Finally, a hot Android phone: Galaxy S III is hard to get

Looking to buy a Samsung Galaxy S III in the U.S.? You do have a choice among five different carriers, but you’ll either be waiting for your phone or paying more than you thought. Due to inventory constraints the Galaxy S III is already experiencing stock shortages at two carriers and is priced much higher at another. While this says something about Samsung’s production capabilities and limitations, it also speaks to the idea of a single Android (s goog) smartphone finally generating enough interest to rival that of Apple’s iPhone(s aapl).
Sprint (s s) had planned to begin in-store sales on Thursday, but it is delaying due to “overwhelming demand,” according to Engadget. Those who preordered a 16 GB Sprint Galaxy S III should still receive their phone today, but 32 GB preorders won’t begin shipping until next week. Likewise, AT&T is experiencing device shortages, (s t) providing the following statement to The Verge:

Manufacturer supply constraints of the 4G LTE Samsung Galaxy S III have caused a delay to expected pre-order shipments. Customers who were previously quoted a delivery date of June 21st should now expect their device to arrive no later than Monday, June 25th. We currently estimate future pre-orders to arrive within 10 business days based on available supply. Impacted customers will receive both an SMS and email notifying them of this change.

Verizon(s vz)(s vod) hasn’t made any similar statements, but I suspect the company already knew this might happen. Unlike its peers that launched the phone this month, Verizon didn’t offer a set Galaxy S III release date when preorders began on June 6. Those who did preorder were given a ship-by date of July 9, however. T-Mobile does have the Galaxy S III in stock, but there’s a catch. Instead of selling the phone for $199 (16 GB) and $249 (32 GB) like others are doing, the carrier priced the handset at $279.99 and $329.99, respectively. And those prices are after a $50 mail-in rebate, so you’ll pay even more at the time of purchase.

On June 4, when Samsung officially announced the Galaxy S III would arrive in the U.S. this month, I shared skepticism that while one single phone model was good for the company, it could lead to supply issues:

 There’s only a month or two lag between the Asia/Europe rollout and the U.S. Samsung already had 9 million pre-orders from operators and the company says it can only produce 5 million units per month and with a large launch, it’s possible to see shortages.

That possibility I called weeks ago is reality today. Given the mostly overall positive reviews  — see ours here — I can’t say I’m surprised. And I anticipate that Samsung will get production supply to meet demand in the near term, although other regions may have delayed launches to accommodate the issue. Although this may be bad news for those who want a Galaxy S III in hand right now, it’s definitely a win of sorts for Android(s goog). No single phone has yet outsold the iPhone. I doubt the Galaxy S III will be the exception, but it’s sure to come closer than any prior Android handset.