Good Luck Getting an iPhone 5s on Friday

Apple's Touch ID fingerprint sensor may be causing supply problems.

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Glenn Chapman / AFP / Getty Images

Apple isn’t taking pre-orders for the iPhone 5s, so you’ll either have to wait in line on Friday or try your luck with an online order.

Neither approach is sure to work, though, as Apple reportedly wrestles with supply constraints for its latest iPhone.

Here’s Boy Genius Report’s Jonathan Geller, in a post in Twitter this morning:

He’s not the only one who’s reporting supply problems. Last week, a pair of analysts both said they expect the iPhone 5S to be in short supply at launch. Apple is taking reservations for the iPhone 5s in China, but most of Apple’s stock has already run out.

The problem may be Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor, which is built into the iPhone 5s home button, and allows you to unlock your phone or pay for apps by holding your thumb down instead of entering passwords. “Our checks indicate that the fingerprint sensor yields have been terrible and are the likely culprit for the H2 build plan cuts,” Peter Misek wrote, according to Barrons. Cantor analyst Brian White came to the same conclusion, saying that supply constraints may have factored into Apple’s decision not to take pre-orders for its flagship phone.

Despite the hype around new iPhone launches, in previous years getting the newest model on launch day hasn’t been too challenging, at least in my experience. There were long lines at my local Apple Store in Cincinnati last year, but I was able to skip the line and find an AT&T store that had a 16 GB black iPhone 5 in stock. The line tends to be more about the experience — and maybe a Wozniak sighting if you’re in the right place — than the practicality of getting an iPhone in a timely manner.

This year, I’m not so sure. It may be tougher than usual to get an iPhone on day one, but perhaps the lack of pre-orders will free up enough units for those who brave the lines. You can try your luck on Friday at Apple Stores, Best Buy, RadioShack, Target, Walmart and Apple authorized re-sellers, along with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless stores. Apple’s website will start taking orders at midnight Pacific time, or 3 a.m. Eastern, on Friday.

On the bright side, Apple’s plastic-clad, sans-Touch ID iPhone 5c is available for pre-order, and still set to ship on September 20.