I’m waiting as patiently as possible for Thursday—when I can pick up my new iPhone 4. But if one reads the news, about the pre-sale problems, the AT&T service problems, the planning for various lines and access issues to actually pick up reserved phones on Thursday, June 24th … well, discouraged is a polite word. I know, it’s all part of the buzz, the sense of being part of a big-small crowd of true believers.

The thing is: there must be a math problem here. Not with the sales of the phones, but the degree of discouragement for anyone just waiting for Thursday. (If you did not or were not able to pre-order, that’s a different subject.) Here’s a quick spin around the numbers, from a few directions:

  • If Apple, together with AT&T, pre-sold 600,000 iPhones in the United States, on an averaged basis that’s 12,000 phones per state. While the phones are sold at Apple’s retail locations, and at AT&T’s retail locations, they’re also being shipped delivery directly to buyers (even early, apparently). Everyone nationally had access to the ordering systems (before they crashed), and anywhere there’s an Apple store there are likely Apple customers. Although Apple will likely never release the stats, it would be interesting to know how sales are clustered, state by state.
  • Even if we assume heavier weighting towards several tech- or population-heavy states (e.g., California, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas), that will still only skew the numbers so much. Not all 12,000+ people in one state will be waiting at one place for their phone—as may have been the case when the first and second generation phones were released, an era when Apple also had fewer stores, and when they weren’t.
  • Speaking of those Apple stores, there are more than 200 of them across the U.S. Even if all 600,000 iPhones were being delivered only through the stores, that still works out to just 3,000 phones per store—a very manageable number of people to serve in a well-run retail environment. If 50% of the phones were sold through delivery, that would reduce this to 1,500 phones per store. And again, even if sales are weighted more heavily towards certain areas of the country, that likely won’t tip the balance wildly. Some stores may see a 7am rush, but I bet others will have merely steady traffic throughout the day, as they usually do.
  • Of course, AT&T also has retail stores: 2,200 of them. Apparently, not all of them will be stocking the new iPhone, at least immediately. If only 10% of stores stock the phone, that’s 220 stores. Add that to the 200 Apple stores, and the number of phones-per-store drops again. If it’s 20% of AT&T stores, that’s 600 retail outlets serving a maximum of 600,000 phones in one day: 1,000 phones per store.

So if, like me, you are waiting for Thursday, waiting with anticipation and a sense of expectation, and you’ve been reading the reviews of the phone, not to mention reviews of the new software and its various functions, and finding yourself more excited and more anxious, and are contemplating camping out on the steps by your local Apple store, well maybe, just maybe, there isn’t all that much to worry about.

Except how long your new battery will last on its first charge out of the box.

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