AT&T and Verizon today emptied their iPhone 5 pre-order inventories, and now show delivery dates as far out as three weeks.
Apple quickly exhausted the supplies it had set aside for pre-orders in the nine first-wave countries, including the U.S., the U.K, Canada, France, Germany and Japan. It ran out of stock about an hour after opening its virtual doors in the U.S. at midnight PT Friday.
Earlier today, AT&T, Sprint and Verizon continued to indicate that they could deliver new iPhone 5 smartphones by Sept. 21, Apple's retail on-sale date. But as of 1 p.m. ET, AT&T and Verizon had exhausted their supplies.
At 3:30 p.m. ET, Sprint still claimed it could get an iPhone 5 to customers next week.
Currently, AT&T's website reports that new orders will ship "in 14-21 days," pushing out shipping dates to sometime between Sept. 28 and Oct. 5.
Verizon's order page, on the other hand, asserts that new orders will be delivered by Sept. 28.
Last year, Apple, AT&T and Verizon all drained their pre-order inventories on the first day of iPhone 4S ordering. That pattern repeated today, but at a faster pace.
Further delays are inevitable.
By the third day of iPhone 4S ordering in 2011, AT&T was informing customers that there would be a three-to-four week delay in shipping, while Verizon's message was a two-week hold.
Even then, Sprint reported that while it had sold out of the lowest-price 16GB iPhone 4S, it still had the 32GB and 64GB models ready to deliver the day that smartphone hit shelves in Apple's retail stores.
Analysts have interpreted the quick exhaustion of supply as a sign that demand for the iPhone 5 is significantly higher than was the case last year for the iPhone 4S.
"This appears to be well above demand for the iPhone 4S last October," said Brian White, of Topeka Capital Markets, in a note to clients early today after Apple had depleted its pre-order stock. "Clearly, iPhone 5 fever is in full swing."
White has estimated iPhone 5 sales over the first three days -- today, tomorrow and Sunday -- at up to 5.5 million, a number he called "conservative" today in light of his time with the iPhone 5 on Wednesday during Apple's launch. Last year, Apple sold 3 million units in the first three days of the iPhone 4S pre-sales.
"This is a big upgrade," argued White, in contrast to some online criticism that the iPhone 5 doesn't warrant a refresh by consumers. "The thinness and lightness is amazing."
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is email@example.com.