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How many iPhone 5's will sell in the opening weekend?

The iPhone 4S sold about 4 million units in the first three days of availability last year. The iPhone 4 sold about 1.7 million and iPhone 3GS about 1 million.

The main driver to growth for the initial weekend is usually upgrades for existing customers. There might be first time buyers, but the dedication required to ensure being first to have it usually means buyers are keen on the brand and are repeat customers.

The other factor is the number of countries where the phone is available. The 4 was initially available in 5 countries. The 4S in seven and now the 5 will be in nine countries. I made a list of the differences in launch countries for the 4S and the 5 below:

I’ve also listed the second week launch countries for completeness and shown which countries have changed.[1]

The performance of the 5 in the first weekend should be better on a volume basis simply because there are more existing customers who wish to upgrade and because there are more initial and significant launch countries.

The 4S launched with an average of 1.3 million units per day but 191k units/day/country. The 4 launched with 113k units/day/country. If we assume that the 5 can capture 220k units/day/country we reach 2 million units/day for this launch footprint and a total of about 6 million units for the launch weekend.

These estimates are shown below relative the the other iPhone and the iPad launches.

The additional shipments to fulfill orders for the second week may see the iPhone 5 sell over 10 million units before the quarter is over.

Notes:

  1. Hong Kong and Singapore are noteworthy initial launch additions, Poland a noteworthy second week addition and Mexico a noteworthy second week omission.

 

  • http://twitter.com/narenbalaji Naren Balaji

    HK & Singapore sell only unlocked iPhones at full price.

    But, of course, sales in HK & Singapore could signal demand in China’s gray market

  • http://twitter.com/narenbalaji Naren Balaji

    HK & Singapore sell only unlocked iPhones at full price.

    But, of course, sales in HK & Singapore could signal demand in China’s gray market

    • Satish

      Wrong. Majority of iphones sold in Singapore are subsided by carriers.

      • http://twitter.com/narenbalaji Naren Balaji

        4S was sold at a subsidy. Apple store SG lists iPhone 5 at full price.
        Neither Singtel nor M1 have announced any subsidized price for iPhone 5 yet

      • Praveen

        Naren, nearly all iphones sold in SG are from carrier contracts.

    • NangKa

      HK sales supply China early adopters. SG sales satisfy those in the ASEAN countries.

    • NangKa

      HK sales supply China early adopters. SG sales satisfy those in the ASEAN countries.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nvaneeghen Niko van Eeghen

    This is the moment when models in my opinion become interesting. As most investment advertisements warn us, past performance is no guarantee of future results. I am curious to see whether we are at such a point with Apple – certainly media reaction to the launch seems to suggest this.

    So how does a model based on previous performance do in times when we may be experiencing a shift in success. What are the missing variables that could help us improve our prediction of future sales patterns.

    If we are at such a tipping point, I eagerly await an analysis of the success of this prediction here, and an assessment whether there are other indicators that can be used to predict launch success.

    • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

      You can read more about a supply-based analysis of iPhone sales here: http://www.asymco.com/2012/08/06/how-many-of-the-next-generation-of-iphone-will-be-sold/

    • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

      You may also want to review a Capex-based analysis here: http://www.asymco.com/2012/07/31/estimating-third-and-fourth-quarter-ios-shipments/

      • handleym

        I don’t know how much churn in the US carrier market will affect the model.

        On the one hand we have
        – many more MVNOs are iPhone friendly (but don’t offer LTE)
        – T-Mobile is likely to officially offer iPhones before the end of the year, as their spectrum switchover is completed

        On the other hand we have
        – how many US customers even know about these upcoming changes?

        If I had to guess, I’d guess that THIS launch will follow previous models, but by the next one carrier changes will start to affect things. There’ll be an even larger pool of unlocked 4’s and then 4S’s floating around, and users using them on MVNOs (and hopefully reporting positive experiences). There’ll also be T-Mobile as a high-end carrier, and hopefully 4-way competition will destabilize the current cozy ATT/VZW duopoly (with Sprint making only minimal rocking of the boat today because it’s also somewhat in disarray, getting its spectrum and LTE story in place).

        The carrier changes matter because the next launch may be the one where buying a non-subsizided phone in the US becomes more mainstream. T-Mobile (so far) has supported this with Android (with cheaper plans for non-subsidized devices), likewise MVNOs have a different business model.

