Wall Street analysts are almost certain that only a small number of lucky buyers will get their hands on the iPhone X on the launch day (Nov.3). Even people placing their pre-orders on the very first day (Oct.27) may have to wait for weeks or months before receiving their unit. A new report coming out of China claims that Apple’s manufacturing partner Foxconn has shipped the iPhone X first batch out of China.

iPhone X First Batch Shipped
Image Source: Apple.com (screenshot)

Only 46,500 units in the iPhone X first batch

Citing Xinhuanet.com, DigiTimes reports that the iPhone X first batch consists of merely 46,500 units. These devices have been shipped from Foxconn’s facilities in Shanghai and Zhengzhou to the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates. The 10th-anniversary iPhone is now a step closer to reaching buyers after weeks of delay due to production and yield issues. The iPhone X is supposed to go on sale in nearly 53 countries – including the Netherlands and UAE – on November 3rd.

The publication added that the initial iPhone X shipments were much lower than previous models. The report should be taken with a bit of skepticism because DigiTimes has a spotty track record when it comes to providing accurate supply chain details. DigiTimes said the iPhone X first batch left China for the UAE and Netherlands on Monday, Oct.16. The 46,500 units are far from sufficient to meet the anticipated demand.

iPhone X production increased to 400,000 units per week

Foxconn has increased the iPhone X production output from the previous 100,000 units per week to 400,000 units per week. Rosenblatt Securities believes that the increased production will still not be able to meet the consumer demand. Foxconn is expected to further ramp up output by the end of this month. Wall Street analysts expect the iPhone X pre-orders to go up to 50 million units despite the phone’s $1,000 price tag. Apple may not be able to fulfill such a huge demand until early 2018.

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus shipments have been much lower than previous iPhone models. Industry experts say most buyers are waiting to buy the iPhone X or at least see it before making a decision. The anniversary iPhone will almost certainly be a huge hit this holiday shopping season.  However, limited supply may force some potential buyers to explore the alternatives such as the Google Pixel 2 and Galaxy Note 8.

The iPhone X has been facing production issues with the 3D sensing TrueDepth camera that supports FaceID and animoji, two of the most exciting features on the new iPhone. The 3D infrared sensor requires a complex manufacturing process, and has a low yield rate. Due to its complex nature and accuracy, the facial recognition system gives Apple an 18-24 months advantage over its Android rivals. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo told investors that Android vendors would not be able to replicate the TrueDepth camera technology for a couple of years.

Companies such as Samsung already offer facial recognition on their flagship smartphones, but they can be fooled pretty easily using the phone owner’s photo or a mask. Apple’s TrueDepth camera relies on 3D mapping to enhance accuracy and security. It can recognize your face even if you grow a beard, mustache, put on a scarf, or put on glasses. Ming-Chi Kuo has said that Apple could add Face ID to all iPhones in 2018 depending on the consumer response for the iPhone X.

Yuanta Investment Consulting analysts expect Apple to ship 36 million iPhone X units during the holiday quarter, down from their previous estimate of 40 million units. The research firm says supply won’t meet demand until early 2018, meaning most of the pre-orders could be pushed back to January or February. Ming-Chi Kuo says Apple will be able to ship only 30-35 million units by the end of 2017, though pre-orders could be upward of 50 million units.

Huawei launches iPhone X competitor

Chinese smartphone vendor Huawei has unveiled its new Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro to take on the iPhone X. Huawei is currently the world’s third-largest smartphone maker right behind Samsung and Apple. The new Mate 10 phones come with Huawei’s custom artificial intelligence (AI) chip called Kirin 970. Both the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro feature Leica’s dual lens camera system with monochrome and color sensors.

Huawei claims the new AI chip supports on-device AI, meaning it processes the AI functions on the handset itself rather than in the cloud. It can recognize as many as 2005 images per minute to identify the object you want to take a picture of, and automatically adjust the lighting. The Mate 10 phones will go on sale later this month in 15 countries. The Mate 10 has a starting price of 699 euros while the Mate 10 Pro has been priced at 799 euros. Research firm IDC predicts that Huawei could dethrone Apple as the world’s second-largest smartphone company by market share by the end of this year. Huawei’s smartphone business has seen a meteoric rise in the last few years.