Tech Industry

Best Buy running out of iPhone 4S, analyst says

Best Buy is now reportedly running low on iPhone 4S stock, indicating to one analyst that overall demand is now outracing supply across the board.

The iPhone 4S is emptying the shelves at Best Buy.

Best Buy is the latest retailer selling out of the iPhone 4S, says a R.W. Baird analyst, who sees it as a litmus test that demand is outracing supply across the retail market.

Contacting Best Buy outlets last week to gauge demand for the iPhone 4S, analyst William Power found that the phone was sold out at most of them, with many informing customers of shortages via automatic greetings. Stores in less populated areas were more likely to have some units in stock, the analyst noted, but available iPhones tended to be the more expensive models, with higher capacities.

Power sees the Best Buy shortage as indicative of a larger picture.

"We would note that Best Buy stores have typically been one of the last outlets, behind carrier stores and Apple stores, to have its supply of iPhone devices normalize," Power wrote in an investor's note released yesterday. "This makes the retailer into a proverbial litmus test for iPhone 4S supply, with the current diagnosis being that the demand is outpacing supply."

Some Best Buy stores were also sold out of the iPhone 4, said the analyst, which could mean that the retailer was just building up its inventory on that model. But based on earlier checks at Best Buy and checks at carrier outlets and Apple stores, Power believes that "the iPhone 4S may be having a halo effect on older iPhone devices, potentially driving increased sales."

Best Buy did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.

But the Best Buy Web site showed that no models of the new phone, across all three U.S. carriers, are currently available online.

To check on store inventory, I used the site's stock locator, which indicates if a product is available at any Best Buy store within 50 miles of a certain ZIP code. Plugging in ZIP codes for New York, Chicago, Boston, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other cities turned up no available iPhone 4S units within a 50-mile radius.

Best Buy's Web site didn't list a wait time for the new iPhone. But among other retailers, Apple's online store offers a ship time of one to two weeks.

The Verizon Wireless online store lists a shipping date of November 11 for most iPhone 4S models as of today. AT&T's order site says the phone will ship in 21 to 28 days. And Sprint says it'll ship the 16GB version in three weeks and the 32GB version in two weeks.

Launched October 14, the iPhone 4S is currently available in 29 countries. It's due to hit another 15 countries on November 11 and reach a total of 70 by year's end.