    • RobDK

      It should be great to see how Horace’s predictions in relation to CapEx and subsequent production of iOS devices pans out over this and the next quarter.

      The total redesign of the iPhone and iPod touch lines implies a major shift up with new and enlarged production capacity. It will be an incredible supply chain success if Apple is able to produce and shift so many units in one long weekend, and it will point to continued growth through the holiday season, including the Chinese New Year.

      Make no mistake, Apple has upped the ante with this launch. A broad and deep technological shift with bigger screens, major speed and graphics enhancement, smaller and lighter devices and better battery performance. All this being launched into a rapidly growing market, where the supply chain is performing at an integrated size and capacity not seen before. This bodes well for future iOS devices.

      The only question in Apple’s senior management mind must relate to the impact of macro-economic shifts, with the EU possibly dipping into recession, the US possibly slowing down, and China growth falling from 10 to 8%…

      Long on APPL…

    • JohnDoey

      Media always says iPhone/iPad suck right after intro and will not sell. The more nerd complaining, the better sales will ultimately be. They are judging with different standards.

      iPhone will continue to sell because it has platform momentum. Existing users need new phones. Everyone else has at least heard of iPhone, and many have now also been burned once by a counterfeit iPhone with limited functionality. The wireless networks and need for computing are growing. There are no other consumer focused computing companies.

  • Stu

    Hasn’t the constraining factor on sales always been supply rather than demand though? The fact that they’ve added 2 countries to the list suggests that they expect to have more units available, but doesn’t really tell us anything either.

    Have you ever analysed how long it takes after launch before the iPhone is freely available / estimates of units shipped to that point?

    • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

      Apple refers to this as “supply-demand” balance. They report whether a particular product reaches that state occasionally during earnings call Q&A. I have not tried to see if there is a pattern to those mentions and I suspect it can’t be done because there is not enough data.

      • markelp

        Could this be done by monitoring the back order status for new units? With each major product launch, there has been a period of time (1-2 weeks?) where new products were unavailable for immediate purchase. This is signified by the “5-7 day wait” time listed on the apple.com store. To me, that means the “supply-demand’ is out of balance.

        I find it odd that Apple is expanding to new countries so rapidly with this launch. I believe they would have enough demand in the US to sell all they can build through FYQ3.

      • franksspam

        A couple of things should be noted here.

        1) A wait in any given queue (online store for example) does not indicate that the iPhone is unavailable for immediate purchase. When Apple releases a new iPhone they are not sold on a first come first serve basis. Instead they are sold on a first come first serve basis for each queue. I would define a queue as the Online Apple Store, online carrier stores, Apple Stores, Carrier stores, other retail locations. Apple decides up front based on their total initial available stock what proportion to give to each of these channels. As an example, each of the 385 Apple Retail Stores has a significantly larger number of iPhones available for sale on Friday, September 21 than each AT&T retail store. My local retail store will likely have from 30-50, while each Apple store will have a minimum of hundreds and many will have significantly more than that (e.g. 5th Avenue). In fact, most Apple stores have enough to get them through most of the first day of demand, with some even having stock over the weekend. And note that this will happen even though some people that ordered a week in advance will not have their phone on Friday, the 21st. Because there are so many different locations there is almost assuredly some locations scattered around the world that will not run out of stock.

        2) Apple is a global company with less than half of their sales coming from the U.S. It would be a bit rude to discount their other sales channels when they make up such a large portion of company sales.

        And note that this is said as someone that pre-ordered from AT&T on Friday and would love to have his phone on opening day. But I am realistic :-)

      • markelp

        Could this be done by monitoring the back order status for new units? With each major product launch, there has been a period of time (1-2 weeks?) where new products were unavailable for immediate purchase. This is signified by the “5-7 day wait” time listed on the apple.com store. To me, that means the “supply-demand’ is out of balance.

        I find it odd that Apple is expanding to new countries so rapidly with this launch. I believe they would have enough demand in the US to sell all they can build through FYQ3.

  • http://www.facebook.com/zsolt.vasvari Zsolt Vasvari

    I live in Singapore, so I can comment on this.

