Despite Wall Street’s worries and our own reports of consumer indifference, cell phone stores in the Mission District report that they have already sold out of the new high end 5s, but they started with fewer than most new launches.
The plastic-backed 5c is still readily available, they said. Apple allowed customers to pre-order the 5c, and its hardware is essentially the same as the iPhone 5, which has been discontinued but was still available at most stores.
“I feel like last year we sold more of the 5, but the 4s was probably our biggest launch ever,” said Leslie Orozco at Radioshack. “We got at least twice as many phones then.”
The manager of one mobile store said that part of the problem was the iPhone 5c is functionally the same phone as the 5, but with a plastic case instead of metal. Customers looking to upgrade from an older phone have been choosing to spend the $20 difference between the two phones to purchase the older metal-bodied 5.
Apple reported that it sold nine million phones over the first weekend — nearly double what they sold last year when five million iPhone 5’s were sold at launch.
This is the first time Apple has released two phones simultaneously, but the company’s sales information fails to break down the sales of each model. Additionally, this was the first time China was included in the launch.
Despite its high cost, when the iPhone 5 did finally go on sale in China last year, it quickly sold two million units.
Despite selling out, many stores reported receiving very few of the 5s’ at launch time.
“I talked with our UPS guy and he said this seemed like the least phones Apple has ever shipped to retailers,” said Michael Chin, of T-Mobile. “We didn’t get that many in.”
That store, and many others, sold out of the 5s by Monday September 21, three days after the launch date. Chin estimated that an average of seven to eight phones were sold a day, a number that most retailers who were willing to comment echoed.
A manager who wished not to be identified later confirmed that they only received 20 5s phones in their first shipment from Apple, and 10 in the second. In contrast, they reported still having dozens of 5c phones in stock.
The 5c model, which sells for $100 less than the 5s, was designed to capture a new market of more cost- conscious buyers. But the same manager who reported that they still had plenty of 5c phones in stock, said that Latino buyers were as anxious as others to have the newest and most expensive model.
Verizon was also sold out of 5s phones. A manager there said that at least 70 percent of the store’s sales had been from the 5s, with many people trading in older phones to receive a rebate of as much as $200.
Juan Martinez, 24, said he was interested in the 5s, but was unsure if he could afford it. On contract, the 5s costs between $200 and $400. Off contract — a popular option in the Mission — it starts at $650. Despite the price, Martinez said he wasn’t interested in the cheaper 5c.
Apple has reported problems with its supply chain, and isn’t expected to ship more 5s phones until later in October. At Sprint, the waitlist was already more than 20 people long.
Amanda Plascencia, a Sprint employee, said she’d been able to talk a few customers into the lower-priced 5c, which is $100 on contract and $550 off. However, the higher-priced 32 GB model of the 5c, which costs as much as a 5s with 16 GB of storage, was hard to sell.
She also noted that most people buying a new iPhone were upgrading from the iPhone 4.
“Every time Apple makes something new it gets people thinking about upgrading,” said Carlos Barahona at Sprint. “We’ve been selling lots of 4s’s and 5’s in the last week.”
Despite the increased interest in Apple products and selling out of the 5s, Barahona added that he wasn’t sure they’d sold any 5c’s.
Manuel Juarez, 31, planned to take advantage of the new model and reduced prices to buy a still-available 4s. “I really want the 4s, it’s still good and it’s much cheaper,” he said. The 4s is now free on-contract at all carriers, and $450 off-contract.
Nationwide, electronics giant Best Buy is already offering a limited time discount of $50 on the 5c. Generally discounts aren’t applied to premium electronics this soon after launch, for fear of angering customers who paid full price. The discount may indicate that the store is having trouble moving the 5c.