• Apple has announced that both iPhone 14 Pro models are in very short supply. 
  • The problem is the global supply chain, and China in particular. 
  • The regular iPhone 14 is unaffected but also not really worth buying.

A closeup on a hand holding an iPhone.

If you want an iPhone 14 Pro or Pro Max for Christmas this year, you should stop reading this and order it right now. 

Apple is having trouble making enough iPhones in its assembly facility in Zhengzhou, China, thanks to a COVID lockdown. And while Apple has been expanding manufacturing to other countries over the past few years, this unprecedented announcement shows how reliant the world’s biggest company is on China. 

“One reason for the shortfall is that Apple is producing fewer iPhones in China. The country’s zero-COVID policy has led to a decrease in iPhone production, and other factors may also be contributing. For example, some suppliers are still not ready to produce high-quality iPhones,” Jeroen van Gils, managing director at tech company Lifi.co, told Lifewire via email.

The China Problem

Apple's China problem is two-fold. One is that it makes pretty much all its products there. Some Macs have been built in the US, and some iPhones are made in India and Vietnam, but those are tiny startup operations compared to those in China. And when we say "China," we really mean one company, Foxconn. This is a classic case of having all your eggs in one basket, and while historically, the Chinese supply chain has been robust and able to build millions and millions of iPhones, in recent years, we have seen this start to falter. 

The other is that China is also a huge market for the iPhone. That might not seem like it would affect supply, but it does mean that Apple has to be cautious about moving production out of the country. Apple is a prestige brand, and the fact that the iPhone is made in China reflects well on the country and its government. If Apple moves too fast to leave, there could be repercussions, and who knows what they might be? It could go as far as a ban on selling anything in China.

Closeup on an iPhone Screen showing the Dynamic Island.

“The real issue here is that Apple is in the middle of shifting their manufacturing base to other countries, but they aren’t there yet. This means that they haven’t been investing much in maintaining their existing suppliers, but haven’t yet reaped the benefits of a more diverse supplier base,” Adam Rossi, CEO of materials manufacturing company TotalShield, told Lifewire via email.”

Zero Tolerance

This reliance on so few manufacturers makes Apple vulnerable to disruptions. And right now, Foxconn is in the middle of a COVID lockdown. Unlike the rest of the world, which has largely done away with lockdowns and is weathering the pandemic with vaccines and some level of resignation, China is still running on its zero-COVID policy. This means hard lockdowns whenever an outbreak occurs. 

That’s what’s happening in the Zhengzhou factory right now. The problem is compounded by an exodus of employees, who have fled the facility instead of enduring a lockdown, and the increased possibility of infection it brings them. 

iPhone Christmas

So far, Apple’s supply problems are only hitting the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max models. If you want a plain iPhone 14, you won’t have any more trouble than usual securing one in time for the holiday season. 

However, according to reports, the iPhone 14 isn’t selling so well. Apple already cut production in October, soon after launch. Meanwhile, iPhone 14 Pro sales were much better than expected. 

Closeup on a hand holding an iPhone with the back facing the camera.

This is almost certainly down to the fact that the new iPhone 14 Pro gets an amazing new 48-megapixel camera, an always-on screen, and the exciting new Dynamic Island. Meanwhile, the iPhone 14 is really an iPhone 13 with a different name. It has the same chip as last year’s iPhone Pro, and you can’t even buy the superior mini version anymore (although there is now a Max-sized version of the plain iPhone 14). 

Right now, all iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max models have delivery dates of 4-5 weeks, so if you get in now, you may—as long as nothing else goes wrong—get your phone in time for Christmas. 

If you want one for yourself ASAP, you have a few options. One is to keep an eye on third-party resellers like Amazon. Another option, if you live near an Apple Store, is to check every morning to see if there’s a model in stock at your local store. You may have to opt for a different color and storage configuration than you would normally prefer, but popular base models tend to arrive fairly often. 

The other option is to just not bother with a new phone. Or buy an iPhone 13, which is still awesome.

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