    Singapore’s population is about 5.5 million. Let’s say, by a very generous estimate, there are 1 million iPhones. If 10% updates the first weekend, that’s 100,000. An insignificant number in the big picture of things.

    Also, in Singapore, Samsung has really gained market share in the last 12 months at Apple’s expense. The Note and the S3 are extremely popular. My guess is that there will be no more than 50,000 iPhone 5’s sold in the first weekend.

    As far as HK, while it’s population is higher, it’s also poorer overall and it’s even more of a Samsung territory. Another 50,000 for HK in the first weekend.

    I would be extremely surprised if the iPhone 5 sold more than the 4S in the first weekend. Because:

    – Worse economy
    – No “Buy one for the Jobso” factor
    – Overall gains made by Samsung
    – Mixed initial reactions to the iPhone 5

    • http://twitter.com/jiansuo Andre Cheung

      There are 7 million people in HK. 1m iPhone users? Possible. 20% upgrade is likely (esp. those 3GS/4 users) and it will be 200k unit.

      Samsung is definitely gaining more marketshare by SII and SIII. However one can easily find in subway that 30%+ passengers using smartphones are iPhone 3GS/4/4S users. HK is not a Samsung territory.

      I wonder how quick the iPhone 5 pre-order will be sold out this midnight, hopefully before I successfully place my order. It is an interesting question how many people will queue outside the Apple Store at IFC next Fri…
      If it allows 10 units per pre-order, it is possible to generate half a million iPhone 5 sales in the first weekend in HK because of -a distinguish form factor. iPhone is a consumer product.-China grey market (even though there is no LTE)

      There was no surprise in the iPhone 5 launch. It seems that the most competitive advantage is the industrial design, which at the end differentiates mature consumer product. Salute to the single hand principle!

      • Sharon_Sharalike

        Hong Kong is also the central hub for the parts of Asia that won’t be getting it so soon. So look for a *lot* of sales that immediately leave the country.

      • http://twitter.com/jiansuo Andre Cheung

        Yes and I receive several requests from friends in nearby countries to help them buy iPhone 5 LoL

      • http://twitter.com/jiansuo Andre Cheung

        Yes and I receive several requests from friends in nearby countries to help them buy iPhone 5 LoL

      • http://www.facebook.com/zsolt.vasvari Zsolt Vasvari

        Oh, there is no LTE in Singapore either (other than some tiny trial areas) and the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix is the same weekend as the iPhone 5 launch. The F1 is made to be a very big deal here and it will certainly take same of the hoopla away from the iPhone.

      • http://twitter.com/jiansuo Andre Cheung

        Will Prince William couple attend the F1? Enjoy the weekend!

      • Siew

        @Zsolt : am surprised that you do live in Singapore (as you claimed)…. M1 is launching nationwide LTE on 15th Sept, while Singtel launched it in CBD areas (and some suburban centres) a couple of months ago. Starhub is the notable laggard here.

        Prince Willian & Kate have already moved on to Malaysia and beyond.

        iPhone 5 will be launched on Friday onwards while the actual F1 race day falls on Sunday. Hence impact may not be that great.

      • http://twitter.com/jiansuo Andre Cheung

        Will Prince William couple attend the F1? Enjoy the weekend!

    • FalKirk

      With all due respect, your analysis seems shallow, at best.

      – Worse economy? The economy has been bad throughout the iPhone’s five year run. I very much doubt if the economy is stopping anyone from buying an iPhone.

      – No “Buy one for the Jobso” factor? I never believed, in the first place, that anyone ever bought an iPhone because of the death of Steve Jobs. A myth created from whole cloth by journalists who don’t understand the industry and and who like to promote sentimental, emotion laden stories to the public.

      – Overall gains made by Samsung? Maybe. But it seems more likely that Android’s gains have been coming at the expense of RIM, Nokia, dumb-phones and non-consumption.

      – Mixed initial reactions to the iPhone 5? What mixed initial reactions? Last year the iPhone 4S was deemed a “disappointment” – a disappointment that went on to break all sales records. If you think that there were mixed initial reactions to the iPhone 5, may I respectfully suggest that your reading the wrong reactions.

