IPhone out of stock 'companywide,' say Apple sales reps

Outage fuels rumors of imminent appearance of 3G iPhone

The iPhone is out of stock "companywide," Apple Inc. sales representatives said on Sunday. The outage has fueled rumors that the next-generation 3G model will be released shortly.

Neither Apple's U.S. or U.K. online stores have iPhones available for sale, according to their Web sites. At both, the message "Currently Unavailable" appears beside "Ships," which last week was noting a delay of five to seven business days. The company's German and French e-stores, however, still show 8GB and 16GB iPhones available.

Sales representatives at four major Apple retail stores contacted by Computerworld today said that the iPhone is unavailable, not only at their own stores but across Apple. Most had no explanation why the smart phone is out of stock.

"The iPhone is sold out, companywide," said a salesman who answered the phone at the Apple store in Braintree, Mass., just south of Boston.

"It's out of stock, Applewide," said a saleswoman at the Apple store in downtown Portland, Ore. "No, I don't know why," she said when asked why the iPhone was unavailable online and at retail. "All we've been told is that it's Applewide."

Sales representatives at the New York store on Fifth Avenue and the San Francisco store on Stockton Street also confirmed that there were no iPhones to be had. "We're sold out," said the salesman at the New York store. "I heard that it was some kind of shipping issue."

Some of the Apple sales reps said that AT&T Inc. retail stores in the area might have iPhones in stock.

The iPhone's vanishing act has boosted talk that the 3G-enabled iPhone -- which many analysts have predicted would be announced and released next month -- is right around the corner.

On Saturday, Apple-specific Web sites and blogs reported on the sold-out notices posted on Apple's U.S. and U.K. online stores. "With all the buzz surrounding the 3G model, the international rollout and the SDK, this is just one more sign that the release of a new device is right around the corner," speculated The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) in a post filed Saturday afternoon.

In a conference call with Wall Street analysts two weeks ago, Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook acknowledged iPhone shortages, but blamed sales to buyers who planned to unlock the device. "Our U.S. stores have experienced more stock-outs, or relatively more, and we believe the reason is that there are more phones being bought there with the intention of unlocking," he said at the time.

Apple officials were unavailable for comment.

Most analysts and pundits have pegged June 9, the opening day of Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) as the likely introduction date for the 3G iPhone. Apple CEO Steve Jobs is expected to open the conference with his usual keynote address and could unveil a new iPhone then.

The iPhone's first sales anniversary, June 29, has been touted by others as a possible on-sale date for the 3G model.

Within the last week, several additional mobile service providers, including U.K.-based Vodafone, Telecom Italia and Mexico-based Telefonica have announced that they had struck deals with Apple to sell the iPhone in a slew of new markets, including India, Italy and Latin America.

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