Apple AirPods May Be Sold Out Until 2018

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Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) online store allows people to order its AirPod earphones for $159. However, based on delivery times posted at the site, people will not be able to get them until next year, apparently even at Apple stores.

The Apple site shows people can get AirPods by January 5 via fast, paid shipping. People who want free shipping will need to want until January 9. Store availability has been pushed to January 5 as well. This is the case in every store in New York, or in the tri-state area close to the city. Presumably, if Apple could ship the AirPods anywhere, it would be the country’s largest market.

The news demonstrates the extent to which Apple’s product manufacturing chain sometimes breaks down. Apple had supply problems with the iPhone X, which made people wait several weeks if they wanted Apple’s flagship product. Now delivery for Apple iPhone X “in-stock inventory” is available for December 22. That is based on “next day delivery.” It is not clear whether Apple will have enough of the smartphones “in-stock” to handle all demand ahead of Christmas. It is also unclear whether Apple’s carrier partners will have enough iPhone X inventory to handle consumer demand online or at their stores.

Analysts who cover Apple have to guess the extent to which the delay may hurt AirPod sales, and thus Apple’s revenue for the current quarter. The effect cannot be too large, since AirPod sales are a small fraction of the total for all products Apple sells. Whether it hurts Apple’s reputation with consumers is another matter.

It is holiday time, and people want the gifts they want. That won’t be Apple AirPods, almost certainly.