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iPhone 15 Pro Max is sold out, but Apple might have fixed its supply problem

Published Sep 19th, 2023 7:40AM EDT
iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max design.
Image: Apple Inc.

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The iPhone 15 Pro Max sold out in less than an hour on Friday, proving that the speculations ahead of Apple big iPhone 15 event were correct. Buyers would choose the iPhone 15 Pro Max over the smaller Pro, and the Pros would sell better than the regular models for another year.

There’s another reason why the iPhone 15 Pro Max has sold out so fast. Apple is dealing with manufacturing issues, Ming-Chi Kuo said.

The well-known Apple insider did not specify a reason for the reportedly delayed manufacturing start for Apple’s largest new iPhone. But he penned a second note explaining that Apple’s brand new periscope camera might be to blame. The tetraprism zoom camera is exclusive to the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

It turns out that Apple has figured out a way to fix its supply problem, and stock will improve in the not-so-distant future.

The tetraprism camera problems

Depending on the market, you might not get your iPhone 15 Pro Max delivered to your door for several weeks. Strong demand, coupled with the purported manufacturing delays, pushed shipping times back to November for some versions of the Pro Max. Your best bet is to score an iPhone 15 Pro Max with in-store pick-up this Friday.

At least a couple of iPhone 15 reports said months ago that Apple was dealing with display manufacturing issues for the Pro models. Those rumors warned that Apple might delay at least one of the four iPhone 15 models to October. Then, other leaks said Apple had fixed its supply issues, signaling that all four models would be available in September.

Apple's tetraprism periscope lens design for the iPhone 15 Pro Max zoom camera.
Apple’s tetraprism periscope lens design for the iPhone 15 Pro Max zoom camera. Image source: Apple Inc.

Ming-Chi Kuo’s new Medium note says that the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s new zoom camera is the “most significant” supply bottleneck for the handset:

The most significant supply bottleneck for the iPhone 15 Pro Max is currently the tetraprism compact camera module (CCM), which is exclusively supplied by LGIT. To improve the CCM production yield, Apple has urgently increased the specifications of the tetraprism lens exclusively supplied by Largan to address the CCM yield issues caused by assembly tolerances.

When LG Innotek (LGIT) announced a new compact periscope camera design, I thought Apple would use it in its iPhone 15 Pro models. It turns out that Apple did work with LG on the tetraprism camera. But it might not be the design LG unveiled in December 2022.

If anything, Apple’s tetraprism camera module is unseen in the industry. Light rays are reflected four times before they reach the sensor. This gives it more time to travel, all without needing the much larger camera. As a result, the iPhone 15 Pro Max offers optical zoom of up to 5x.

The tetraprism camera design also comes with a new 3D sensor-shift optical image stabilization system and autofocus module that moves in three directions.

If Kuo is accurate, Apple will pay more money for tetraprism lens supply, with Largan coming to the rescue for a good profit. The supplier has “urgently expanded” production lines for the component. This leads to a 20% price increase for the tetraprism lens. However, the cost of defective lenses is “relatively low,” which explains why Apple might be willing to eat the extra costs.

Apple put a 120mm zoom lens inside the iPhone 15 Pro Max with the help of a tetraprism camera.
Apple put a 120mm zoom lens inside the iPhone 15 Pro Max with the help of a tetraprism camera. Image source: Apple Inc.

Good news for the iPhone 16 Pro

Then again, buyers are dying to get their hands on the iPhone 15 Pro Max right now. Increasing production is a top priority. Not to mention that Apple will need even more supply next year.

Kuo says the iPhone 16 Pro will also get a tetraprism zoom camera, just like the iPhone 16 Pro Max:

Both iPhone 16 Pro Max and the iPhone 16 Pro are expected to feature tetraprism telephoto cameras. If Apple maintains the higher specification for the lens, it will raise the entry barrier for Genius, Apple’s second-largest lens supplier, next year. It suggests that Largan is more likely to maintain its exclusive or primary supplier status for the tetraprism lens next year.

This isn’t the first time we hear the iPhone 16 Pros will both feature periscope zoom lenses. Rumors say the 2024 iPhones will both have slightly larger displays.

What actually happens is that the entire iPhone 16 Pro and 16 Pro Max footprints will grow. This will make room for the zoom camera components without impacting battery size. Therefore, the screen size increase is a consequence of Apple adopting tetraprism lenses for both iPhone 16 Pro cameras.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.