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Apple Inc. is Catching up on iPhone 6 Supply, But Still Lagging Demand

By Daniel Sparks - Dec 8, 2014 at 4:29PM

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With demand continuing to exceed supply, Apple is likely to report record-shattering iPhone sales for this quarter.

Every time Apple (AAPL 2.14%) launches a new iPhone, the company races to have supply match demand. This year is no exception. In fact, even with less than a month left in the quarter, it's still not clear if Apple will have enough iPhone 6 devices to meet demand by the end of the year.

iPhone 6. Image source: Apple.

Shipping times are improving
As spotted by MacRumors, shipping times for Apple's new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models continue to improve.

The 16 GB and 64 GB versions of the iPhone 6 now show shipping times of three to five business days in the U.S. online Apple Store. This is an improvement over late November's shipping times of five to seven business days for the 16 GB iPhone 6 and seven to 10 business days for the higher-capacity 64 GB version. The 128 GB iPhone 6, though, continues to show an estimated ship time of seven to 10 business days.

iPhone 6 Plus shipping times have improved even more significantly. The 16 GB version of the flagship iPhone has improved from seven to 10 to business days in late November to three to five business days. Higher-capacity 64 and 128 GB versions of the iPhone 6 Plus have improved to three to five and seven to 10 days, respectively, from two to three weeks and three to four weeks.

Apple seems to be lagging demand more with the iPhone 6 than it did with iPhone 5s rollout last year. By December 2013, all versions of the iPhone 5s were showing online shipping times of one to three business days. 

But the tech behemoth appears to be on track with supply for retail stores this year. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus now show plentiful availability in stores in all configurations, just as the iPhone 5s did around this time last year.

Another sign of a record-shattering quarter for iPhone sales?
If Apple's historic ability to ramp up year-over-year iPhone supply during the holiday quarter is any indication of how many devices the company can sell this year, it's likely to be a record-shattering quarter. Indeed, with demand seemingly outstripping supply more significantly this quarter than it did a year ago, the company could be on pace to sell nearly every single iPhone it can produce during this three-month period.

Image source: Apple.

During the first weekend of iPhone availability in late September, sales of a record 10 million units, despite a notable absence of China in the list of launch countries, came in slightly higher than last year's 9 million. The record number signaled that Apple is again aiming to produce a record number of iPhones, trying to make the most of the period when demand for the new lineup outstrips supply.

Analysts, unsurprisingly, expect Apple to report record revenue and iPhone sales for this quarter. The consensus analyst estimate for Apple's revenue is $66.3 billion, up 15% from $57.6 billion in the year-ago quarter. One respected Apple analyst predicts the company will sell 71.5 million iPhones in the first quarter, up a whopping 40% year over year.

Whatever the number of iPhones sold when Apple reports first-quarter results, it's likely to be mostly a representation of how well the company was able to ramp up supply during the quarter, given that demand is still outstripping supply with only a few weeks left.

Daniel Sparks owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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