Apple is beginning to make its smartphone available to overlapping carriers in various countries, but in the United States, it’s tough to find one directly online or at retail stores.
In Italy, the iPhone will be sold by Vodafone and Telecom Italia, officials said last week, marking the first time that Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple broke its one-nation, one-carrier policy.
Similarly, in Asia, “SingTel, Bharti Airtel, Globe and Optus today announced that they have signed an agreement with Apple to bring the iPhone to Singapore, India, the Philippines and Australia later this year. More information will be released at a later date,” according to a statement on SingTel.com.
The announcements are not exactly the same – Vodafone and Telecom Italia are competitors, while SingTel has ownership stakes in Bharti, Globe and Optus. But the news is a sign that Apple may be more liberal about who sells the iPhone long-term, Apple-centric publications are reporting today.
However, in the U.S. market at least, the iPhone is unavailable online and at retail stores. Apple Store employees contacted at several locations today said they did not have any additional information about the reasons for empty shelves or when new stock will arrive.
A possible cause for the iPhone inventory shortage is that Apple is preparing to launch a new version. Officials would not comment; however, the company was widely criticized when the current version suddenly became available with a $200 discount last summer. The company apologized and offered various credits and rebates to recent buyers. Extended unavailability now could indicate another imminent new model – or it could just be a supply hiccup.
John deGlavina, owner of CellPhoneForums.net, said there is precedent for Apple to sell out remaining inventory before it launches new product versions. Also, recently produced units may be heading to the new countries in the iPhone’s roster, he noted.