      • Tatil_S

        Some tech journalists and bloggers latched on to the “buy one for Jobs” myth, well, because how else could they explain the”unexpectedly” strong sales of a phone they deemed “disappointing”? It could not possibly be that they are out of touch with common consumer… They are learning though. Most news accounts seem to be facts only, without strong predictions or judgements one way or the other.

    • BD88

      Zsolt – you seem conflicted. A quick search on your profile seems to suggest you develop mostly for Android devices. Would that be swaying your perspective on the potential for success for iPhone in Singapore and Hong Kong?

      Similarly, your data on iPhone vs S3 penetration is a rather subjective analysis of the market rather than pointing to any hard data. What can you share beyond an opinion of what you see in the streets of Singapore?

  • esquiremac

    How do you think first weekend sales will be impacted by the fact that AT&T is not offering full subsidization to 4S upgraders? Even those of us who bought the 4S on launch day in the US are now being asked to pay $250 on top of the full subsidized price plus a $36 activation fee. Do you think that will slow sales? If not, then, I guess it’s time to buy stock in AT&T because they’re going to get a couple of million extra $286’s this weekend…

    • hydeparkrunner

      Your contract is only a year in… don’t they usually only extend the full subsidy to contract-ended customers, with a scaled subsidy back to 18 months?

      • esquiremac

        Not so. AT&T has traditionally offered full subsidized upgrades for each new iPhone. I bought my 3GS in August 2009, and got a full sub’d upgrade to the 4 in June, 2010 (only 10 months later), and then got a full sub’d upgrade to the 4S in October, 2011 (only 16 months later). This seems to be the first time they’re NOT offering fully subsidized upgrades to the early adopters of the previous generation phones. I think that’s going to slow sales down at least a little.

      • esquiremac

        Not so. AT&T has traditionally offered full subsidized upgrades for each new iPhone. I bought my 3GS in August 2009, and got a full sub’d upgrade to the 4 in June, 2010 (only 10 months later), and then got a full sub’d upgrade to the 4S in October, 2011 (only 16 months later). This seems to be the first time they’re NOT offering fully subsidized upgrades to the early adopters of the previous generation phones. I think that’s going to slow sales down at least a little.

      • mark212

        are you entirely sure that you have to pay a $250 fee in addition to the full non-subsidized price (which is what I think you meant to type because “full subsidized price” is confusing)? I bought my Verizon phone this morning at unsub price ($750 for the 32gb) because I wasn’t yet 18 months into the contract. Would have to pay that any way to keep my unlimited data plan.

      • esquiremac

        What I mean by “full subsidized” is the $199(16gb)/$299(32gb). That is to say that they are giving me the “full subsidy.” They will sell me an iPhone 5 for $250 on top of that price (so, $449(16gb)/$549(32gb)). Of course, I know I can go out and buy an off-contract iPhone 5 for $750 for the 32gb.

        What I’m saying is that this is in contrast to the last two updates, where they gave me (and most other first-adopters as far as I can tell) the “fully subsidized” price on the new iphone.

      • mark212

        oh, I see what you mean. That’s not so bad actually, like splitting the difference. If the full subsidy is roughly $450 then they’re still giving you a $200 subsidy — but you’ll have to re-up to a two year contract.

        But your larger concern about how this might affect sales was laid to rest by the blow-out just past midnight. The entire first shipment was sold in about an hour. Friends of mine who woke up this morning and wanted to buy are being quoted a two week ship date.

        My guess is that AT&T and Verizon changed their upgrade policies because they knew it wouldn’t make a difference. And it’ll be hundreds of millions to their bottom line over the next month alone.

      • http://twitter.com/ericmelzer eric melzer

        I had the same situation as you, @esquiremac. AT&T in the past has been very generous with letting people upgrade for no fee until now. I paid $549 for my new 32gb iPhone 5 preorder. Personally, I don’t mind; totally worth it.

        And from the looks of things, either tons of people passed on the 4S and have been waiting to upgrade at the first possible moment or they are crazy like me and don’t mind spending an extra $250.

        It doesn’t really matter because my 32gb 4S in good condition is currently worth at least $250 used, and some are selling for close to $500 unlocked on eBay right now (I’m sure that number will drop rapidly as time goes on).

      • franksspam

        It doesn’t seem that bad until you factor in that it costs less than the $250 to break your contract with AT&T. They should never charge more than the early termination cost.

