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Strong iPhone 15 Pro Max demand only partially explains sold-out status

Published Sep 18th, 2023 6:50AM EDT
iPhone 15 Pro
Image: Apple Inc.

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The iPhone 15 series is out, and it’s already a success. Apple sold out the iPhone 15 Pro Max within an hour from the start of preorders. You might have a tough time finding one in the next few weeks. Even if you do get your hands on one, it might not be the storage option or color you wanted.

Stock will improve in the coming months. But a report from insider Ming-Chi Kuo indicates that it’s not just strong demand that’s impacting the supply. Apparently, Apple started iPhone 15 Pro Max manufacturing later than usual, and production challenges might continue.

Demand for the iPhone 15 Pro Max exceeds the iPhone 14 Pro Max, Kuo said in a note on Medium. Demand for the iPhone 15 Pro is weaker, with the analyst speculating that more premium buyers might have shifted to the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

He added that demand for the standard iPhone 15 models is on par with last year.

Kuo also noted the manufacturing issues that might impact the iPhone 15 Pro Max stock right now could continue:

Wait times for the iPhone 15 Pro Max are significantly longer than for other models, but this is more than just due to high demand. Current iPhone 15 Pro Max shipments are lower due to a later mass production schedule, and its current production challenges are more pronounced than other models.

It’s unclear what manufacturing issues Apple might be dealing with. I will point out that we’ve heard of iPhone 15 production issues several weeks before the launch event. In mid-May, I warned you that you might have to decide fast whether you want to buy an iPhone 15 Pro or 15 Pro Max this year.

iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max features.
iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max features. Image source: Apple Inc.

One report at the time cited manufacturing issues with the new iPhone 15 Pro displays, which are different than last year. Some even said that at least one iPhone 15 variant might be delayed to October. Reports that followed claimed Apple had sorted the production issues.

Fast-forward to mid-September and Apple announced the same release date for all iPhone 15 models. Preorders will ship on Friday, September 22nd. That’s also when you might score an iPhone 15 Pro Max in stores. Apple retail locations should have some stock for all four models. Depending on your region, you might be able to still order an iPhone 15 Pro Max with in-store pickup for September 22nd.

However, if Kuo’s information is accurate, Apple might be still dealing with iPhone 15 Pro Max issues. Add the strong demand, and the phone might stay sold out for months. Currently, you need to wait well into October (or even later) for an iPhone 15 Pro Max if you’re shopping directly from Apple.

I’ll also remind you that Apple is shipping its products by sea rather than by plane. The decision comes from its desire to eliminate its carbon footprint by 2030. A later production date would directly impact shipping and availability.

Unlike 2022, when China’s final COVID lockdowns stopped iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max production, Apple doesn’t have to worry about such issues this year. Therefore, you’ll likely be able to buy iPhone 15 Pro models this Christmas.

As for the Chinese government’s stance on the iPhone, Kuo indicates that any ban on the iPhone would not significantly impact iPhone 15 sales in the region. Government employees aren’t the main target for iPhone sales.

Kuo expects Apple to ship about 80 million iPhone 15 units this year.

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.