iPhone 4: Big Lines & Short Supply

Across the globe, iPhone 4 (s aapl) eyewitnesses are all seeing the same thing: lines around the block and few, if any, devices for those without reservations.

In Durham, North Carolina, record-breaking temperatures near 100 degrees could not keep the faithful from lining up outside the local Apple Store. The line for the iPhone 4 began yesterday evening, reaching around the block by early this morning and remaining more or less constant with new arrivals. By noon, Apple Store employees were passing out umbrellas. There were no white umbrellas available either, and very few black iPhones for those without reservations.

Durham was not an anomaly.

As the earth turned, so did iPhone 4 sales, starting with Japan, followed by Germany, France, the UK, and then east to west in the U.S. In every country, in every city, the story was the same: demand outstripped supply. The dearth of white iPhones appears to have no measurable effect on sales.

Calls to stores, assuming you can get someone to pick up, also tell a similar story. Supplies of the iPhone 4 are dwindling, many stores expect to be sold out by the end of the day. While more iPhones are expected, no one knows when they will arrive. Expect an iPhone 4 availability page to appear on Apple’s website soon.

As for the iPhone 4 itself, satisfaction will likely be high, but there are reports of some issues. MacRumors was one of the first to report of “yellow blotching” on some iPhone 4 displays. There are conflicting reports as to whether this is a “residue from manufacturing” that will clear up in a few days, or a flaw that requires replacement. There are also scattered reports of reception degradation when holding the bottom left of the iPhone 4, though the supposed issue cannot be reliably duplicated.

These flaws, if they exist, will likely only matter to those who have successfully ordered an iPhone 4 or have one on reserve. For everyone else by far the biggest problem with the iPhone 4 is availability. It will be days, if not weeks, before Apple establishes equilibrium between supply and demand.