Uh oh: iPhone 5s inventory on Friday said to be “grotesquely” low

The iPhone 5s(s aapl) will makes it way to store shelves on Friday, and this marks the first time an iPhone won’t be available for pre-order since the iPhone 3G. Rumors have already surfaced of “constrained” supplies. The fact that pre-sale orders in China disappeared within minutes isn’t helping to change that. Now, AllThingsD is reporting that sources at the carrier level have expressed concern about phone supplies. One even went so far as to say, “We will have grotesquely unavailable inventory.”

It’s definitely possible for Apple to have a more constrained inventory than in year’s past. After all, this is the first time the company is releasing two new phones at the same time (or even in the same year). And on top of that there’s the impending release of iOS 7 and probably a couple of updated new iPads a month away. So it wouldn’t be surprising if there are less iPhones to go around, at least at the outset.

9to5Mac, meanwhile, is reporting that 70-80 percent of the iPhones in stock at Apple stores on Friday are expected to be the iPhone 5c, and that the silver and gold models of the iPhone 5s will be particularly difficult to find at launch. Apple might even be prepping an update to its Apple Store iOS app to check if new iPhone are available at your local Apple store.

iPhone5s gold

This gold model of the iPhone 5s might be hard to come by when the phone is first released.

But “grotesquely unavailable” is in the eye of the beholder. After all, Apple might be choosing to sell just a small amount of phones through each carrier, saving the bulk for itself. And if a phone happens to be unavailable from the carrier, that’s just another reason for customers to go straight the source and buy it from the Apple store, where they might be tempted into some other purchases as well. That’s just shrewd business.

This is all worth keeping in mind if you are planning to get in line for a new iPhone 5s on Friday. You can take your chances at a carrier store, which could potentially have shorter lines but lesser stock, or an Apple store, which might have more phones and a lot more people looking to buy them. It’s a Catch-22, where immediate iPhone gratification may not be a possibility.