iPhone 5 ship time drops to two to four days

The wait time for the new smartphone via Apple's online store continues to improve.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

iPhone 5 buyers aiming to order the phone online through Apple now face a wait time of only two to four days.

That's a hefty improvement over the three to four weeks originally estimated when the phone was first available through preorders in September. Supply finally started to catch up with demand around mid-November, when the estimate fell to two to three weeks. Since then, the ship time has continued to fall.

Of course, iPhone 5 buyers not far from a physical Apple Store may prefer to shop in person.

Recent analyst surveys of several Apple Stores show no wait time, meaning consumers can simply walk in and walk out with a new iPhone. Third-party retailers also have a more plentiful supply of the new iPhone.

Demand is as strong as ever for the new phone, says Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu. But manufacturing problems that affected production of the iPhone 5 seem to be causing less trouble. As a result, supply has improved, triggering greater availability.

The increased supply is one reason why Apple targeted a broader rollout of the phone this month, Wu said.

Starting December 7, the iPhone 5 will expand its global presence and reach more than 50 additional countries. By the end of 2012, the new phone will be available in 100 different markets around the world.

Wu has bumped up his iPhone sales estimates, according to an investors note out today. The analyst now expects total iPhone sales of 47.3 million this quarter, up from the prior forecast of 46.5 million. That number is close to the 47.5 million now forecast by Canaccord Genuity, an increase from the 45 million previously estimated.

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