      • franksspam

        It doesn’t seem that bad until you factor in that it costs less than the $250 to break your contract with AT&T. They should never charge more than the early termination cost.

      • Eric Hedström

        From what I have seen AT&T bases your “full subsidy” date on how much you spend on your contract each month. My wife and I have always had to be at least 18 months in before being eligible again. But you’re right, they have been extending the dates to milk their existing contracts.

  • esquiremac

    How do you think first weekend sales will be impacted by the fact that AT&T is not offering full subsidization to 4S upgraders? Even those of us who bought the 4S on launch day in the US are now being asked to pay $250 on top of the full subsidized price plus a $36 activation fee. Do you think that will slow sales? If not, then, I guess it’s time to buy stock in AT&T because they’re going to get a couple of million extra $286’s this weekend…

  • http://twitter.com/artman1033 artman1033

    I am an admitted AAPLoonian. I always think Apple will do better than is possible. When I read your headline, My initial estimate was 10 Million. Your estimate is 6 million. THEREFORE, unless there is a Black Swan event (Israel bombing Iran or economic collapse in Europe), The actual number will be between 6-10 million.

  • http://twitter.com/artman1033 artman1033

    I am an admitted AAPLoonian. I always think Apple will do better than is possible. When I read your headline, My initial estimate was 10 Million. Your estimate is 6 million. THEREFORE, unless there is a Black Swan event (Israel bombing Iran or economic collapse in Europe), The actual number will be between 6-10 million.

    • Dingle

      Idiot

    • Dingle

      Idiot

      • Sacto_Joe

        Why? By which I mean why do you think his comment is so screwed up as to break the normal bounds of politeness that most of us have come to expect on this site?

    • Sacto_Joe

      Personally, I think Horace is being a little conservative. Looking at the charts from a historical perspective, I’d say a rough doubling can be expected, which would get us closer to 8 million on the initial opening. Remember, the sales number on that first weekend won’t correlate to availability until the date to delivery gets way out there. If it goes to 8 million with two weeks delivery, orders will probably still be going strong.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=644846198 Ron Smith

        I am less concerned with first weekend sales than I am with Fiscal Q4 sales.

  • suddy

    Hello Horace, I am curious why Pre-Orders open 2 days after the product announcement? Since they are pre-orders, it can technically be opened immediately following the product announcement. Apple has done this in the past (thought I dont remember the lauch / pre-order lag for other iPhones). They did take their online store offline yesterday during the launch. Would love to hear and others thoughts on this.

    • mark212

      I think it’s Apple not wanting to be overwhelmed by traffic on a day when the company is focused on something else. It would dilute the message to have immediate orders. Allowing a day or two permits the customer to investigate, read some reports, figure out if he/she is eligible for an upgrade, persuade a spouse, etc.

  • suddy

    Hello Horace, I am curious why Pre-Orders open 2 days after the product announcement? Since they are pre-orders, it can technically be opened immediately following the product announcement. Apple has done this in the past (thought I dont remember the lauch / pre-order lag for other iPhones). They did take their online store offline yesterday during the launch. Would love to hear and others thoughts on this.

  • Jony

    How about them Q4 estimates brother?

  • Jony

    How about them Q4 estimates brother?

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  • Tatil_S

    For those who own a previous generation, the new smartphone models have started offering small incremental improvements in quality, functionality and speed. They are nice improvements to be sure, but they are nowhere near the jump in functionality one gets by going from a regular phone to a smartphone for the first time. I wonder how long before the average upgrade cycle on high end phones become closer to every three years than every two years? Low end phones may become obsolete and start feeling unbearably slow earlier than that, but it would not surprise me if unit sales of high end smartphones flattens in the rich world.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shameer-Mulji/1685212657 Shameer Mulji

      you make a very good point about upgrade cycles. With high-end smartphones being as powerful as they are now, there’s no reason for consumers not to hang onto them for at least 3 years before upgrading. I, for one, am all for that. These devices are not cheap. Going forward, it’ll be the capability of the operating system and cloud services integrated into these devices that will be more of a deciding factor for consumers.

