Apple's iPhone is in short supply at many of its U.S. stores, which could indicate a component shortage or a clearing of shelves for a new model, analysts said Wednesday.
Bernstein Research said its iPhone supply checks showed that the multifunction device appeared to be out of stock at Apple's U.S.
stores and its online store, which could lead to lost sales of up to 40,000 units a week in the event of a prolonged shortage.
Sacconaghi said the impact so far was limited, estimating the average Apple store was out of stock for only a few days during the March quarter, and that supplies appeared to be fine at stores of wireless carrier partner AT&T .
"In our view, the most likely explanation for this unusual situation is a production shortfall, possibly due to a component shortage," analyst Toni Sacconaghi wrote in a note.
Apple declined to confirm if there was an iPhone shortage, but spokesman Steve Dowling said: "We are working to replenish iPhone supplies as quickly as we can and our stores continue to receive shipments almost every day." Recent reports of iPhone shortages have fueled speculation that Apple is readying a new version of the device that will run on faster 3G wireless networks.
Apple could introduce a new iPhone in June or July, about three months earlier than previously expected, said American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu, citing checks with unidentified supply chain sources.
"What gives us higher conviction in the accelerated timetable is that iPhone inventory levels appear fairly lean, which is consistent with Apple's tendency to wind down inventory ahead of an update," Wu wrote in a note.
Wu forecast Apple would sell 11 million phones by the end of 2008, 10 percent more than the company's stated goal, thanks to a new model, wider adoption among businesses, and price cuts.
Apple shares fell 1.4 percent to $147.38 in early afternoon trading on Nasdaq.
The stock is up 19 percent over the past month but is still nearly 25 percent below its level three months ago amid concerns that a slowing economy will dampen consumer spending.