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9/25/2012
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iPhone 5 Display Likely Culprit Behind Shortage

Apple's suppliers are having trouble producing enough displays for iPhone 5 to meet demand, thanks to new in-cell technology. The good news: Apple has a new reservation system to help score an iPhone 5.

Apple
Apple iPhone 5 Teardown: Visual Tour
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Consumers interested in purchasing the Apple iPhone 5 will have to wait if they order online. Delivery times from Apple.com and Apple's carrier partners have slipped to three or four weeks, due to supply shortages of the new phone.

Why aren't there enough Apple iPhone 5's to go around? The device's fancy display is to blame.

Apple wanted to build the thinnest phone it could. In order to do that, it switched from using traditional capacitive touch displays to a new technology called in-cell touch panels. The displays on Apple's older devices have two layers: the LCD display itself, plus the capacitive touch panel above it so users can interact with the screen. In-cell technology combines the two, which leads to a thinner overall component.

The downside is that this new technology is apparently difficult to manufacture with high-quality yield rates.

[ What features would you like to see in your next smartphone? Read 6 Features I Want In Future Smartphones. ]

Apple uses two main suppliers for its iPhone displays: LG and Sharp. Sharp initially had trouble making the new in-cell screens free from defects. It wasn't able to ramp up to volume production until after the iPhone 5 had already shipped for the launch weekend.

Some analysts believe this limited the number of devices that were available for opening weekend and prevented Apple from selling more than the five million iPhone 5's it sold between Friday and Sunday.

"This is like the opening weekend for the summer blockbuster movie," said Tom Dinges, senior principal analyst at IHS ISuppli to Bloomberg. "They needed to get a lot of products in the door during a tight window, and these supply constraints that were talked about probably did have some impact."

If you didn't score an iPhone 5 during opening weekend and aren't keen on waiting three to four weeks for your preorder to ship, there are several other ways to get one.

First, you can try your luck at your local Apple retail store, though Apple warns "limited quantities may also be for in-store pickup on a first-come, first-served basis." Second, you can try calling around wireless network operators' stores and other retailers to see if they have any in stock. AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless, as well as Best Buy, RadioShack, Target, and Wal-Mart are selling the iPhone 5.

Finally, Apple has also made available a new reservation system called Personal Pickup. This reservation system is available only between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. Consumers can hop onto Apple's web site during those hours and reserve a new iPhone 5 for in-store pick up the next day. In other words, it is a way to call dibs on one of the iPhones at your local Apple retail store.

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