Why does Apple struggle to meet demand? [Editorial]

Today, analyst group Piper Jaffray confirmed that Apple’s supply of the iPhone 5 had finally caught up with the demand for the product. The iPhone 5 accumulated a whopping 2 million pre-orders in its opening 24 hours, and it was wasn’t long before shipping times started to rise.

That notion is pretty standard when it comes to the release of an Apple product. About a month ago, I pre-ordered my new iPad. Announced on a Tuesday, the product was due to go on sale on Friday morning. Anxious to get my hands on the device as soon as possible, I was up at the crack of dawn to make sure I got my pre-order in nice and early. Sure enough, I was promised my iPad would be delivered in 7 days time. Relief for me, but just a few hours later, any one else would have found that their wait would be up to 2 weeks. The next day, that had risen to 3.

Until a little while ago, I’d never really questioned this cycle. It seemed perfectly logical to me that Apple might struggle to keep up with demand for its products, and waiting a little while longer for a device seemed totally normal. That was until I reported on an inside revelation from a source named “Dry Throat”. Dry Throat claims to have had high level access to decision making within Cupertino, and he claimed to understand the ins and outs of Apple’s marketing. In a nutshell, he suggested that following the death of Steve Jobs, Apple was nervous that the “mass cult hysteria” that had surrounded him would disappear, making it much harder to sell their products under the leadership of “Mr Dull from Accounts”, Tim Cook. He described the iPhone 5 as a Samsung Galaxy that was twice the price, with bad battery life, no interchangeable battery, no expandable storage and no industry standard connector, features he claimed were a result of “uncontrollable greed”.

The solution?

Don’t let anyone have many… “That way if you do get hold of one, you feel really pleased regardless of the fact it’s not much good. And if you can’t get one, you really want one. It’s so simple – but so effective.”

The notion suggests that Apple is using the exclusivity of the iPhone 5 as its USP. Sadly, the notion seems to make sense, and at least on paper, it sounds like a very effective marketing technique. The plausibility of such a marketing scheme is pretty strong, and it’s also genius. In fact, I think the clever nature of these claims make it more likely that Apple could have pulled off something like this.


The marketing ploy could definitely offer an explanation as to why Apple’s devices are so scarce around launch date, but then again, maybe it’s true that Apple simply can’t keep up with the demand for their products, I mean, they are pretty awesome, and we haven’t taken into account things like quality control, time to market values, and also the supply chain that Apple operates. It may well be true that Apple are producing enough to devices to keep up with demand, and that they simply can’t get them to customers fast enough. A notion that Dry Throat dismissed…

“Come off it, like they couldn’t have millions of the damn things ready in advance and just deliver them to the shops – of course they could, people do it all the time with normal products. But if you could just buy one straight off, it wouldn’t be special any more, would it? It’s not special in itself, it hasn’t got anything the others haven’t got…As for ‘shipping dates have moved back two weeks’, don’t make me laugh. They were probably sitting there in Cupertino saying ‘Huh, nobody’s buying it – move back shipping dates by a week, that’ll get things moving’. In reality there are probably warehouses stuffed full of the damn things all over the world. Sure, your iPhone ‘just left China’ … come on. It’s been sitting in a warehouse round the corner for a fortnight while you were shivering in the queue outside the Apple Store like a chump. There are Apple guys rubbing handfuls of iPhone 5s against their naked bodies, using them as paperweights, playing iPhone 5 Jenga…”

Since I last reported this story, every piece of news regarding Apple’s shipping times and supply has just left me feeling skeptical, because this claim has been sitting at the back of my mind for a long time now. It doesn’t seem outlandish to suggest that Apple could build up a healthy stockpile of devices before a product launch, ensuring that everyone can get them as soon as possible. But perhaps Apple does all it can to supply its devices to its customers, and maybe there are other factors that slow down the distribution. Or maybe, just maybe, Apple do hold back on device production to make their products more exclusive. To be frank, I’m really not sure what the answer is, but this has been bugging me for a little while now, so I figured I would try and get your opinion…

So what do you think? Is the standard Apple device shortage a product of circumstance and demand. Or is it down to the design of Apple’s own marketing scheme? Would you rather wait longer for a device release so that Apple has time to stockpile its devices, or do you not mind the wait that usually comes with an Apple device release. Leave your comments below, and as always, hit me up on Twitter @TiP_Stephen

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  • RaduTanasescu

    You don’t see long lines in front of Apple distributors in Romania (we have no Apple Stores). And there seams to be no shortage of Apple products here. Even the new iMac is rumoured to actually become available by the end of November.
    However, people can’t really afford Apple products. Most people who buy an iPhone today, buy an iPhone 4. The iPhone 5 is very expensive and many wait for their contracts to expire before upgrading, so, no iPhone 5 launch madness.
    But maybe that’s just it. All the countries are now supplied fast. The iPhone 5 was supposed to come to Romania in December, it’s been here for a while now, maybe Apple is facing a grate demand because unlike previous years, it’s selling new Apple products everywhere very fast. Previously we in Romania had to wait for months before new products made it here.

  • I was promised my iPad would be delivered in 7 days time. Relief for me, but just a few hours later, any one else would have found that their wait would be up to 2 weeks. The next day, that had risen to 3.