc to sell the device in Canada; Milan-based Telecom Italia SpA to sell the iPhone in Italy; and Vodafone Group PLC, the world’s biggest mobile company by sales, to sell it in 10 countries, including Australia, India, Italy and Turkey.
Industry observers say some people may be holding off on buying an iPhone until the much-rumored next-generation of the device is launched, and the phone is officially rolled out in more countries.
The next generation of iPhones is expected to work on 3G networks, which makes tasks like downloading videos easier.
Apple is also planning a software update for this summer that makes the iPhone work better with corporate e-mail, a necessary upgrade to help the iPhone compete with Research in Motion Ltd’s BlackBerry and Palm Inc’s Treo smartphones.
Girding for a fight with Apple in the business-oriented smartphone space, Research In Motion on Monday unveiled the Bold, its first 3G BlackBerry model, helping its shares climb to an all-time high of US$143.08. The stock closed on Monday up US$9.20, or 6.9 percent, at US$141.97.
Apple shares closed up US$4.71, or 2.6 percent, at US$188.16.