The iPhone X: You Might Actually Be Able to Buy One

November 16th, 2017

When I featured author Bob LeVitus on The Tech Night Owl LIVE last week, he volunteered that he still hasn’t decided whether to keep his newly-acquired iPhone X. Some of the eccentricities in its design, such as the “notch,” and the wider aspect radio (19.5:9 compared to the usual 16;9), may not suit him. But he decided to give it some time to decide; he’s also holding off on completing his review.

Bob also talked briefly about his personal odyssey in buying one. He opted not to wake up early to get first dibs, and thus placed his order later in the day at T-Mobile, expecting not to see one until the end of November. It shipped almost immediately, meaning that supplies were more plentiful than he expected, at least for the 256GB space gray unit that he wanted.

Getting one sooner than expected wasn’t uncommon. Some people who preordered right on October 27th also found them shipping sooner than originally indicated. During its quarterly conference call with financial analysts, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the production ramp up was “going well,” which implied cautious optimism.

But on the day the preorders began, the backorder delay quickly grew to five to six weeks. It didn’t take long to be reduced to three to four weeks, and now it’s two to three weeks in the U.S. and some other countries. But that’s ordering one from Apple’s online store, or from other dealers. If you want to find one at a local dealer, good luck.

That Verizon Wireless salesperson I talked to during a pair of ride sharing runs said he’d sold exactly one iPhone X, which would ship in several weeks. Other customers switched to an iPhone 8 when he explained the similarities. Clearly his argument was persuasive enough to get a quick sale and boost his monthly commission for November.

Where the backorder situation will count is early December, as customers decide if they can risk ordering one and getting their merchandise before Christmas. If the order situation improves at this rate, it may be possible to buy one and receive it in a few days. But the stock situation at stores still appears to be troubling. What about Black Friday next week?

I have no doubt, however, that Apple is on the case and is fully aware of how much product will be available when it’s needed to fill demand. That the backorder delay is being steadily reduced indicates they have things pretty much under control. That said, it will probably be early in 2018 before you can just go to a store and be sure of finding the one you want.

Indeed, even though the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are supposed to be readily available, I did some spot checking at AT&T stores, factory and authorized, and not all of them were flush with stock. But it appears the Plus model is a little harder to get, because demand has continued to skew towards it.

Compare the real situation to all the fear-mongering before the iPhone X shipped. Unconfirmed reports had it that Apple was confronting serious, unexpected delays in getting product out the door. Backorders might extend to many weeks or months, and Apple’s December quarter results might be seriously impacted.

Add to that the complaints about Face ID and its value even before a single unit shipped. It couldn’t possibly work as advertised. After all, the facial recognition feature on the Samsung Galaxy S8 could be defeated with a digital photo. What about privacy concerns if your smartphone knows everything you’re doing and where you’re doing it.

Of course the privacy fear is simply answered. Other companies regard you as the product, so you can expect that an Android smartphone will be pushing data about you to Google’s servers. One of the arguments made against Siri’s ability to handle your requests is the fact that Apple isn’t gobbling all your personal data as Google does. But isn’t that what machine learning is supposed to accomplish without sacrificing privacy?

And consider this: The reason the authorities have had problems unlocking iPhones used by criminals is because Apple’s security is robust. Not that it’s impossible, and the FBI reportedly paid over a million dollars to unlock an iPhone 5c used by one of the San Bernardino killers after Apple refused a controversial request to add a privacy backdoor to iOS.

As I wrote yesterday, how often do you hear about the police not being able to unlock an Android phone? Remember, there are more Android mobile handsets out there, and thus more criminals must have them, right? So why aren’t there any stories about such difficulties? Maybe there is, but I haven’t seen it yet.

Now about the iPhone X, even if you forget the price of admission, I honestly don’t know whether I’d buy one. I have certainly read enough about it, and reports of its magnificent OLED display are tempting. I am a little concerned about reports of screen glitches, even if the number is low, and I wonder if any other apparent production defects will appear. As I write this article, the iPhone X only began to arrive in the hands of customers less than two weeks ago.

If I get one for review, I wouldn’t refuse of course, and I am working on that possibility. As a practical matter, I have better uses for my money right now, and I still have an iPhone that works just great.

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One Response to “The iPhone X: You Might Actually Be Able to Buy One”

  1. dbsmith says:

    There is at least one website that tracks retail availability and will send you an email notice as soon as the model(s) you want is in the store(s) you specify. Works like a charm.

    I was able to buy the iPhone X I wanted less than a week after retail introduction (i.e. Nov. 9). I purchased online and the phone was waiting for me when I got to the store.

    I haven’t cancelled the site notices yet and at least once a week the two Apple Stores convenient to me have stock.

    No complaints about the look/feel/function — the UI is brilliant! Only mild complaint is that Apple (and most reviewers) have been a bit naughty when describing the size of the display, insinuating that it’s larger than earlier Plus models. It isn’t. It’s actually exactly the same in area.

    However the aspect ratio actually makes the 5.8″ display feel smaller than the 5.5″ display on the Plus models — the additional screen height on the X is, for the most part, wasted. And I really notice the reduction in width. My 2¢.

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