Word of the drought, reported by The Guardian, comes exactly one week after the retailer, along with O2, simultaneously noted via their websites that the 8GB version of the touch-screen handset had sold out and would not be restocked.
An internal memo distributed amongst O2 retail management at the time stated that entry-level iPhone had been declared EOL or "end-of-life," a term often associated with products at the end of their shelf life. Products denoted as EOL are no longer manufactured but may continue to be sold until existing channel inventories are depleted.
Stock of both 8GB and 16GB iPhones has also been spotty in the US over the past month, but Apple has been replenishing inventories in irregular intervals. The electronics maker, however, appears to be making less of an effort to restock its partners abroad, as adoption of the handset in the Europe has lagged far behind that of the US.
Europeans have largely been unimpressed with the high cost and slow internet access associated with the first-generation iPhone. The handset runs only on 2.5G wireless networks, which is increasingly seen as yesteryear technology in Europe, a region rich with 3G, or next-generation wireless networks that perform up to ten times as fast.
As such, Europeans are for the most part believed to be holding out for the much-anticipated 3G version of the Apple handset which is widely expected to make its debut at or around the company's annual developers conference during the second week of June.
Unlike the Cupertino-based iPhone maker, which has become proficient in managing channel inventories of handheld devices thanks to years of iPod sales, its European partners are believed to have grossly miscalculated the number of first-generation iPhones that they'd be able to sell.
To remedy the situation and make way for 3G models, Apple last month began encouraging those partners to deeply discount their existing inventories of 8GB iPhones. T-Mobile Germany was first to bat with a 300 euro discount, bringing the model down to 99 euros, and O2 followed with a 100 pound cut, bringing its local offering to 169 pounds and spurring a near instantaneous sellout.
Although Apple has reportedly suggested that Orange, its exclusive iPhone provider in France, do the same, the carrier has thus far balked at the recommendation.