AT&T runs out of iPhones online

'Out of stock' messages online give credence to arrival of new model soon

In another sign that Apple Inc. may soon launch a new iPhone, AT&T Inc. has stopped selling the popular smart phones from its online store.

A sampling of AT&T retail stores on Friday also showed that although a majority still have some iPhones in stock, several have exhausted their supplies.

AT&T's Web site, which includes a prominent section devoted exclusively to the iPhone, now displays an "Out of Stock" message beside both the 8GB and 16GB units.

The inventory draw-down at AT&T, Apple's exclusive network partner in the U.S., follows by almost four weeks similar out-of-stock messages posted by Apple on both its U.S. and U.K. online stores. During the weekend of May 10-11, Apple retail store representatives also said that the iPhone shortage was "companywide."

Salespeople at most of the AT&T stores contacted Friday by Computerworld, however, said that the iPhone was still for sale at their locations. Clerks who answered the phones at stores in Boston, Dallas and New York said they had both 8GB and 16GB iPhones in stock, for example, but those working in AT&T stores in Chicago and Seattle said they were out and didn't know when they might have more to sell.

That fits with information posted by yesterday. According to the technology site, AT&T retail stores have been told that the iPhones currently on-hand are it. "As of today, the only iPhones left to sell are those in your inventory rooms in-store," read the message said had been sent from AT&T to it retail outlets. "There will no longer be any availability online or via direct fulfillment from either or as I understand."

Shortages have been interpreted by analysts as an indicator that Apple will launch one or more new iPhones soon, and perhaps begin selling them as early as next week. Apple will open its annual Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, when CEO Steve Jobs will take the stage at 10 a.m. PDT. Most expect Jobs to unveil a new and faster iPhone able to access 3G-based data networks.

AT&T did not return a call for comment.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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