IPhone 4's In Short Supply

  To prevent long lines at Apple and AT&T stores -- the only places to get the iPhone on the first day of sale in past years -- Apple delivered devices to Best Buy, RadioShack and Wal-Mart stores across the country. But the inventory was not enough to meet the wild demand for the phone.

The Associated Press
Apple CEO Steve Jobs holds the new iPhone 4 during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday in San Francisco.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- IPhone seekers hoping to avoid days-long lines thought they'd have an ace in the hole: retail outlets other than Apple's stores. Apple partner AT&T warned potential buyers that it wouldn't have inventory for walk-in buyers until next week, but Wal-Mart, Best Buy and RadioShack all announced plans to have "limited" supplies available Thursday for shoppers who didn't pre-order the iPhone 4.

That was the theory. The reality hasn't played out so smoothly.

A spot check of multiple Best Buy and RadioShack stores in New York City found no phones available for customers who hadn't claimed them in advance.

"Inventory remains constrained, and it is expected that many of the iPhones that Best Buy receives will go first to customers who reserved one during presale," Best Buy warned Wednesday in a statement. the company said availability would vary store by store, and that customers should call before heading out to pick up a phone.

To prevent long lines at Apple and AT&T stores -- the only places to get the iPhone on the first day of sale in past years -- Apple delivered devices to Best Buy, RadioShack and Wal-Mart stores across the country. But the inventory was not enough to meet the wild demand for the phone.

One RadioShack on 23rd Street in Manhattan said Apple had given it just eight iPhones -- total. They were all reserved for pre-orders, but the store said that it would make them available to walk-ins at noon if they weren't yet claimed.

Best Buy, which planned to have very limited iPhone stocks on hand, had no one in line at its Fifth Avenue outpost right before its opening.

But that was for the best, since an outpost on Fifth Avenue didn't have a single iPhone 4 on hand for walk-in customers, according to a manager preparing for an early open. Customers who pre-ordered through Best Buy would be able to pick up their phones at scheduled appointment times throughout the morning, he said.

RadioShack and Wal-Mart did not immediately return requests for comment.

AT&T announced last week that it won't start selling the iPhone 4 to walk-in buyers until June 29, and it stuck by that statement Thursday morning. Customers who turned up seeking one were set away.

Daniel Karbowitz, 32, lost his iPhone 3G last week and hoped to replace it with the latest model. When the AT&T store broke the bad news, Karbowitz set out for the nearby Apple store.

"I'm not optimistic," he said. "I hope I can get one today, but Apple likes keeping a scare supply of their newest products."

Demand for Apple's new phone was 10 times higher than it was for the previous version, the iPhone 3GS, according to AT&T. Apples said it sold 600,000 devices on the first day of pre-sales.

The unanticipated demand crashed AT&T's servers, and a number of customers were unable to pre-order the iPhone 4 last week. AT&T stopped accepting pre-orders after just one day. It's waiting for Apple to restock its inventory.

Meanwhile, the iPhone's availability -- or unavailability -- at other retail outlets did nothing to quell demand at Apple's flagship store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Thousands lined up at the store Thursday morning, with many saying they came because they heard the phones would be in short supply.

The-CNN-Wire/Atlanta
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