Apple's iPhone 3G availability rebounds

About a quarter of Apple's stores now say they have phones in stock

Apple Inc. today said that iPhone inventory at its retail stores had rebounded from weekend lows, when nearly every outlet reported that it was out of stock.

As of 11:30 a.m. EDT, 44 of Apple's U.S. retail stores, or 23% of the 188 total, showed iPhone 3G phones available. On Sunday morning, Apple's own stock-checking tool listed just 16 stores, or 8.5% of the total, as having any to sell.

On Sunday night, the inventory tool reported even lower numbers. At that point, only three, or fewer than 2% of all those in the U.S., listed iPhones on hand and ready to sell the next day.

Monday's inventories were similar, if slightly lower than, those posted by Apple last Wednesday and Thursday, when it claimed 26% and 27% of its U.S. stores, respectively, had at least one of the three iPhone models in stock.

A dozen stores noted today that they had all three iPhone 3G models for sale — the 8GB version in black, and the 16GB version in both white and black — up from zero the day before and from nine on Thursday.

However, one of Apple's flagship stores, located on Fifth Avenue in New York, was completely out of the iPhone 3G, as were other prominent locales, such as those in downtown San Francisco and Chicago.

The hardest-to-find iPhone 3G today will be the $299 white 16GB model, available in 25 stores, or 13.3% of the outlets. Supplies of the $199 8GB iPhone 3G and the $299 16GB black model also showed large increases from Sunday, according to Apple. Twenty-nine reported that the 8GB is available today (15.4% of the U.S. stores) compared with 10 stores that reported that Sunday (5.3%); 27 stores (14.4%) claimed stock of the 16GB black iPhone 3G, up from six stores (3.2%) that had it yesterday.

It could be weeks before the deficit improves, one Wall Street analyst said last week. Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray & Co., said in a Thursday interview that it would take Apple two to four weeks to place orders with its suppliers, receive more iPhones and restock the depleted inventory.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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