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Is the In-Cell Screen to Blame for the iPhone 5 Shortage?

Following yesterday’s report that Apple sold 5 million iPhone 5 units over the course of launch weekend, we’re now getting wind of what exactly might have led to the supply constraint that prevented them from keeping pace with the 8-10 million unit predictions… Apparently the device’s super-thin design is to blame, as the in-cell display that makes it possible has proved hard to come by.

Some of Apple’s main suppliers for the in-cell screens include Japan Display, Sharp, and LG—and while these players are almost certainly favoring Apple when supply is available, it looks like the ceiling for their launch day supply was at or around 5 million. While still a record weekend for Apple, the major change in design from the iPhone 4S to the iPhone 5 can now be tied to why the growth percentage did not match Apple’s previous upgrade from iPhone 4 to iPhone 4S.

So it looks like we’re a long way from attributing Apple’s launch-weekend sales shortfall to a lack of demand. Instead, the very features that make the iPhone 5 such an appealing device (thinness, lightness) are probably the same things that make it more time-consuming to manufacture… Despite launch weekend shortages, it’s still being predicted that by this time next year, Apple could sell as many as 170 million iPhone 5 units—in which case, the 5 million devices moved in the first few days of availability will be just an afterthought.

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