    • PC

      I’m not sure that I entirely agree that the average upgrade cycle might stretch to 3 year, especially in the US. Since the smartphones are subsidized by the big carriers (AT&T, Verizon, etc), the monthly cost is higher so that the carriers can recoup their subsidy over the two year term. At the end of two years, the carriers don’t reduce our monthly bill because they have recouped their subsidy. We would continue to pay extra for nothing. At some point, the customer will realize that it’s in THEIR best interest to upgrade as soon as the two year term is up.

    • PC

      I’m not sure that I entirely agree that the average upgrade cycle might stretch to 3 year, especially in the US. Since the smartphones are subsidized by the big carriers (AT&T, Verizon, etc), the monthly cost is higher so that the carriers can recoup their subsidy over the two year term. At the end of two years, the carriers don’t reduce our monthly bill because they have recouped their subsidy. We would continue to pay extra for nothing. At some point, the customer will realize that it’s in THEIR best interest to upgrade as soon as the two year term is up.

    • PC

      I’m not sure that I entirely agree that the average upgrade cycle might stretch to 3 year, especially in the US. Since the smartphones are subsidized by the big carriers (AT&T, Verizon, etc), the monthly cost is higher so that the carriers can recoup their subsidy over the two year term. At the end of two years, the carriers don’t reduce our monthly bill because they have recouped their subsidy. We would continue to pay extra for nothing. At some point, the customer will realize that it’s in THEIR best interest to upgrade as soon as the two year term is up.

    • PC

      I’m not sure that I entirely agree that the average upgrade cycle might stretch to 3 year, especially in the US. Since the smartphones are subsidized by the big carriers (AT&T, Verizon, etc), the monthly cost is higher so that the carriers can recoup their subsidy over the two year term. At the end of two years, the carriers don’t reduce our monthly bill because they have recouped their subsidy. We would continue to pay extra for nothing. At some point, the customer will realize that it’s in THEIR best interest to upgrade as soon as the two year term is up.

      • Tatil_S

        That was why I upgraded to 4S as soon as it came out, but there are more prepaid carriers that do not subsidize handsets now. I might actually switch to one of those next year.

    • franksspam

      I disagree with this completely. The 4S was a significant speed improvement over the 4 and now the 5 is 2x faster than the 4S! That is a HUGE improvement to everything you do on the phone. And that is only 2 years. Your assessment is really discounting the improvements year over year, let alone over two years.

      • Tatil_S

        I bet the speed difference between 4S and 5, however noticeable, will still pale in comparison to the advancement customers felt when they got GPS, copy/paste, FaceTime camera, third party apps or retina screen. If you were in a dystopian world, where you had to give up just one of these features to get the speed of iPhone-5, would you do it? That is my definition of incremental.

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  • Raul

    I think the omission of Mexico has to do with lte availability. It’s not available in the biggest carrier (Telcel, Carlos Slims company, a big shareholder in Apple) and the rest o the carriers are late as well.

  • Mayank

    Horace,
    Many (esp. Asian) countries may not have an LTE. So, consumers may not be interested in buying iPhone5. But, they may select iPhone4, instead. Do you think this will result in margin compression for apple?

    • ralphel

      Assuming they’re buying new, if they want a 4S they’ll have to make do with 16Gb. And if they want a 4 they’ll have to make do with 8Gb. (The latter seems barely usable to me.)

    • Kizedek

      Margin compression? Margin goes up when people continue to buy the older product! The fixed costs of the iPhone 4, 4S have long been covered; and, as with most things, the average cost per unit goes down as you spread it out over the whole multi-year production life of that product.

      There is compression due to new products… that’s why Apple predicts lower margins when a new product is in the pipeline.

    • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

      Margins are similar across all the products since older products are cheaper to produce. I would add that I don’t believe the sales mix of new/old versions different or will differ on the basis of 4G availability.

    • JohnDoey

      Most people do not know what LTE is and never will know.

  • Dan

    I’m a current iPhone4s owner with AT&T. In the past AT&T would let us upgrade each year for the latest iPhone without an additional charge. Not this year. They want an additional $250. I’m not paying that and I think it stinks! Could this slow their sales especially with upgrades?

  • Rick

    Apple will sell out the iPhone5 on purpose the 1st day so that there are people who want it and can only get it by going to an Apple Store. Long lines create a “news event” and it’s free press for them. Has always been a smart move in their part.

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