Missing iPhone 5c presale announcement causing Wall Street worries

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It doesn’t take much to spook investors. For instance, concern over Apple’s silence on iPhone 5c presale numbers prompted a 2.5 percent dip in the Cupertino, Calif. company’s stock Monday. At issue is whether a lack of a preorder announcement signals less demand for the inexpensive iPhone or supply problems for the flagship iPhone 5s.

Although Apple didn’t announce presale figures for the first iPhone, the iPhone 3G and the iPhone 3GS, starting with the iPhone 4 the company has issued a press release touting a newly-broken presale number. Is Apple just waiting until sales of the iPhone 5s (which isn’t available for preorder) launches to make an announcement for both iPhones?

One answer could come from China, where a carrier yesterday announced how many of the new iPhones have already been reserved…

Monday, China’s second-largest carrier China Unicom announced it has 100,000 online reservations for both the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s. Just how you can reserve a smartphone that is not be pre-sold is unclear, but the figure provides the first hard numbers on demand for Apple’s new handsets.

What makes the announcement intriguing is the demand for reservations happened despite a lack of an iPhone sale by China Unicom and the carrier’s recent infatuation with Android. Still unknown is the impact number one carrier China Mobile will have on sales of the new iPhones.

After a courtship spanning years, Apple finally added the carrier and its 700 million customers to its list of global partners. But investors are still trying to read the tea leaves behind that missing press release.

Theory number one: the iPhone 5c won’t catch the eye of first-adopters, that group of consumer which lines up in front of Apple Stores to brag about owning the latest and greatest piece of technology.

Indeed, the New York Times has coined “Shownership” to describe the psychology behind first-adopters. The iPhone hasn’t changed drastically since the iPhone 4. Apple’s iPhone 5c is essentially just the iPhone 5 with a new choice of colorful plastic exteriors.

What’s important is having the newest product – and everyone around you knowing it, as well. The thinking was on display today when a group of Japanese iPhone fans camped out in front of the Tokyo Apple Store, risking a typhoon.

Also blamed for the dip in Apple stock: worry that there aren’t enough iPhone 5s unit to support Friday’s start of sales. In fact, among Apple conspiracy circles, such worry is seen as why the iPhone 5s is not available for preorder. However, in China the iPhone 5s can be preordered starting today – and most models are already sold out.

Some of the concern may be valid – we are seeing iPhone 5c shipping dates start to slip. Historically, the iPhone is such a hot product that it can be hard to keep them in stock. But should be worry?